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On 13 July, Prime Minister Trudeau announced the appointment of UWC Atlantic Alumna and former Pearson College UWC Board member Julie Payette as Governor General-designate of Canada.

Julie Payette in 2010 with PC Alumnus Mohameddek Abdiweli (YR33/2008, Somalia) (left) and former Pearson Head of School David Hawley (right) at an University of British Columbia event receiving an honorary degree from UBC

Astronaut, engineer, accomplished athlete, pianist and choral singer, Julie Payette reflects the very best of Canada and embodies the values of the United World Colleges movement in terms of service, excellence and dedication to making education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future.

It would be hard to think of a better role model for citizens of Canada and indeed the world. We at Pearson College UWC are delighted by Mme Payette’s strong connections to Pearson and her long-time support of the UWC.

A graduate of UWC Atlantic College in Wales in 1982, she served on the volunteer Pearson Board of Directors between 2010 and 2013. In 2009, Mme Payette honoured the then-upcoming 50th anniversary of the founding of the UWC by taking the UWC flag into space on a mission to the International Space Station (ISS). The flag was subsequently presented to UWC Atlantic College.
On behalf of the entire Pearson College UWC community, I recently offered our warmest congratulations and good wishes to Governor General-designate Julie Payette!

On-campus Summer Activities

Lazy, hazy days of summer? Not for administrative leadership, staff, faculty and the many volunteers on campus this season. So much goes on during the so-called “off season.” Our own people are busy with a variety of initiatives in the real and virtual worlds. On the physical campus, for example, we are all eagerly preparing for the incoming – and increased — student cohort of 100 fresh faces at Pearson. As we’ve been sharing with you on social media over the past few months, the finishing touches are being put on the refurbished and “like-new” House #2 (“Japan House”). In the virtual world, we’ve been working very diligently on refreshing our website so that this electronic gateway is more intuitive and user-friendly.

MISSA participant in her creative space

MISSA participant in her creative space

Even though our regular program students are away on their summer break, which includes their home service projects, there has been a hustle and bustle of activity on campus.

For several decades, Pearson has hosted the Metchosin International Summer School of the Arts  (MISSA). From 24 June to 7 July, everywhere you looked there were artisans creating colourful works in a stunning variety of media. As always, the creativity of the 300 MISSA participants – drawn from around the Province of British Columbia and across Canada – inspires everyone on campus with the passion they have for learning as well as creating.

With some 80 participants representing 18 countries, the 2017 Pearson Seminar on Youth Leadership (PSYL) runs for three weeks during July and August, attracting more budding, young leaders and influencers from around the world. This annual summer program – an immersive mini-Pearson College UWC experience – draws strongly from both the world-wide UWC community and the mission that we at Pearson share with the movement. We are grateful to Michelle Clarke and the Program Coordinators, who design PSYL, facilitate activities and workshops, offer resources and mentorship to participants. And kudos as well to the Youth Animators from around the world, whose energy and enthusiasm are so critical to the success of Program.

Nina Moroso speaking to PSYL participants about applying to UWC

As always, there are many other summer activities on campus including happy events such as weddings. What more beautiful setting than the Pearson campus is there for a lovely summertime wedding? Hosting events like these are not only good for the soul, they generate both revenue to support the costs of running the school and awareness of the College in our regional community.

Alumni & Community House

Alumni Gathering at Benoît’s house: L-R: Kyra (YR 40/2015, Canada-ON), Sibia (YR 40/2015, Guatemala), Adrian (YR 1/1976, Canada-ON), Meybis (YR 40/2015, Panama), Aziz (YR 41/2016, India) and Benoît (YR 9/1984, Canada-QB)

Is there anyone in the greater Pearson community who doesn’t know Benoît Charlebois and Anamaria Gomez Upegui?  Who would be better suited to host Alumni visitors at the new Alumni & Community House? Benoît and Anamaria have always welcomed visitors into their home on campus and now this has been “officially” designated to provide a hospitable place for visitors (family members of residents, alumni, external community members, volunteers, guest speakers, parents of current students & alumni) to gather and for occasional overnight stays. This convivial family environment fosters the unique sense of Pearson community through interactions with the live-in hosts and the entire campus community, including current students, residents and other visiting alumni.

Over a recent 40-day period, Benoît and Anamaria welcomed and hosted 15 alumni/community members from 16 countries and Canadian provinces representing 10 different UWC cohorts. In addition, they organized and hosted a half-day event for 40 other alumni/community members — all of this even before operational guidelines were completed! Watch for these to be available early this fall.

Alumni-in-Residence Program

Dani McArthur (YR 6/1981, Canada-ON) on the front porch of her Tiny House

A year ago in the President’s Update, I wrote about the expansion of activities and services for Alumni. Since then, the very rewarding Alumni-in-Residence Program was introduced. We hope to be able to accommodate all requests to join this popular program. Designed to give Alumni the chance to share their expertise and skills with the community by offering new activities or learning opportunities based on their work, world experience, or passions, the initial program participant was Dani McArthur (YR 6/1981, Canada-ON). Dani brought her own Tiny House to campus, which still serves as the unofficial home of the program. She was followed earlier this year by Charlotte Gowdy (YR 22/1997, Canada-PEI), Emmy Chahal (YR 36/2011, Canada-BC) and Trevor Corkum (YR 18/1993, Canada-PEI).

Generous Volunteers

The College relies on the strength and generosity of volunteers, especially from the alumni community. This year, our school benefitted from the welcome presence of Alumni volunteers including Shahla Gulistani (YR 42/2017, Afghanistan), who worked with Nina, Emily and Heather until 18 July; Sibia Maria Inay Ortega (YR 40/2015, Guatemala) and Denise Somuah-Asamoah (YR 42/2017, Ghana), both working with Alumni and External Relations — Denise was on campus until 24 July and Sibia is with us until 5 September. Volunteer Cheryl Lans, has been working with Benoît, Luisa and the AER team on grants research and support for the upcoming summer reunions.

Among the many volunteers I would also like to thank and acknowledge who are those involved with the Host Family Volunteer Program. With the new academic year about to get underway, we are welcoming back returning and new local families who open their homes to Pearson students during scheduled academic breaks and for short stays on weekends and holidays. Our curriculum and experiential education programs are exhilarating but also very demanding. The opportunity to step away from time-to-time and enjoy a home-cooked meal with hospitable Victoria-area families is an enriching part of the Pearson experience – both for students and volunteers. We recently posted an information booklet to encourage more families to become volunteers – check it out here.

2017 Alumni Reunions

As the Pearson community prepares to host the 20-year Alumni Reunion (Years 21-24/1996-1999) from 7 to 11 August, and the 30-year reunion (Years 12-15/1987-1990) from 11 to 15 August, I am pleased to devote much of this update to Alumni matters.  I would also like to acknowledge the tireless work of Alumni Relations and Community Engagement Officer Luisa Vasquez, who is replacing Julia Norman (currently on parental leave and the proud parent of a strapping baby boy named Rio). Many thanks as well to Alumna volunteer Meybis Chavarria Pitty (YR 40/2015, Panama), presently helping out with the reunions and to UWC Costa Rica alumnus Evan Guy who, for the second year in a row, is here supporting summer and auxiliary programming.

Outreach to Alumni & Potential Partners

L-R Desiree McGraw, Shakeel Bharmal, COO at the Aga Khan Foundation & Anne McLellan, Pearson board member and former Federal Cabinet Minister

Much of my focus recently has been on outreach to Alumni and to potential partners in the many exciting activities that are in the works.

During the week of 13-17 June, AER Vice President Dan Hurley and I spent very productive time in Ottawa, meeting with senior officials at the Prime Minister’s Office, Privy Council Office, Global Affairs Canada, and with potential partners in the celebration of the events marking the 60th anniversary of Lester B. Pearson’s Nobel Peace Prize.

Pearson board member and former Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan and I had a wonderful meeting with Aga Khan Foundation CEO Khalil Z. Shariff. I am confident that some great future collaborations will result from these discussions.

I would like to acknowledge the help and support of our many Pearson alumni who now occupy important posts in Ottawa, truly living the mission of UWC and quietly advocating for their beloved Pearson College UWC – influential individuals like Lori Sterling (YR 2/1977, Canada-QB) – also a member of the Pearson Board), Marta Morgan (YR 6/1981, Canada-BC), Owen Teo (YR 15/1990, Canada-BC) and Marie-Thérèse Hélal (YR 19/1994, Canada-QB) at Global Affairs Canada and Senator Yuen Pau Woo (YR 6/1981, Singapore).

During that week, I was honoured to be the moderator at the fourth annual Canada 2020 Conference town hall with Finance Minister Bill Morneau. I also attended the closing reception of the 2017 Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference which brought back such wonderful memories of my own participation in 2015 (along with Pearson Board member and Alumna Kory Wilson (YR 14/1989, Canada-BC).

Needless to say, wherever I was, Pearson was always my key topic of conversation!

The following week, I was in the United Kingdom for, among other things, a gathering of London-based Pearson Alumni from across the years at the flat of Yazann Romahi, (YR 19/1994, Jordan). The lively four-hour discussion focused on answers to my request for advice on what should be my priorities as Head of College. We also had extended discussions on ways to help students find their voices as they arrive on campus, especially students for whom English is not a first language and/or whose cultures do not encourage expressing views assertively. One topic of deep interest was the College’s scholarship policy. Finally, we talked about how alumni can best support the College and effectively engage with one another to advance the UWC Mission. I am grateful to George Barker (YR 2/1977, New Zealand), Pierre Brais (YR 3/1978, Canada-QB), Nilima Gulrajani (YR 22/1997, Canada-QB), Michael Kiprop (YR 28/2003, Kenya), Olivia McKinney (YR 26/2001, Bahamas), Sanjaya Shrestha (YR 20/1995, Nepal) and Xiaoxue Weng (YR 31/2006, Japan), whose frank exchanges have given me much to reflect on.

I then attended the UWC Atlantic College conference (21-23 June). It was my first visit to the birthplace of UWC, which is also one of the three founding schools of the IB (International Baccalaureate) Diploma Programme and the original IB school. (Next year being the 50th anniversary of the IBDP!) I was so impressed by the beautiful old buildings, woodlands, working farm and glorious gardens side-by-side with a striking new athletic complex.

Désirée McGraw at UWC Atlantic College

The meeting was a successor to the highly successful meeting on pastoral care hosted by Pearson last summer. Working from the premise that tangible encouragement for those learning English needs to go hand-in-hand with the pastoral support systems, participants considered how to improve backstopping those students who come from non-English-speaking backgrounds.

I also had a number of stimulating discussions with Peter Howe, the new (Canadian and first foreign-born) Principal, focusing on the fresh ideas he is bringing to Atlantic College and their relevance to Pearson’s curriculum and practices.

Back in Canada, on 28 June, I hosted a delightful get-together for Alumni in the Montreal region. As in London, it was a diverse group that included well-known CBC reporter and broadcaster Loreen Pindera (YR 3/1978, Canada-MB), Marc Flynn (YR 4/1979, Canada-QB), Senior VP Regulatory Relations and Credentialing at the Canadian Securities Institute, Jude Samson (YR 19/1994, Canada-NS), whose appointment as a full-time member of the Appeal Division of the Social Security Tribunal was announced the next day; and Radio Canada science reporter Chantal Srivastava. They were joined by more recent graduates Kristina Parker (YR 38/2013, Canada-ON), Education and Engagement Coordinator at Sustainable Concordia (University); Camille Ross-Williams (YR 40/2015, Canada-QB), Project Manager at Youth Fusion and Political Science and Human Rights Student at Concordia University; and from the same year joined Wahid Bitar (YR 42/2017, Syria); Morgane Saint-Cyr (YR43/2018, Canada-QB) and Tomma Bambara (YR 43/2018, Burkina Faso).

Alumni Gathering in Montreal with Désirée McGraw and Valérie Cotas

As always when I meet with Pearson Alumni, I came away energized and more determined than ever to strengthen our bonds with these remarkable, accomplished, individuals so committed to living the UWC Mission in their own ways and in their respective fields. One outstanding example is Yuen Pau Woo (YR 6/1981 Singapore) who was named a Senator in 2016 and was recently honoured as one of the 2017 RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Award winners. Make sure you check out our social media pages where we frequently highlight Impact profiles of accomplished Alumni around the world.

Heather Gross (YR20/1995, Canada-AB), VP Education and Program

The number of Alumni among the staff and educators of the College underscores this life-long commitment, starting with our VP Education and Program, Heather Gross (YR20/1995, Canada-AB), Dean of Students, Julia Clark (YR27/2002, Canada-BC) and Benoît Charlebois (YR9/1984, Canada-QB) Director, Community/Stakeholder Engagement. In addition, the Pearson College UWC Board counts no less than eight members who are Alumni. Board members are, to a certain extent, the unsung heroes (and heroines) of the College. It is they who form the bedrock of our governance and I will be writing more about their role in a forthcoming update.

On 18 July, a new B.C. government was sworn in.  Comprised of gender-balanced 11 men and 11 women, Premier John Horgan’s Cabinet includes four ministers and two parliamentary secretaries who are under 40 years old, 10 ministers and secretaries who are visible minorities, and Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training, and the Province’s first female First Nations minister. I have congratulated Minister Mark and her colleagues whose portfolios have particular relevance to our ongoing development and have extended an open invitation for them to visit our campus. We look forward to welcoming them.

History Matters – Mr. Pearson’s Nobel Anniversary and the College’s Digital Archive Project

Our team has been finalizing details of celebrations over the next months of the 60th anniversary of Lester B. Pearson’s Nobel Peace Prize and I will be confirming these soon. In the meantime, I am pleased to announce that we will be a partner in The Victoria Forum (17-19 November), organized by the University of Victoria and Global Affairs Canada. The Forum theme Canada@150: Promoting Diversity & Inclusion, which so accurately reflects the College’s underlying principles, will be addressed by a group of outstanding keynote speakers including Hilary Pearson, granddaughter of our namesake (co-chair of our Nominations Committee and former Board Director). Pearson College is co-hosting the Gala Reception on Friday, 17 November and Pearson students will be participating in the Forum in a number of support roles.

The College’s Library and Learning Support Coordinator Dani McArthur (YR 6/1981, Canada-QB) is also working to support celebrations marking Mr. Pearson’s Nobel honour and is guiding an important archival project for the College. Working with volunteer Adrian Lee (YR1/1976, Canada-ON) and a UBC Library and Archival Sciences co-op program student who will join us on campus during the Fall academic term, Dani is embarking on a project to further capture and categorize College archival materials to establish archival records that are comprehensive and easily accessible to more people. Specific archival materials related to the founding of the College through the efforts of Mr. Pearson and his contemporaries will be prioritized to eventually create a multimedia digital archive that will help better tell our College’s founding story through historical photographs, documents and video clips.

We gratefully acknowledge the support for this initiative from the Community Fund for Canada’s 150th celebration: a collaboration between the Victoria Foundation, Community Foundations of Canada and the Government of Canada to support local projects connected to Canada’s sesquicentennial celebration.

School’s In — Soon!

The Pearson community is working tirelessly to have everything ready for the beginning of the new academic year with the eagerly-anticipated arrivals of our students, YR 43 on Monday, 28 August and YR 44 on Wednesday, 30 August. It is going to be a great year and we look forward to having you join us virtually, if not in person. In the meantime, I extend my best wishes for a happy, healthy conclusion to your summer break and remind you to keep up with our news through our website and many social media platforms.

Désirée McGraw
President and Head of College
Pearson College UWC