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Inspiring a Climate of Change

Forty-five years ago, on 25 September 1974, Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific and United World Colleges (Canada) opened its doors to the first cohort of 100 students. Pearson was the second United World College (UWC) to be established. Today, we are proud to be part of a network of 18 UWCs growing in impact and size around the world.

The global community this year celebrated UWC Day on 21 September under the banner of Inspiring a Climate of Change. This coincided with the global Youth Climate Summit, which was followed by a Climate Action Summit hosted by the UN Secretary-General.

On campus, we will also build on this theme throughout the year. At the September opening assembly, I reiterated a call to action regarding Climate Change first issued on a Special Topics Day devoted to this issue in March of this yearI was so proud to see our students, faculty and staff embrace this challenge with enthusiasm, expertise and creativity. Leading up to this year’s UWC Day, our students held round-table conversations about how Climate Change impacts their cultures and their communities after which, virtually our entire student body joined youth and people from all walks of life at Victoria’s Climate Action Strike in front of the British Columbia legislature. Many of our students were front and centre in speaking out at this gathering – check out some of the images of that day on our Flickr page.

We know that urgent action is needed to deal with the climate crisis and our students will continue to be active on many fronts throughout the school year and beyond. If you haven’t done so already, please check our more detailed story on climate action at the College which was published on our website last month.

Personally, I was pleased to contribute my reflections on Climate Crisis: The Role of the UWC Educator to the UWC International educators blog. I wrote about the obligation of our educational institutions to ensure their students are empowered and equipped with the knowledge, competencies and networks to both understand and act upon the global challenges that will impact their generation and others – notably the climate crisis – so that they are not forced to choose between their own individual future (e.g. whether to attend university, whether to have children, what profession to pursue) and their collective future. As a United World College it is our mission to make education a force…for… a sustainable future.

Congratulations to second-year students Antoine Croquelois (YR 45/2020, Switzerland) and Eden Zandstra (YR 45/2020, Canada) whose Precious Plastic CAS project has been selected as one of three finalists of Young Aurora. Inspired by a Marine Science class during which they took part in a beach cleanup, the Precious Plastic team came face to face with the critical need for proper recycling practices, while simultaneously feeling disheartened by the lack of action taking place in the community to tackle this issue. The result was a plan to build a small plastic recycling machine on campus.

The longer-term intention is for Precious Plastic CAS students to maintain the “mini-factory” and sell the materials produced from waste plastics to generate profit to further fund the project.

Antoine and Eden travelled to Armenia this month for the Aurora Forum to present their project and were awarded $2000 as runner-ups to Smokeless Kitchens from UWC East Africa. As you know, many of our alumni are also active on important stages around the world. I am always very happy to hear from them – from you – of stories about how living the UWC mission makes a difference in families, neighbourhoods, communities and countries. I encourage you to share these stories with me and with our Communications and Alumni Relations teams: you continue to inspire our current students while highlighting the ongoing and varied impact of a UWC education.

Recently a young Pearson alumnus, Kohtaro Kosugiyama (YR 41/2016, Japan) wrote to me about his experience as one of nine UWC Alumni who met with UN General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa and about 20 other UN Ambassadors keen to hear their views about how the UN should be communicating with today’s youth.

It was a great honour to represent Pearson, the UWC, NYU, and Japan at UNHQ last Monday.

Thanks to you and UWC International, along with some recent UWC alumni, I was invited to the United Nations Headquarters on September 9th, by the President of the United Nations’ 73rd General Assembly H.E. Ms. María Fernanda Espinosa Garcé with whom we  spoke – along with the UN member states’ ambassadors under the theme of ‘Millennials and the UN.’

I was asked to represent the youth perspective on the UN’s action and its effectiveness towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Although this required me to have appropriate knowledge on current global affairs as well as the UN, with what I had been learning at NYU, and my former involvement with the UN through the internship at the Permanent Mission of Japan to the UN, and of course my identity as a proud Pearsonite helped me share critical feedback and suggestions with the high-level officials at the UN.

As a firm believer in diversity as the world’s strength in combating challenges faced in today’s globalizing world, I’m always proud to call Pearson my home.
With Peace,

Kohtaro Kosugiyama
New York University

Highlights from the summer months

With both Year 45 and Year 46 cohorts in residence on 28 August, it hardly seemed possible that three months had elapsed since we said goodbye to our students and set about planning summer activities and holidays. Contrary to the idea that after their departure the campus becomes a quiet place, a round of summer activities started almost immediately when the annual Metchosin International Summer School for the Arts, (MISSA) “took over” the campus for its 35th annual session from 22 June to 5 July – over 450 participants partaking in 44 workshops spread out across campus!

“From 3 to 15 June, Pearson again welcomed the Rediscovery Leadership and Outdoor Education Training program, which has a long history with Pearson and has conducted the Training Program on our campus for over 20 years.
Founded by conservationist, naturalist, writer and global citizen Thom Henley (“Yaahl Hlaagaay Gwii Kaas” – Raven Walks Around the World) in 1978, the Rediscovery program helps youth from all cultures discover their inner strengths, celebrate their cultural differences, and renew a deep love and respect for the Earth.

For nearly 40 years the Rediscovery program has drawn from the timeless wisdom of indigenous Elders. Youth of all ages and backgrounds are inspired to discover and respect the world within themselves, their cultures and the natural world around them. The program at Pearson College provides training to individuals of all ages who want to provide leadership at Rediscovery and other youth camps.
This year’s participants came from all across British Columbia and from as far north as Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. Two Pearson students also participated.

Once again, the College ran two of our own programs during the summer: the Pearson Seminar on Youth Leadership (PSYL) from July 14 to August 5 and from 13 to 25 August, 16 students participated in the SPELL program for new and returning students wishing to improve their English-language skills.

Throughout the summer, under the watchful eye of our COO Ty Pile, the major renovation and upgrade of East House was completed on time and on budget and was ready for occupancy within just two-and-a-half months.

Summer would not be a summer on campus without welcoming back Alumni for their respective reunions. This year, we celebrated 20- and 30-year reunions with 326 guests, including Alumni and their families. It is always wonderful to have former students and their loved ones on campus and to share the incredible experience of renewing friendships and making new ones. We are all grateful for their loyal and generous support of their alma mater.

The organizers of both reunions did a fantastic job and the Alumni Engagement team: Benoît Charlebois (YR 9/1984, Canada-QC), our Director Community & Stakeholder Engagement, and Luisa Vasquez, our Community & Alumni Engagement Officer, coordinated all the logistics, acted as hosts and problem-solvers extraordinaire during the reunions and worked closely with many other staff and volunteers on campus who lent their time and talents to make these events memorable. Many, many thanks as well to the respective Alumni volunteer organizing committees for these reunions.

The New Academic Year Begins

Every year, subtle changes in light and temperatures mark the new beginnings of the autumn season in the northern hemisphere. For us at Pearson College, they also herald the new beginnings of another academic year. With the arrival of the new cohort (YR 46) on 28 August, the 2019-2020 year began with all the excitement (and the inevitable confusion) that entails. As always, it was a joyous time as the entire Pearson community came together to start a new adventure.

During the first two weeks of September, I enjoyed one of the best parts of my job, holding one-on-one meetings with each first-year student. They continue to amaze me with their unique stories and backgrounds, their individual motivations and their aspirations both for their time at Pearson and beyond. These conversations are both sobering and inspiring – a powerful reminder of why our work at Pearson matters. I like to say that we are in the business of transforming the lives that transform the world – I feel the phrase rings as true as ever 45 years after Pearson welcomed its very first cohort of students of great promise and potential.

Here are two quick and interesting looks at this year’s cohorts. The above graph shows where our Year 46 cohort come from. We are particularly pleased to welcome students from Afghanistan, Cambodia, Latvia and Liberia, as we have not had students from those countries for many years. And, just for fun, here is a look at our entire student body this year in 60 seconds!

On Thursday, 29 August, the campus community — students, faculty, staff and residents — participated in a moving Opening of the new academic year, 2019-20 (you can view the video here). Chief Russ Chipps of the Scia’new (Beecher Bay) First Nation welcomed us all – with special words for the students — on the ancestral lands of the Beecher Bay First Nation and spoke eloquently of the close, respectful relationship between our communities. This gathering was also an opportunity to introduce Indigenous Community Consultant Marcia Dawson, who, together with her colleagues, is guiding our efforts to develop the Pearson College Indigenous Vision.

Creating an Indigenous Vision at the College is one of our key objectives this year. Marcia is an accomplished Indigenous leader and is assisting Pearson to develop the vision on both individual and community levels. Together with Indigenous elders and experienced community colleagues, Marcia will work directly with Indigenous students at Pearson and will facilitate consultation and dialogue with the entire Pearson community on the question of what Reconciliation can and should look like on this campus and in this community.

This new direction builds upon the commitment I made at the beginning of my mandate as President and Head of College to ensure all members of our community understand the truth, history and contemporary realities of Indigenous peoples, and  equally, builds upon my call to action for Pearson to participate in Reconciliation.

While the entire campus is supportive of all our community’s individual and collective efforts to combat climate change, the phrase, Climate of Change carries another meaning this year. As our Chair, The Honourable Anne McLellan, wrote in her welcome to the community for the new academic year, “our core mission [is]: education and related programming. Last spring, a cross section of the Pearson community gathered as a working group to begin a six-month process to develop and confirm our Educational Vision and Strategy. “


At Pearson, we are redesigning curriculum that reflects “a new generation of global education for a new generation of global citizens.” In addition to reformulating the learning experience, we are investing in the living experience through enhanced student care and mental health support as well as more robust adult engagement and presence on campus. This Innoweave-supported process is aimed at “strategic clarity” defining the impact we seek to have in the world and how we achieve that impact. The process happily coincides with our strategic decision to hire an Experiential Education coordinator, Marija Dang, who will help us build the educational model that continues to challenge the whole person – the “head, heart and hands” approach to experiential education.

While the Innoweave process is unique to Pearson, across the UWC we are having conversations about how a “UWC Diploma” would connect with the International Baccalaureate and complement the IB Diploma Program currently in place throughout the UWC. This substantive and innovative work looks at the UWC Educational Model to ascertain how it could encompass all of our educational offerings (including academic and experiential learning as well as the living and leading components and residential life) under a concept like a “UWC Diploma” (or UWC Portfolio or UWC curriculum) that reinforces our mission. These conversations are important to our future as an innovative and progressive educational institution. I will keep you advised as we continue our “deep dive” into this!

Comings and Goings on Campus

In the new academic year, we have welcomed to the Pearson community a number of new arrivals on campus, all of whom have settled in to their roles and are contributing to an increasingly stimulating academic and meaningful community life. Please see this latest post for more details.

Special Events and Activities

As many of you know, a federal election campaign resulted in the re-election of the Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau’s governement on 21 October. During the campaign, Pearson stepped up to host a  candidates’ community forum and debate on 16 September for the Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke constituency (voting district). I had the honour of moderating this exciting evening which attracted many local voters and presented a great opportunity for our students to learn first-hand the candidates’ views on key issues.

Before the forum, we held an information session for our students led by government affairs expert Raphael Brass on Canada’s parliamentary and electoral systems and key issues during the campaign.

Global Politics faculty Shefa Siegel has assembled an impressive list of speakers for this Fall’s Global Affairs Speaker Series.

The first speaker on 26 September was Indigenous law professor Sarah Morales, speaking about the sense of place in Coast Salish culture and the intersections between Indigenous legal traditions and Canadian law.
On 7 November, tSouke member kQwat’st’not (Charlene George), with support from Sierra Club BC’s Executive Director Hannah Askew will speak about Climate Justice. At the end of the term, we will be hosting a traditional indigenous storytelling event with the writer (Otter’s Journey through Indigenous Language and Law) and scholar Lindsay Borrows, who will be  accompanied by her fatheJohn BorrowsIt promises to be a festive, exciting and fun event!

CAS Week started on Sunday, 20 October and ended on Saturday, 26 October. The Creativity, Action, Service program is a critical element of the UWC experience, fostering leadership skills and developing in each individual a life-long commitment to community service. Watch our social media for news of this Fall’s CAS activities.

At this time of year, there are almost more University visits than we can count – a mark of how our graduates are very much in demand! A special thank you to PC Alumna, English teacher and Universities Counselor Becky Halvorson (YR 11/1986, Canada) for her tireless efforts. Check out our online Calendar to see which institutions have come or are scheduled to visit.

As students’ calendars fill with academic, sports, community and other activities, I would like to express my appreciation and admiration for the organizers of the many student-led events, including the monthly Village Gatherings, that enrich the Pearson experience for their peers and the community.

With all that is planned for the next two months, the time will fly by. Soon, we will be preparing for Winter Break departures on 20 December!  I encourage you to keep up with us by following our Pearson monthly newsletters and social media channels.

I would like to remind you that if you know a young person who is ‘the perfect candidate’ for – and would benefit from – the incomparable UWC experience, General applications for Canadians to attend UWC in August 2020 (and for entry in January 2021 for UWC Waterford Kamhlaba) opened on 15 August 2019 and the deadline to submit a completed application is 15 November 2019. For more information, please consult UWC How to apply and do spread the word!

On Thursday, 10 October 2019, I shared with the Pearson community an announcement. For those of you who have not already read that Special Message, please see Remarks to the Village Gathering. I am grateful to the Chair, Anne McLellan, and other directors for their strong support and understanding expressed in the Announcement from Anne McLellan, Chair of the Board of Directors.

Warm regards,

Désirée McGraw
President and Head of College
Pearson College UWC