I've got some catching up to do but I'm stoked to see everyone on the other side.
Congrats! You made it!
Now that exams have come to an end, many of my friends and high school alumni are finally snapping up their degrees and entering the real world. I am so proud of how far everyone has come and am so excited to see where the post-graduation life takes them - Madagascar, England, France... who knows where else!
I've got some catching up to do but I'm stoked to see everyone on the other side.
Congrats! You made it!
Happy Earth Day everyone!
I love this set of PSAs from the Canadian Earth Day website. I think this set of images perfectly captures environmental sustainability in an immediate and aesthetic way.
This year, the University is hosting a number of events to help people voice their support of a clean and healthy environment. One of the most exciting events is the appearance of Dr. David Suzuki at a Green Calgary film screening of Climate Change in Atlantic Canada. Despite being a polarizing figure in Canada and across the globe, he is still a figurehead for environmentalism and I am pleased that he, as well as Dr. Ian Mauro, chose to be in Calgary to discuss local issues and our future. Unfortunately, I am unable to attend as I have a final exam at exactly the same time, but I'm excited to hear what my colleagues have to say about the event. Luckily, I can make the Annual Earth Week Campus Clean-Up and BBQ to help make the campus a little cleaner as we FINALLY head into springtime. Things get a little grungy around campus after Bermuda Shorts Day, so there's certainly a lot of work to do!
Let me know how you're celebrating Earth Week!
Last week, the American Association for Physical Anthropologists (AAPA) held it's 83rd annual meeting... in Calgary! The anthropology department has been a whirlwind for the past few months as everyone has been preparing to host palaeoanthropologists, epigeneticists, primatologists, biological anthropologists and palaeopathologists (and every job description in between!) from universities across North America as they present new research, poster topics, and set the stage for the coming year. This was an incredible opportunity for our university, and I was so thrilled that they gave undergraduates the chance to volunteer at the event and attend all of the lectures.
It was mind blowing to sit in a room next to many of the people who I have cited and cited and cited again, and to hear them speak so passionately about their research and about the future of our discipline. It was inspiring to see so many young graduate students and post-docs talking enthusiastically amongst each other about skeletal morphology and implications of methylation or the primate vagina as a biome, and it was even more heartening to see everyone promoting the need for collaboration. One of the reasons I chose to pursue anthropology is because our department is fortunate to have so many vivacious instructors who always seem so keen to ensure that us, as students, are actually receiving a good education and coming out of a course with more than we put in (which, sadly, is not the case for all of the departments on campus). Learning that many of the people present at the AAPA meeting reflected this progressive view prompted me to rethink some of my hesitations and reluctance to continue certain graduate studies and came as a huge relief at the time when pursuing a Master's is a real possibility. There are so many exciting projects going on at every university, and as technology progresses it becomes even more feasible to understand our ancestral history and the connections that we have with our living relatives.
*I pre-wrote most of this immediately after the event, prior to some heartbreaking news from the University of Calgary that, while not directly affecting me, has greatly impacted the campus and community. In the following weeks I will try and finish this post but will likely take a brief hiatus from blogging until I feel appropriate.
Sustainability is more than just looking after the environment - it accounts for the social and human spheres too. The University of Calgary has a number of great programs and services that promote wellness, and it's been interesting getting to meet some of the people behind these services as we run our workshops and gather information for the 2014-2019 Plan.
It's been interesting that just as we've been preparing to gather the data for the social sustainability portion of our plan, the Wellness Centre has launched a new strategy and toolkit to make it even more simple for students, faculty, and staff to access the support they need to ensure that their mind, body, and spirit are healthy. This strategy includes counselling services, health services, faith and spirituality guidance, and much more, and while I'm not affiliated with the centre, I can say from my own experience that it can be extremely difficult to reach out for help and simply having the services there wasn't always enough. The new strategy makes it much easier to find the help that you need and, just as an observation, I feel that there is more being done on campus that fosters a culture where it is now okay to seek help and work on areas you may be struggling in.
For example, the U of C unofficially broke the Guinness World Record yesterday for the most sexual health screening done in 24 hours at a single venue (#ucalgarygettested) - it takes 2-3 months until it's Guinness Official. This was a highly-publicized campaign that took place in the largest venue on-campus and featured a number of different groups and volunteers offering information on sexual health, STI prevention or treatment-options and distributing free condoms an pamphlets on safe sex (including same-sex methods). There are parts of the world where this would be illegal, let alone promoted. Here, over 520 people feel comfortable peeing in a cup and giving that cup to a stranger. Side note, even though they weren't testing for syphilis I witnessed one of the more chotchy kids actually yell at his friends standing outside to join him because "Al Capone died of syphilis and that shit ain't tight, get your ass over here and pee in this friggin' cup" (actual quote).
An awareness campaign centered on managing stress is also currently active. The video above, which was made by high school classmate of mine, was part of a competition called "Dear Stress" where people were encouraged to share their experience with stress and how they've managed to cope. (If you're from the U of C you can vote for this video or the others here). I actually wasn't even aware about the campaign until she posted it on Facebook but I'll chalk that up to being physically dislocated from the main hub where most of the advertising happens. Since it's exam time, tax season, end-of-year and, for most of my friends, graduation time, it's especially important to learn healthy stress management so you can face all of the upcoming tasks head-on. As someone who has had historically poor stress- and time-management, learning how to deal with all of the pressure makes a world of difference and can help you get through day-to-day without getting lost in the scary, dark places that often start to take over your mind. I've started to feel the burn lately trying to juggle responsibilities and I have to continually remind myself to slow down and take a moment to look after my body and relax my thoughts (yoga almost feels like cheating since I feel I get to cross off both at the same time!). We have some really great resources at our disposal and we just have to remember to use them! Stay happy and healthy everyone!
Awards season is upon us! And while sustainability awards ceremonies may not be as elaborate as the Oscars or have as many musical acts as the Grammys (I can only assume, since I haven't seen either in several years), I am willing to bet that they are at least as fun and twice as important. While there is a great deal of fun (again, assuming here) and anticipation in watching your favourite celebrities grace the red carpet take home the grand prize, I think that the value in watching your peers, colleagues, teachers, and mentors be recognized for their work is a far greater award. Pauline's brilliant idea to keep the recipients of each award a secret - only to be revealed at the ceremony - really paid off once you saw the genuine look of pride, astonishment, and happiness on each of the winner's faces as they went to accept their certificate and shake the hand of the university president. It's so easy to get overwhelmed with exams, papers, assignments, and the daily grind of balancing work-school-life-friends-clubs-health and forget that there is really some incredible work being done around you (and also probably BY you). These award ceremonies help to remind us that despite the challenges and barriers that we face, there is hope in the people that have passion and there are people that are interested and invested in what is being done and want to see it continue. Or at least that's what it helps remind me. Every year the ceremony grows and more and more people attend to support the progress we are making (and to enjoy the most delicious free food the university offers).
For all the nominees, sustainability is more than just a footnote in their work: they live, work and breathe it. And I always fear sounding too cheesy but I can't help but say that EVERYONE deserved to win this year. Each person has gone above and beyond in their field - and sometimes outside of their field - to help make the world a little better and brighter for those living and future generations. And it's only the tip of the iceberg! The greatest asset of these awards is also one of it's greatest flaws (in my own opinion) - all nominees are legitimately NOMINATED by people, there is no self-nomination or list compiled by the office, so every person or club on stage was there because someone had recognized the work they were doing and told us they deserved it. For the winners and nominees in each category, it can be extremely moving to know that someone (nominators are anonymous) took the time to fill out an application and tell us what makes you 'worthy' of an award. That being said, there are obvious gaps where faculties, clubs, or student leaders may not be recognized because someone didn't take the time to fill out the application or, more often than not, simply didn't know about the awards and didn't realize that their nominations actually matter. Hopefully as the years go by more and more people will be nominated for awards and will have the opportunity to be recognized by the institution, in a formal way, for the effort that they put into their projects, because there is SO much amazing work being done by more people than could probably have fit into that room.
Congratulations to all the winners and I'm so proud that I study and work next to some of the brightest people in this generation!
Last Wednesday I had the extreme pleasure of attending and presenting at a Spoken Word event planned by one of my colleagues at the Office of Sustainability and hosted by the University of Calgary's television station NUTV (New University TeleVision). Pauline - the organizer - will tell you that any successful event requires a substantial lead time and we've been privy to snippets of the planning process for the past few months. That being said, the minutes and the hours leading up to the event were still nerve-wracking as people started to slowly fill into the tiny set; NUTV remarked that this was the most people that they've ever seen in their space! (It was the first time in my four years that I have ever been there.)
Echo! was presented as part of the Greenlite Arts Festival which showcases eco videos, film challenges and environmentally-themed poetry. For the spoken word portion, we simply asked performers to develop a piece that answered the question: "what would you say if you were the last artist standing?" Answers fell on all sides of the sustainability spectrum from laments about the way our earth is being treated to social commentaries on the higher education system and the value of an arts degree.
I was blown away by the quality of the performers. One of my favourite things about the spoken word/slam poetry community is that it is so diverse and the atmosphere always feels comforting and inviting. Every performer always feels like they are bearing a little piece of their soul - and sometimes they are - and you as an audience member have the opportunity to witness a snapshot of their life. As cheesy as this sounds, I honestly can't express the feeling any other way. People that you may never associate with writing or look like they are unaffiliated with anyone in the room are suddenly friends and talking on the same level about our issues. Though it wasn't intended to be a competition, a prize was awarded to the poet with the greatest stage presence, message, and audience reaction. The winning poet knocked it out of the park with a rap-style slam on society, university and the human experience, which included a witty take on "higher education" in which he expressed his degree would be more useful if he rolled it into a joint and smoked it. I gave a shaky performance of my two fairly literal interpretations of the theme - Ghost Pines and What is and What Was - but I still just enjoyed being there despite the nerves and am proud that I was in the company of the other amazing performers.
I'm excited to see if this becomes a tradition that continues every year as part of the Greenlite Arts Festival, but even if it isn't I am thrilled with how everything worked out. Event planning is never easy and Pauline did an amazing job of pulling this event together.
Check out a stream of the entire performance here: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/fullfrontallive