Byline: Heather Gross (YR20/1995, Canada-AB), Deputy Head and Vice-President of Education and Programming

The last week of August brings a very special event here on the Pearson College UWC campus – the arrival of a new cohort of first-year students.

This year – the 2018-19 academic year – will see us greet the students of PC Year 45. I, for one, am delightedly curious about their individual stories of how their disparate paths brought them to our door. They all went through a challenging and meaningful selection process, with great leadership from National Committees, to get to Pedder Bay. Welcome to all of you, Year 45!

Welcome also to the “veterans” of this UWC school – PC Year 44! The students who engaged and thrived last year return to us from their adventures over the break, ready to take on leadership roles and to guide their new first-year friends and companions on the ways and practices of Pearson.

And, of course, welcome back to all of the educators here on campus – not only our faculty, but also our staff, volunteers and residents who make Pearson College UWC such a special place to live and work. A particular welcome to those who are joining (or rejoining) the Pearson family.

At the beginning of August, we hosted a reunion for PC years 32, 33, 34, and 35. This was particularly meaningful for me because this group represented the first students I met after I first started working at Pearson College UWC. They were the first cohort that I “admitted” as Director of Admissions and I had the privilege of seeing them through their two years on campus.

It was a great pleasure to see how their UWC experience has evolved since they left the College and to share their many accomplishments in such a relatively short time since graduation.

Perhaps I’m biased but I thought that, in their first village gathering, this group of alumni asked some key questions that connect with the goals for this year.

For example, they asked whether we still have difficult conversations and whether we are getting better at creating such dialogues. My answer was based on my own observation that I think we still have room to grow in this area, and that we need to continue to make this responsibility a priority.

To that end, we are re-integrating Global Affairs and giving students opportunities for training, as well as practice, in ways of talking about and learning about conflict in the world and between people. This will happen with the relaunched program led by Shefa Siegel and also with the ongoing work of Peer Supporters.

As well, we are working to integrate the very real and timely need for truth and reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous peoples in our program through TOK+ UWC skills and through significant training and special days in the academic calendar. This is complemented by the continuing growth and breadth of our relationship with our neighbours, the Scia’new (Beecher Bay) First Nation.

This summer’s reunion attendees also asked about how well we know that our program makes a longer-term impact. I was very pleased to share with them the fact that Pearson is participating in a UWC-wide study this year about the impact of our program through the Good Project of Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Please find out more about this study in the September edition of Pearson eNews.

This formal, worldwide UWC study complements the consistent and ongoing efforts of our team here on campus to clarify reflection, support and improve our program, articulate teaching strategies and maintain our strong commitment to the UWC mission. We are constantly striving to ensure that our educational offering is relevant, appropriate and nimble enough to adapt to the needs of young visionaries in a rapidly-changing world.

Finally, our reunion group asked about how we are looking out for students’ well-being. I was pleased to note the work and dedication of many at Pearson who have offered guidance and direction on these areas. Over the past three years since she assumed the role, President and Head of College Désirée McGraw has built on these and worked conscientiously with both external subject experts and our own knowledgeable faculty and staff as we continue Taking Our Responsibilities Seriously.

On the subject of well-being, I should note that our school days will be beginning a little later this year. As the literature has grown on the less-than-optimal impact of early-morning classes on adolescent development , it became clear that we needed to move the start of the academic day back half-an-hour.

So, welcome and welcome back! This is going to be an exciting and a challenging year filled with achievement, friendships new and old, fulfillment of the UWC mission and service to the community. Hold on and, for goodness sakes, get a good night’s sleep!

Heather
Deputy Head and Vice-President of Education and Programming