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Every year, the arrival of Autumn in the northern hemisphere and a new academic year, brings a sparkle in the air and the excitement of new beginnings.

Here, on Pedder Bay and the traditional territory of the Scia’new First Nation, it is a time of shorter days and cooler weather. The impression that the days are shorter is heightened by the increase in activity ever since our students arrived on campus: the first time in eight years that we have had a full complement of 200 students!

In my last President’s Update, we looked forward to a busy summer on campus, despite the absence of our students. And busy it was! As predicted, the busiest and noisiest activity was the site of McLaughlin House, the third of our dormitory houses to undergo massive renovations. The ambitious project had to be completed in the 90 or so days when students are off campus so that the house could be ready for the new academic year beginning in late August.

Thanks to the ever-vigilant Vice-President of Operations and Administration Ty Pile and his team, the deadline was met and an Official Opening Ceremony and thank-you to all the the contractors for successfully completing a wonderful job was held on 26 September. I can report that students are loving their “new” residence.

Summer 2018

Physical construction was, of course, not the only “building” activity on campus. Notable among on-campus short-course programs is the Pearson Seminar on Youth Leadership – PSYL the intensive, interactive and experiential learning program for 15 to 18-year-olds. This year’s PSYL included 77 participants, 16 animators and 6 coordinators from 27 countries. One outstanding event brought together seven external speakers and activists who offered PSYL participants practical and inspirational workshops on topics such as climate eco-justice, social justice, gender diversity and rights of indigenous people.

John Nsabimana speaks at PSYL 2018 about his work at UNICEF

One of the workshop leaders was John Nsabimana (YR31/ 2006, Rwanda), a proud Pearson alum, UNICEF Canada Ambassador and currently a Senior Freedom of Information Analyst for the Government of British Columbia.

This summer also marked the first time we offered the new Pearson Seminar on Collaborative Leadership (PSCL) for young adults interested in mobilizing social change who have experience in community organizing, anti-oppressive work, experience grounded in social justice or who participated in experiential programs like PSYL and similar UWC or related programs. This “grad school” for previous PSYL and similar program participants is currently being evaluated and we will keep you posted on future short-course, summer programs planned for 2019.

Alumni Reunion

The 10-year reunion for Years 32, 33, 34 and 35 took place from 5 to 9 August during a glorious west coast heatwave – which made waterfront activities particularly popular, as you can see in the Reunion pictures. For most of the 90+ attendees, it was their first visit to Pedder Bay since matriculating and they were kept very busy checking out the many physical improvements on campus and learning about the vision and dreams of the Renew and Re-found Campaign.   I am so glad to have been present for the wonderful gala evening and to have met so many young alumni whose life-long commitment to living the UWC values is, quite simply, inspiring.

Weddings on Campus

Our beautiful campus attracts an increasing number of weddings during the summer months. This year, there were five weddings during eight weekends in July and August and we are hoping for even more next summer. The Pearson campus offers a spectacular waterfront setting for a wedding or other small gatherings and meetings. More importantly, this type of summer rental opportunity is an important source of revenue for the College which ultimately supports our scholarships and improvements to the learning and living environment. If you are thinking of a special celebration or event in this area, please consider holding it in this unique setting on Pedder Bay. Contact Deanna at facilities@pearsoncollege.ca or +1 250-391-2416 for more information.

The SPELL Program

SPELL students pose on the docks

An important part of the lead-up to the students’ arrival is SPELL, the Summer Program for English Language Learning —a 10-day program of language learning support for select first-year students to gain confidence in their English skills before their co-years arrive. Not only does this program instill confidence in first-year participants and improve Extended Essay skills for second-year students who act as mentors and guides with the program, SPELL creates an ideal ambiance for early bonding among these students.

The New School Year Begins!

And, before we knew it, all the students arrived on campus!  Nothing is more energizing than the presence of nearly 200 incredibly gifted young changemakers from every province and territory in Canada and –this year- from nearly 90 different countries, reporting that they have working knowledge of over 95 languages – each an individual with such promise and potential!

We must pay tribute to the careful – and I would add, perceptive – work of the volunteer-driven UWC national selection committees who invite, evaluate and help place the high-achieving and diverse students who attend Pearson and our sister UWC schools around the world.  The exceptional achievements of our many alumni bear witness to the care with which selection committees evaluate each application. Thank you to all national committees and a special thank-you to the tireless Executive Administrator of the National Committee of CanadaNina Moroso, who is already preparing the way for next year’s Canadian student cohort. Pearson’s Communications teams works closely with Nina and her volunteers to help “tap the shoulders” of young Canadians (and their families and school counsellors) who may be or know future UWC students.

On 30 August, I asked Deputy Head of College Heather Gross to welcome all to the first Assembly in her inimitable warm and thoughtful fashion. Heather also introduced new and returning faculty and staff , all of whom have taken up their responsibilities with enthusiasm.

The students were immediately engaged both inside and outside the classroom. While our Year 45 cohort settled in to their residences and began to get to know their roommates, housemates and classmates, they also dove into Orientation Week activities from 31 August to 7 September. So many decisions for them to make: working out schedules for classes, fitness activities, choosing artistic and creative opportunities, signing up for “student jobs” (yes, everyone volunteers one hour a week at Pearson to help maintain the facilities and the functioning of the school as well as gain work experience), and chores in the residence…and on Monday, 10 September, classes started!

I then spent a week meeting one-on-one with each of our nearly 100 first-year students. This is definitely one of THE best parts of my job! I can assure you that, once again, we have a group of incredibly bright, engaged and diverse students from every corner of the world. I feel completely inspired by the incredible insights I gained into the diversity and complexity of the people on this campus. For some students – coming from vulnerable families, communities and/or countries – this is the first time in their lives they have felt safe; for others, this is the first time they have felt a little “unsafe” – as in, out of their comfort zone in terms of language, culture, geography, pedagogy.

I heard about many other firsts: first flight, first time away from home, first time out of home country, first person in the family to undertake post-secondary education; first sighting of a deer/raccoon/eagle/orca; first breath of fresh air… I believe the first big game-changer this year is not just the number of students, but the composition: for example, we welcome 14 indigenous students from across Canada and around the world this year – many of whom are sharing their deep insights and experiences with their peers. I, and the entire community, look forward to learning from these young leaders.

Global Affairs

A first for the College as a whole is the launch of our IB Global Politics course. I am so proud that almost half of our first-years enrolled in this new course! In today’s world of conflicts, populism, nationalism, tribalism, deliberate weakening of multilateral institutions and withdrawal of governments from vital funding to developing nations, there is an ever-greater need of mutual understanding and constructive dialogue – as practiced by our inspiration and namesake, Lester B. Pearson.

In his dual role of Global Politics teacher and Global Affairs Program Coordinator Shefa Siegel has enhanced our overall program including speakers’ series and workshops led by external experts and our own community members. The Speaker Series kicked off with a prequel talk by Kenyan-Canadian author and activist Flora Terah-Igoki, followed by Sharmarke Dubow speaking on “The Global Refugee Crisis and the Problem of Statelessness.”

Next in the speaker series was a presentation by Pearson Biology teacher Christie Johnson with her Malawi-based co-founder Memory Chazeza Mdyetseni on a project to improve education for girls in Malawi – the Atsikana Pa Ulendo (APU) or, Girls on the Move school.

Students are now fully immersed in Pearson life. For the Year 44s (class of 2019), it is a stressful time of visits from recruiters  associated with many of the most prestigious universities and colleges across Canada, as well as the U.S and U.K. – all providing enticing views of what their institutions offer. Universities CounsellorBecky Halvorson (Year 11/1986, Canada), together with Academic Services Assistant Donna Grunder, oversee the complex scheduling of university recruiter visits that help give students a better flavour of their opportunities worldwide. As Becky said, “I am confident that every Pearson student will be able to follow his or her dreams of a university education.”

UWC and the International Baccalaureate

An important part of  a UWC education includes the International Baccalaureate (IB). This year, on 4 October, UWC and the International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO) celebrated the IB’s 50th anniversary with two special publications – one from UWC Atlantic College and one from the IBO – that reflect on the origins of the IB and how it developed from a two-school partnership in the 1960s to the global education success it is today. Both publications challenge us to consider: what next?

UWC Impact Study

UWC Impacty study

The success of the UWC – and Pearson – model cannot and must not be taken for granted. What has worked for UWC over more than 55 years inevitably needs review and revision. Thus, I am particularly proud to share with you that The Good Project of Project Zero at Harvard Graduate School of Education and UWC have joined forces to conduct a Longitudinal Study on Impact of UWC Education, which will investigate the impact of a UWC education on the values and attitudes of its graduates.

vanessa christoph UWC IOVanessa Christoph, who is leading this study for the UWC International Office and liaising with the Project Zero research team, spent several days on the Pearson campus this summer to informally meet and talk with people while learning more about and observing the PSYL short-course summer program.
Although we must wait for this four-year study to be completed, I have no doubt that the conclusions will confirm the significant impact of UWC on the more than 4,100 Alumni of Pearson College and their tens of thousands of peers around the globe.


College Leadership

Vice-President of Advancement and External Relations (VP-AER) Dan Hurley will be leaving Pearson College in late November to return to Vancouver Island University (VIU) in Nanaimo, where he will lead its Communications and Public Engagement team during their upcoming presidential transition.

Dan previously served as Executive Director of VIU’s University Relations for four years prior to coming to Pearson in August 2016. During his time here, he has led Pearson’s fundraising, communications and engagement strategy, developed a high-performance team, while also supporting my advocacy efforts with all levels of government. He has also been an active member of the campus community along with his spouse, Kim Martin, and their son, Liam. Dan and his family, who have moved back to their beloved Gabriola Island near Nanaimo, will be sorely missed. Dan’s departure will bring some changes to our senior management reporting structure that will allow us to maintain our momentum in raising friends, funds and awareness of the College.

I would also like to acknowledge the 15 October appointment of Pat Patton as Head of Human Resources at Pearson College, while maintaining her previous portfolio as Special Advisor-Respectful Community. In her new full-time role, she will report directly to me as a key member of the Senior Leadership Team bringing to bear her considerable experience in the private, public and non-profit sectors. Pat’s mandate includes the important role of support, inclusion and engagement of diverse College employees, campus residents and volunteers as we work to achieve our “People” goals under the Strategic Plan 2022. Pat’s role as Special Advisor – Respectful Community continues her strong focus on the College’s culture, policies and practices to ensure alignment as a respectful community.

My Role as Chief Champion of Pearson College

In my first address to the community of Pearson College at the Founders’ Celebration on 9 August 2015, I recall saying the following:

In my capacity as Chief Champion of Pearson College, I am making it my mission to ensure potential students, prospective donors, government sponsors and our friends and supporters know about the kind of educational and life experiences we are providing here in Pedder Bay and the impact our alumni are having around the world.

This was not only a personal undertaking, but an integral part of the mandate I received when I was appointed President and Head of College.

During the past months – indeed, over the past three years — I have crisscrossed the continent, with many stops around the world, to fulfill this this role and to carry the message of Canada’s School for the World to patrons, benefactors, major donors, representatives of the three levels of government in Canada, supporters, influencers and our Alumni who, along with our current students, are our best ambassadors.

The message I carry is not only one of pride in what the greater Pearson community has accomplished to date – and the accomplishments are many – but also to publicize and promote our vision for the future as we undertake the ambitious campaign to Renew and Re-found the College for its next 50 years of scholarship and service. I am pleased to report that our message is being heard. And the response is positive! I have held successful meetings with major donors (details will be coming soon), influential alumni and other friends and supporters of Pearson and the United World College movement.

I have participated in meetings, conferences and fora including the annual Banff Forum, as always, an incredibly stimulating and thought-provoking event. Each of these events are opportunities for me to carry the Pearson message to exceptional gatherings of Canadian and world leaders. The Banff Forum’s 2018 theme of “Canada in the World 2.0” was ideally suited to Canada’s School for the World and gave me much to reflect on and to share with colleagues and students. I also attended the the Global Progress Summit in Montreal, followed by Sustainable Development Goals events mainly around Women Deliver and climate change parallel to the UN General Assembly in New York City where I also met with Pearson alumni based in and around the city including Peter Sands, Executive Director, Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Most recently, I was invited to make a presentation at Supporting the Whole Student Workshop, organized by the Samuel Centre for Social Connection, a gathering of a diverse group of thought leaders and change-makers to address the challenges facing youth during post-secondary education. My topic was, “Deliberate Diversity and Experiential Education at Pearson College – engaging the student’s head, heart and hands.” The next day, I was in Toronto for the meeting of Philanthropic Foundations Canada whose president is Hilary Pearson, a faithful friend and supporter of our College.

I wish to acknowledge the hard work and unwavering support of the Advancement and External Relations team, and my many colleagues across the campus who have made it possible for me to bring the Pearson message to the wider world. I assure you, this is appreciated and our reward will be the securing of an ever-brighter future for Pearson and generations of students to come.

This month, I am off to the meeting of the UWC Heads of College at UWC Dilijan, Armenia. I appreciate these opportunities to exchange and learn from my fellow heads of college and return with so many ideas!

I look forward to my return to our beautiful campus and my beloved College as we head into the second half of this academic term.

Keep following our social media channels for news arising from these events and for more information about what is happening on and off-campus.

Warm regards,

Désirée McGraw
President and Head of College
Pearson College UWC