Centre for International Studies at Cape Breton University

My letter of support in a campaign to secure continued funding for Cape Breton University’s Centre for International Studies

I was a student at CBU from 2001 to 2005. Early on, I started attending CIS events, and it wasn’t long before I was playing a small role in helping to organize and promote those events. Soon after (2006 approximately) I joined the advisory board as one of its non-academic “community” members – a role/title I maintain to this day.

There are several parts to this history: opportunity, experience, and effect. CIS gave me opportunity – to get involved in the life of my university, the life of my community, and the life of the world in which I live. It also gave me experience – both work-like experience in organizing events and creating media and art to promote those events; as well as, later, governance experience as a member of the advisory committee.

And lastly, and perhaps most importantly, through those events CIS opened my young eyes, mind, and heart to the diversity, injustice, and possibility in the world.

I met, listened to, and learned from academics and activists and workers and journalists from Latin America, Africa, Asia, Europe, not to mention other parts of North America and other voices from CBU and Cape Breton Island that I might otherwise not have been exposed to. I heard their stories and internalized their lessons – often inspiring, often harrowing, often both. Whether at a lecture hall, a pub, or a conference off-island – where I was joining, in solidarity, with new friends I had met through CIS – I could describe several instances where a CIS event (or an encounter with one of the speakers perhaps at a party or dinner afterward) had a profound effect on me.

There was the conference about media and communications where I suddenly felt a deep solidarity with my steelworker grandfather who had passed away the year before.

There was an intense, late-night debate at a pub, between a military journalist and my future wife, that seemed to involve a life’s-worth of ambition.

And there were countless events where, knowing I was in a safe environment, I found my voice, and even surprised myself at what I said. I won’t detail these encounters, or attempt to do justice to the ensuing epiphanies and their effects. They were profound experiences for a young student, and as a result very personal. But I list them here (a terribly incomplete list) for the purposes of this testimonial: every student, at CBU or any university, should be able to look back at their time and say they had the kind of life-changing opportunity and experience that I can say I’ve had at CBU, due in no small part to CIS.

Imagining an Alternative World

Capitalism is in crisis: this is clear to anyone paying attention to world events. But rather than rehashing the same old critique, the fifth annual “Human Security Forum” will examine alternatives to business-as-usual economics.

A project of the Centre for International Studies at CBU, this participatory forum brings together people from around the world to explore ideas for a more democratic, egalitarian and sustainable future.

This year’s forum features speakers from the US, Venezuela, Cuba, Argentina, and Canada, including:

  • David Tracey from the Vancouver Community Agricultural Network, which seeks to create more community gardens in order to increase urban organic food production.
  • And Eric Leviten-Reid, an independent community development consultant who for the past ten years has been a member of the national staff team of Vibrant Communities, a pan-Canadian initiative exploring comprehensive, collaborative and community-driven approaches to poverty reduction. Eric is currently pursuing strategies for sustainable community development (economic, social and environmental) in Cape Breton.

The conference runs all day Saturday, at the new Centre for Sustainability in Energy and the Environment at CBU; and kicks off on Friday with a keynote speech and one-act play, Howard Zinn’s “Marx in Soho,” which imagines Marx returning to earth to defend his ideas.

Registration is free. Full details, including agenda, speaker bios, and late registration (still about 8 spots left) online at: cbu-cis.ca/events/human-security-forum-2011-after-capitalism/

Centre for International Studies

When I designed cbu-cis.ca, I put accessibility at the top of the list of priorities. Because of the Centre’s mandate to promote internationalization and global awareness at CBU and in the community, the website is likely to be viewed by people all over the world. This means varying levels of computer hardware, browser software, and internet accessibility. The goal was to build a website that is mostly just text (so it loads faster), but that is still highly functional and nice to look at.

The Centre’s flagship event is the Annual Social Justice Forum (formerly Human Security Forum):

A participatory forum challenging our conventional concepts of crime and punishment in the 21st century. With a view to promoting social justice and cultural integrity around the world, the forum will explore international human rights, structural violence, and race, class and gender dimensions of crime and punishment.

In addition to the annual forum, the Centre encourages the internationalization of the curriculum; coordinates educational activities on the themes of development, the environment, human rights, social justice, and peace, and more. (I’m an advisory board member.)