UBC NOW — 2017

November 16, 2017

The Arts One Program: Celebrating 50 Years of Innovative Teaching in the Arts

By Mormei Zanke, Assistant Writer, UBC Brand and Marketing

An Arts One seminar in 1970

An Arts One seminar in 1970

Arts One began with a bold vision to reimagine the incoming student experience in the Faculty of Arts. Founded in 1967, the peer focused, rigorous first-year arts program will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2017.

UBC Acting President Walter H. Gage introduced the program in September 1967 in his Presidential Report: “At the moment the programme is called Arts I. It will be restricted to 240 students selected from volunteers and will operate in two sections.”

Gage also proposed a number of topics of “contemporary relevance” be chosen and recommended that lectures be “followed by discussion in small groups.” He had a clear vision for the structure of the fledgling program as well: “A student who completes Arts I along with two other courses, successfully will pass into the second year of his study towards the B.A.”

Although half a century has passed, the program has not strayed too far from this initial concept. If anything, the Arts One vision has expanded to include more interdisciplinary subject material, which has captured the interest of students year after year.

“Over the past fifty years, Arts One has stayed true to its mission of offering a transdisciplinary approach to important texts and key questions that have shaped philosophy, history and literature from ancient to modern times,” says Thomas Kemple, former Arts One professor and current chair of Arts One and the Coordinated Arts Program.

“Since then, the program has broadened its vision to include the social sciences, science and technology studies, and works from a diversity of cultural traditions and in many media,” notes Kemple “Students now go on to study in an even wider range of academic and professional areas.”

Arts One student Rachel Wan

Arts One student Rachel Wan

Each year Arts One students choose two themes of study. Lately, these themes have explored seemingly contrary ideas: authority and resistance; knowledge and power; seeing and knowing; hero/anti-hero; remake/remodel and so on. The Arts One program counts for 18 credits, leaving 12 elective credits for students to explore other subjects.

Each week, the Arts One students attend a small tutorial group of four, two seminars attended by no more than 20 students led by the same professor, and a larger lecture of 80 to 100 students. Every two weeks each student must write an essay to be then discussed by her or his peers and the professor in the tutorial group.

“Arts One instilled in me a love for learning that I will carry with me for the rest of my life,” says Hayley Stauffer, Arts One alumna. “When I was in Arts One, I never felt like I was just checking off boxes in order to gain a credit — I genuinely loved to be there. Moving forward as a student at UBC, this motivation gave me the confidence to choose to study and pursue the things I am passionate about, rather than trying to fit into some standardized definition of success.”

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“You don’t have to be a Faculty of Arts student, or plan to major in English literature to take Arts One in your first year,” urges Rachel Wan. “This program can benefit you in many ways — from reading and discussions skills, to writing at university level, I could not have chosen a better way to start off my first year at UBC.”

Arts One alumna Mckenzie Young says the program gave her a strong foundation for academic and personal success. “From Arts One I learned first and foremost not to be intimidated by advanced readings or complicated assignments.” The program’s unique structure challenged her but also gave her skills she may have not otherwise developed. “Time management and stress management have been some of the most valuable lessons I have carried with me throughout my time at UBC.”

Laurie McNeill is chair of First-Year Programs in the UBC Faculty of Arts. She’s also a former Arts One student and as such, she lauds the program for cultivating her love for the arts and its rigorous interdisciplinary studies that prepared her for her eventual graduate work and research.

Arts One student Rachel Wan
A book

“Coming back to Arts One in my role as chair of First-Year Programs has been really fun,” says McNeill. “I’ve been impressed to see the intensive work that goes into making the reading lists and lectures, all of which are developed through the collaborative efforts of four to five instructors. I’ve also really enjoyed meeting each year’s batch of students, and appreciating their enthusiasm and their genuine love for the program.”

Current Arts One student and Arts One Student Council member, Rachel Wan, is equally effusive about the program and the distinctive learning experience it has offered her. Wan is enrolled in the study stream, Knowledge and Power. “So far, my favourite book this term was Sappho’s poetry If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho translated by Anne Carson. I really enjoyed it because it felt relative to my own writing and poetry and I also loved the stories you could find in her fragmented writing.”

Arts One offers students an integrated approach to humanities with a solid foundation in philosophy, history and English. Many students go on to pursue topics that were introduced to them in their Arts One seminars or lectures. In the fifty years since UBC President Walter Gage first introduced Arts One more than 10,000 students have graduated from the program, each student better equipped to find their own academic voice and discover the unique field of study that inspires them.

“You don’t have to be a Faculty of Arts student, or plan to major in English literature to take Arts One in your first year,” urges Rachel Wan. “This program can benefit you in many ways — from reading and discussions skills, to writing at university level, I could not have chosen a better way to start off my first year at UBC.”

To help celebrate its 50th anniversary, Arts One will host the panel talk Arts One: Present at 4:00 p.m. on November 29, 2017 in the IBLC 380 Gateway Suite. With the focus on what Arts One stands for today, confirmed speakers include notable alumni such as environmental law and litigation specialist Kinji C. Bourchier.


October 9, 2017

Secrets of the Mind: The Drawings of Santiago Ramón y Cajal

By Mormei Zanke, Assistant Writer, UBC Brand and Marketing

Santiago Ramón y Cajal, glial cells of the mouse spinal cord, 1899, ink and pencil on paper. Courtesy of Instituto Cajal (CSIC).

Santiago Ramón y Cajal, glial cells of the mouse spinal cord, 1899, ink and pencil on paper. Courtesy of Instituto Cajal (CSIC).

The human brain — how much do you really know about the organ responsible for all your motor functions, thoughts, even your feelings? Although the brain has been studied for centuries, there are many unanswered questions; the confounding mysteries of this complex organ remain a challenge to neuroscientists from all over the world.

Today, much of what we know and understand about the brain is because of one individual — a pioneer in the field and often cited as the ‘father of neuroscience’. Santiago Ramón y Cajal (1852-1934) was a Spanish neuroscientist, pathologist, histologist and co-winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1906 for his findings on the structure of the nervous system. Cajal believed that the brain is composed of individual nerve cells and not one single web, something that was only conclusively proven in the 1950s by electron-microscopy technology.

Santiago Ramón y Cajal, Untitled (self portrait), c.1885.

Santiago Ramón y Cajal, Untitled (self portrait), c.1885.

While studying brain cells at length under the microscope, Cajal documented his findings through detailed drawings that are still used today to explain complicated neuroscience principles. These drawings are now on display at UBC’s Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery (in partnership with the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brian Health with support from Vancouver General Hospital and UBC Hospital) in the exhibit The Beautiful Brain: The Drawings of Santiago Ramón y Cajal.

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Like the entomologist in search of colourful butterflies, my attention has chased, in the gardens of grey matter, cells with delicate and elegant shapes, the mysterious butterflies of the soul, whose beating of wings may one day reveal to us the secrets of the mind.

“Without Cajal’s impressive body of work, our understanding of the anatomy of the brain would not be so well-formed,” explains Dr. Brian MacVicar, co-director of UBC’s Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brian Health. “Cajal’s legacy has been of critical importance to neuroscience teaching and research over the past century.”

Cajal’s work pulls you into his unique observations of the brain through the sinuous shapes of neural pathways and feathery illustrations of glial cells. One cannot help but wonder how Cajal was able to construct such truthful, accurate work before modern magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was invented. Perhaps the answer can be found in the artist-neuroscientist’s own words:

“Like the entomologist in search of colourful butterflies, my attention has chased, in the gardens of grey matter, cells with delicate and elegant shapes, the mysterious butterflies of the soul, whose beating of wings may one day reveal to us the secrets of the mind.”

(Photo) Blair Jovellar, a neuroscience PhD student and ambassador of the exhibit.
(Brain Scan) Jeff Lichtman, Joshua Sanes, and Jean Livet, Brainbow, 2007
(Drawing) Santiago Ramón y Cajal, endotelioma de la duramadre, 1890, ink and pencil on paper. Courtesy of Instituto Cajal (CSIC)

(Photo) Blair Jovellar, a neuroscience PhD student and ambassador of the exhibit. (Brain Scan) Jeff Lichtman, Joshua Sanes, and Jean Livet, Brainbow, 2007. (Drawing) Santiago Ramón y Cajal, endotelioma de la duramadre, 1890, ink and pencil on paper. Courtesy of Instituto Cajal (CSIC).

The Beautiful Brain is a unique blend of science and art. Modern images of the brain through MRI scans, 3D renders, micrographs and microscopic-image-stacks are juxtaposed against Cajal’s delicate, intricate illustrations of the brain. There are visual and audio interactive stations that allow you to visualize the composition of the brain and understand how various brain functions work.

Then of course, there is the collection of 80 of Cajal’s drawings, mesmerizing depictions of what he saw under the microscope embellished with his scientific insights. Up close, every stroke, dot and shape he sketched a century ago reveals the wiring of a complex world from which Cajal made scientific discoveries and subtle artistic statements. In some drawings you can identify the neuroscientist-artist’s handwriting in the margins, loopy slanted script, descriptions of the drawings, clarifying points, brief and poetic in nature.

Blair Jovellar, a neuroscience PhD student at UBC, volunteered as an ambassador for the exhibit. She was inspired by Cajal’s work from both an artistic and scientific perspective.

“I was first introduced to his work in my Neuroscience 500 class,” Jovellar says. “The [professor] introduced him as the father of modern neuroscience and showed a few drawings that Cajal made. I was astonished — they were so beautiful. It spoke to me because I admired his patience, attention to detail, and his level of clarity and accuracy.”

The Beautiful Brain runs until December 3, 2017. Exhibit tours take place on Saturdays and Sundays (1:30 and 3:30 p.m.). Alongside Cajal’s work are abstract works from Lawren Harris, Charles Leadbeater and Annie Besant. The Beautiful Brain offers a rare collection from artists and scientists from around the world exploring ideas of consciousness and spirituality and encourages viewers to consider interdisciplinary art forms. As well, the gallery is hosting numerous events related to the exhibit. Learn more on the upcoming symposium, lecture and concert happening this fall at the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery on UBC’s Vancouver campus.


May 19, 2017

Rediscovering our Roots: The UBC Tree-Planting Ceremony

By Mormei Zanke, Assistant Writer, Brand and Marketing

Trees on UBC Vancouver campus

It’s hard not to notice the trees.

UBC Vancouver’s campus is home to some 8,000 planted trees and more than 10,000 native trees. Whether you’ve taken shelter under one of Main Mall’s red oaks or plundered through the fallen leaves of a sugar maple — you’ve likely considered the many species that arch and stretch around us.

Maybe in passing you asked yourself where they came from, wondered about their genesis or thought about who planted them and why. The answers to these questions are not so elusive as you may think. The origins of UBC’s trees can be traced back through history.

Graduation year - 1927
Leaves
Tree trunk
Graduation year - 1919

Many of our trees represent the lasting legacies of our students. Since 1919, a graduation tree-planting ceremony has taken place to give each graduating class a chance to leave something behind and to remind and inspire current and future UBC students. Bark, phloem, crown and all; every year a hole is dug and the ceremonial roots are embraced by land.

The idea for an annual tree planting stemmed from a combination of factors — the desire to honour the first official graduating class of UBC and the apparent need to keep up with the early 20th-century trend that was commemoration. The class of 1919 took after its American neighbours (graduation-tree planting was common at American universities) and planted a basswood tree to celebrate its own graduation. For the next seven years, basswood trees were planted for each graduating class. These trees were originally placed in the botanical garden but later moved to the east side of the Geography Building. In fall, it’s common to see their heart-shaped leaves scattered on Agricultural Road.

Trees on UBC Vancouver campus

Wherever you look there are these gentle, living reminders of our heritage: in 1937, an American elm was placed south of the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre; in 1956, an oak tree beside the Wesbrook building; in 1960, a dove tree; 1972, an arbutus; 1981, a Japanese cherry tree. Like pages in a long and lengthy memoir, these trees shape our university’s temporal narrative. Siberian spruce, honey locust, blue Atlas mountain cedar; these are the trees we planted, years ago, and our campus thrives on their deep roots.

This year, the class of 2017 will have a Plantanus x acerifolia or London plane dedicated beside University Boulevard. Now, almost 100 trees commemorate UBC graduates and if history is any indication, many more will follow.

As you walk the Vancouver campus, be sure to look up now and then — our living memories are growing all around us.


April 13, 2017

New sexual assault policy introduced after extensive consultation

After invaluable feedback from the university community during a two-phased, five-month consultation period, investigations into sexual assault and other sexual misconduct at UBC will be guided by a new policy approved by UBC’s Board of Governors today.

“Sexual assault survivors and other members of the campus community have told us that past policies used to investigate complaints of sexual misconduct weren’t working,” said Louise Cowin, VP, Students and chair of the steering committee on sexual assault. “We hope the new policy will make it easier for people who have experienced sexual violence to come forward, get the support they need, and build confidence and trust in the investigation process.”

Taking effect next month, Policy #131 — Sexual Assault and other Sexual Misconduct (PDF) includes a new process to respond to and investigate allegations of sexual misconduct; reporting options and supports for UBC community members affected by sexual misconduct; and education initiatives for the UBC community on the prevention of sexual misconduct.

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We hope the new policy will make it easier for people who have experienced sexual violence to come forward, get the support they need, and build confidence and trust in the investigation process.

“The new policy is what it is because of the extensive and smart consultation feedback the UBC community gave the committees responsible for this document,” said Margot Young, professor at the Peter A. Allard School of Law and a member of the steering committee on sexual assault. “It was clear that we needed a streamlined disclosure and reporting procedure and the Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Offices — one at each of UBC’s campuses — are important features of the new policy and responsive to the concerns of the UBC community about the existing practice.”

Previously, complaints of sexual misconduct at UBC were guided by a number of different university procedures, including the non-academic student misconduct process and the harassment and discrimination policy (Policy #3).

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The Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Offices — one at each of UBC’s campuses — are important features of the new policy and responsive to the concerns of the UBC community about the existing practice.

Work on a standalone policy began in January 2016 under the direction of former president Martha Piper. A first draft of the policy was presented to the Board of Governors in June 2016, and a second, substantially revised draft in February 2017.

UBC students, faculty and staff, as well as other community stakeholders had the opportunity to provide feedback on the policy during five and a half months of consultation — the first between June and October 2016 on the first draft of the policy. A second draft of the policy incorporated input from the consultation period, the UBC Sexual Assault Panel report (PDF), the steering committee on sexual assault, and changes to abide by provincial legislation introduced in April 2016. Another round of consultation on the second, substantially revised draft of the policy occurred in February and March of this year, resulting in a refined, third draft of the policy.

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There were those who came out and told their stories, who bravely shared their experiences with the committees and committee members so that no one else would have to experience the same trauma. Their stories are the backbone of this policy.

“There were those who came out and told their stories, who bravely shared their experiences with the committees and committee members so that no one else would have to experience the same trauma. Their stories are the backbone of this policy,” said Gen Cruz, president of the UBC Graduate Student Society and a member of the steering committee on sexual assault.

“I want to thank the members of the sexual assault policy committee — led by co-chairs Sara-Jane Finlay, associate vice-president of Equity & Inclusion, and Kimberley Beck, Legal Counsel from the Office of the University Counsel — and the steering committee on sexual assault for their thoughtful and steadfast work to develop the new policy, taking into account leading academic research in this area and, most importantly, feedback from survivors, the campus community and other stakeholders,” added Cowin.

Work continues on an action plan — informed by the UBC Sexual Assault Panel and led by the steering committee on sexual assault — to create a more respectful and inclusive university environment and improve procedures to address sexual assault and sexual harassment.

View a timeline of the sexual misconduct policy development process:

Sexual Assault Policy Consultation Inforgraphic

Click to see the full timeline

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