Remarks by Craig Davis, President and Head of College,
QOL¸EW̱ House Lawn

Welcome to all of you and particularly to our new Year 49s – WOO-HOO — you made it!   For some of you this has been quite a journey and quite a challenge — it’s so great to see you, all of you.

Welcome back, of course, to our Year 48s — you made it back!! Congratulations and WOO-HOO to you too!

It’s always so wonderful to see you all together with our staff, faculty, volunteers, Houseparents and campus residents.

My name is Craig, and I am technically a Year 47…but I also happen to be Head of College. 😊

Chief Russ Chipps, Sc'ianew First Nation, welcoming studentsOur tradition of naming each academic year in terms of the number of years from the original founding of the College in 1974 highlights how close we are to our 50th anniversary here in this beautiful location on Pedder Bay on the traditional territory of the Sc’ianew First Nation.

This year, the first for our newly-welcomed Year 49 class, also marks the 60th anniversary of the founding of the first United World College – UWC Atlantic in Wales. So, on 21 September, UWC Day, the entire UWC will also mark the 60th anniversary of the movement as a whole.

Last fall, I had the chance to attend the 50th anniversary celebration of UWC Southeast Asia in Singapore. That event marked the golden anniversary of what was originally the Singapore International School which, in 1975, became a full United World College.

So, depending upon how you look at it, with Pearson’s first students starting in 1974, we are arguably the second oldest UWC of the 18 United World Colleges.

In thinking about land acknowledgements and where we are situated, I want to share with you some wisdom we received this past week during staff and faculty training

We spent time locating ourselves, discussing identity and our multiple mixed heritages, and complex personal journeys – how, for many we do not identify with nation states but perhaps with peak experiences, food, art, sport, and ultimately connections and friendships.

This is the strength of our Pearson Place — a community of friendships that will last a lifetime and will transcend ethnicity, nationality, or any other fixed categories as this place becomes a new home for you and a lifelong community where you can locate yourself and return — as many of our alumni did over the past two weeks to celebrate 10 year and 40-year reunions.

Listening to their stories was inspirational. The incredible work they have achieved serving global peace, conflict resolution, sustainability, climate action, refugee support, giving back to their communities and global causes…all because they began that work cultivating a giving mindset whilst at Pearson.

Many of them also said that solving complex global political crisis was simple after having successfully negotiated room manifestoes at Pearson or resolving House conflicts or duty rosters! 😊

Similarly, they explained that you cannot serve the United Nations or Parliament or the Senate if you haven’t first served each other food in the kitchen! You cannot solve the global climate crisis if you cannot first effectively recycle on campus or grow your own vegetables in the greenhouse!

Meeting the challenges of living together in this place, in this location, provides the foundation for great work later. It is because, as alumni told me, living together creates an appreciation of complexity, of depth. We, all of us, learn new things about each other beyond our national, ethnic or gender identities or job titles or “official” roles.

This is the history of Pearson College and UWC — the forging of community in the service of others. That’s not unlike what some of you were able to do in Kenya this past summer during your KULE Foundation service and which many more of you will do locally for your campus service and service in the Metchosin or Victoria communities.

In fact, we learnt last week during our indigenous SENĆOŦEN language training that the Salmon People of the Sc’ianew/Beecher Bay First Nation means working together – just as the salmon are known for pooling together in the service of the collective wellbeing. This is the kind of deeper learning we gain from finding out about our Indigenous neighbours, their language and the deeper meanings beneath the surface.

That is why deeper conversations and committing to find out more about each other are vital ingredients in our UWC community values: Commitments to assume positive intent and withhold judgement, to move beyond just “glomming” with our immediate friends to extending out and making conversation with others 

Take the time to avoid gossip, to challenge first assumptions and emotive reactions in favour of specificity, complexity and detail. To put it simply, have lunch with the person who knows about an issue, get to know the staff member, the student, the faculty or administrator before rushing to a conclusion about him or her or their intentions…give your roommate time to adjust and settle before making a judgement about them…don’t accept what you hear about anyone until you yourself have taken the time and effort to find out yourself.

In a sense, the Mission, Vision and Values of the Pearson UWC model is in direct opposition to the echo chambers of social media, the dopamine-drilled outrage of YouTube comments or What’s App groups …the forced combative Twitter exchanges or simplified TikTok reels. Instead, here at Pearson we insist on complexity, nuance, detail and the collective responsibility that comes with this because as Lester B. Pearson himself stated, “How can there be peace without people fully understanding each other, and how can peace occur if they don’t actually know each other?”

That includes getting to know us as staff, as adults – please do not use the blanket terms “admin” or “faculty.” Call us by our names! Learn who we are, beginning with the opportunity for Year 49s who will be meeting us all over the next few days.

So make sure you fully engage in community. Attend every class, every Village Gathering, every Global Affairs session, every CAS session, every House and room meetings, every kitchen duty, every advisory session, every CORE lesson, every service commitment. Not just showing up but contributing –authentically. It is truly a privilege to be here, a once in a lifetime opportunity, so please recognise that full community commitment is a must.

Always remember why you are here…to serve the UWC mission. We are a movement committed to fostering international peace and conflict resolution, intercultural connection, environmental sustainability and global equity.

How we do this? Well, according to our founder Kurt Hahn, it is through self-sacrifice — providing service to the communities around us and modelling these characteristics in how we carry ourselves during our time at Pearson.

Welcome, and welcome back. I wish you all a happy and fulfilling year.