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Liberal Arts Blog

SFU Continuing Studies

Housing Alternatives for an Aging Population Conference | May 28-29, 2014

April 12th, 2014

The 23rd John K. Friesen Conference explores the range of tenure arrangements, housing forms, and service models currently available and under development for adults 55+ in Canada.

These include cohousing and the village model popular in the USA; life-lease projects, popular in the prairie provinces; mixed-tenure models and ethno-cultural models currently in operation in the province as well as housing and service options that do not require people to move from their current homes.

Keynote speakers and expert panels will describe the pros and cons of each housing option, the type of resident for whom person-environment fit is maximized, and “how to do it” if it’s a model that is resident-inspired and -managed.

The objective of the conference is to provide information that will enable people aged 55+ to plan ahead and make informed choices. As well, it provides a forum for developers to learn what current and future seniors are looking for in the way of housing for their later years.

Charles Durrett, a pioneering expert on co-housing, will be the speaker at a Free Public Lecture on Wednesday, May 28 from 7:00-8:30, addressing the topic “The Power of Community” in Room 1900 at SFU’s Harbour Centre campus. Although this is a free public event, registration is required.

Hosted by SFU Gerontology Research Centre in collaboration with SFU’s Lifelong Learning Adults 55+ Program.

Writing Blindly: Experiencing the World and Your Writing through Non-visual Senses

April 2nd, 2014

According to a poll of 2,000 Canadians, each day we spend an average of 8-hours of our free time staring at a screen (generally our smartphone or tablet). In 2012, IBM predicted that in the next five years smartphones will help us to “approximate and even augment human capacities, including all five senses.”

With this increasing reliance upon screen-based technology, we can’t help but wonder what effects this will have on our other senses? Can we fully appreciate culture, art and, even, be creative without using our sight?

Carmen Papalia, a visually-impaired writer, artist and instructor, creates art installations and public projects that invite participants to experience public spaces through non-visual senses. His projects have included a “Blind Field Shuttle” walking-tour and a “See for Yourself” non-visual museum tour project, where visitors close their eyes and embark on a one-on-one tour while art objects, architectural details and other museum visitors are described by a tour guide.

Papalia also teaches an Experimental Memoir class through SFU Continuing Studies where he enables students to engage their writing through experiences from their other four senses. As he notes in his description, his course offers “an open workshop environment where writers of all skill levels can develop a body of creative work that is initiated by, and informed by, the body.” Students will also participate in a “blind” city walk as he takes them through the city.

Our senses allow us access to the outside world. In a modern world dominated by staring at screens, we invite you give your eyes a rest and experience the world through the rest of your body.

Course Details:

Experimental Memoir: Writing Through the Body
April 26–May 17, 2014
1:30-4:30 p.m.
SFU Vancouver, Harbour Centre
Register here: http://www.sfu.ca/continuing-studies/courses/cpw/experimental-memoir.html

“Sumer is icumen in”: Mark Your Calendar for Summer Registration

March 24th, 2014

summer catalogueThe joyous Middle English round song “Sumer is icumen in” evokes the sounds and merriness of that all-too-brief season of sun and warmth that graces our corner of the Northern Hemisphere.

At SFU Continuing Studies, we are already celebrating the season’s imminent arrival of with, literally, a host of new courses for adults in our Liberal Arts and Adults 55+ Program, both downtown and at our Surrey City Centre Library location.

Registration for our summer (that’s May and June in SFU-speak) courses begins at 10 a.m. on April 9, and you can take part in this embarrassment of riches by coming to SFU Harbour Centre and registering in person, by mailing in a registration form, calling us by phone – a labourious on Registration Day itself – or, simplest and most secure of all, by registering online.

Our summer fare is as varied as ever, and if you’re interested in music, literature, science, the arts and history and culture you’ll be well served. So, get ready for a summer of exploration and varied delights.

The summer catalogue is now online and the print version (a necessarily truncated affair, with full information about each course only available online), at the mercy of Canada Post, is also out.

You’ll still have plenty of time to hit the beach, rev up the barbecue or garden while taking a course, or several, during May and June.

Be a Blogger

March 18th, 2014

Are you taking a course in the Liberal Arts and Adults 55+ Program?

Do you have an idea or insight that developed from it and that you want to share with the community of adult learners? The Liberal Arts Blog wants to hear from you!

While we can’t guarantee that any and every submission will be posted (and certainly won’t guarantee that a blog will go up just as it comes in), we are keen to have posts that relate to our activities and to the learning community.

The ideal word length would be between about 150 and 250 words, and the ideal focus would be on something that people taking our courses would like to hear about. Crisp well focused writing, level of interest and relevance to the learning community, and originality are game breakers!

Learnt a fascinating factlet that set you a-pondering and reaching out to the Internet? Engaged by an idea that you explored further as a result of a course? That’s the kind of thing we would love to hear about.

The social media are where it’s at with adults joining the Facebook and Twitter revolution in droves. Approach us about an idea or send us something that just got itself written. We’re all here to learn and to share ideas.

Getting to Know You … La, La, La

March 10th, 2014

The Liberal Arts and Adults 55+ Program held its first orientation session (call it a Meet-and-Greet) in mid-January to acquaint students new to the program about its myriad aspects. A lively and informal event, participants met with the staff, got to know something about each other, identified areas of interest and found out a lot about just how the program ticks away day-in-and-day-out.

It was enormously successful both socially and as an information provider. Roz Kaplan spoke enthusiastically about the Program’s mission, goals and hopes, pointing out that the program has been serving the adult learner community since the early 1970s.

Students attending their first course in the Program or who were just about to (with their courses beginning in February) found a lot of common ground, became familiar with several new faces and shared in abundant good humour. For some, exploring the building first-hand before the start of classes was useful … And, yes, there’s a bookstore, a food court and even a place to buy wine and spirits on the premises.

In light of what all participants felt to be a gangbuster success, the Program plans to hold similar events shortly into each term. New students will receive an e-mail asking them to register their interest in coming, and the rest is really fun. Watch this space!

Free Saturday Preview @ Surrey: What Happyns? Documentary Screening and Dialogue

March 4th, 2014

The Liberal Arts Program co-sponsors with the SFU Seniors Lifelong Learners Society a Free Saturday Preview in Room 401 at Surrey City Centre Library on 15 March from 1:30 to 3:00 p.m.

In his 45-minute documentary What Happyns? (2012), the award-winning film producer and director Ric Beairsto looks at the convergence of opinion that occurs when young skateboarders and elderly members of the Stanley Park Lawn Bowling Club are asked the very same set of questions.

In this case, the questions are ones such as “What is meaningful work?”, “Who is a hero to you?”, “Are you afraid of death?” and—most critical of all—“Are you happy?” The result of this cross-generational meeting of minds and hearts is a quirky blend of wisdom, insight, frustrations and regrets quite unlike anything you’ve seen before.

The director, Ric Beairsto, and Gail Brown, who appears in the film, will be on hand to introduce What Happyns? and guide a discussion following the screening.

What Happyns? A Documentary Screening and Dialogue is free and open to all adults, but please register.

Cool & Weird: Soviet Film Tit-Bits

March 4th, 2014


How Papa Joe Stalin lifted the nation, won the war, and still had time to play Cupid.

All without getting a single smudge on his dazzling white uniform.

We’re seeing it all in Soviet Cinema: Wars, Revolution and Propaganda, a class being taught by Dr. Marina Sonkina, a former professor of literature at Moscow State University and more recently a broadcaster, producer, and film critic for the CBC.

The first film to be shown in class was The Fall of Berlin, premiered a few years after the end of WWII, and screened in the Soviet Union virtually non-stop for years.

The Fall is truly propaganda at its most raw, the cult of personality and the deification of a monster. The all-knowing, all-seeing, and all-conquering Joseph Stalin. The dictator who was responsible for the deaths of as countless millions of his people, yet was portrayed as a loving father to the nation.

The movie was epic in scope. The director had virtually a blank cheque to make the film. He had access to entire armies as extras, and the best cinematic talent – actors, writers, camera crews, etc. – to work with. For example: the music was scored by none other than Dmitri Shostakovich. And virtually everybody associated with the film was awarded the prestigious Stalin Prize.

This was Stalin’s pet project, the shaping of his legacy. He insisted on approving every scene and even had characters ‘edited out’ if they fell out of his good graces. Sort of like 1950’s photo shopping.

It is almost laughable in places. Or, it would be if it didn’t hide such horror. There is a fresh coat of paint on every paintable surface. Everything ‘works’; nothing is broken down. And every tree, shrub or potted plant is in bloom.

Children are chubby, clean and happy, and apparently spend all their time running gaily through fields of flowers. We even see them being taken on tours of heavy industry factories where they could gaze, impressed, at buckets of molten steel, no doubt thinking how proud they were of their country’s growing industrial strength, and of their ‘Papa’ who made it happen.

Yep. This was the Soviet Union before the Germans invaded and made a mess of things. At least, this is how Stalin, film director, ordered it portrayed.

But no mention of the bad stuff. Like famines, the camps, or The Terror.

Pravda praised the movie as ‘an authentic representation of history’. Another Soviet reviewer gushed that it was ‘a truthful portrayal of the relations between the people and the leader. . . and the love of all people for Stalin.’

The New York Times film critic dryly noted that it was ‘directed as it the director’s life depended on it.’

Probably did. After Stalin died, the film was withdrawn from circulation, and the director was ordered to make himself scarce, to leave Moscow and stay outta sight.

Stay tuned. More propaganda coming.

To see the film for yourself, go to   (then the link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-hZam8dXHU). Even if you don’t understand a word of Russian, you’ll find it a real eye-opener.

Remember the Penny?

February 21st, 2014

Dr. Antone Minard, a specialist on folkore, folkways and myths and a frequent instructor in the Liberal Arts and Adults 55+ Program grapples with the Canadian penny during a Saturday Free Forum on March 1 at 1:30–3 p.m. in Room 1900 at SFU’s Vancouver campus (Harbour Centre).

He reflects on the year since the Royal Canadian Mint officially stopped circulating the penny on February 4, 2013. Production of the coin halted some four months before, and Canada, in eliminating the penny, was following a trail blazed by Australia and New Zealand.

Money in general and coins in particular form an important stream within the broader complex of language and cultural beliefs and behaviours. In this lecture, Dr Minard will explore the intersection between coins and culture, from idioms and proverbs to superstitions and ordinary everyday behaviour.

Join us for a provocative look at a recent small change with possible big cultural impacts on the way we talk and think about Luck.

A Penny for Your Thoughts: Changing Coins in a Changing Culture is free and open to anyone of any age, but please register.

Philosophers’ Café: Upcoming Book Salons

February 11th, 2014

Philosophers’ Café offers a series of book salons connected to certain Liberal Arts courses. These salons allow members of the general public to interact with course participants in a context that furthers the theme of the selected courses.

Two to three weeks after the Liberal Arts course is complete, Philosophers’ Cafe invites members of the general public and course participants to explore the subject in more depth through a discussion of a book related to the course. We recommend reading the book before the salon.

Please note that these salons are open to everyone; you do not need to complete the courses to participate. See the Café website for venues and further details.

Monday, 24 February 2014 7:00 PM
Municipalities and Multiculturalism: The Politics of Immigration in Toronto and Vancouver
by Kristin Good
In conjunction with Leaving Home: A History of the Chinese Diaspora

Wednesday, 19 March 2014 7:00 PM
Greek Lives
by Plutarch
In conjunction with The World of Ancient Greece

Wednesday, 2 April 2014 7:00 PM
Cosmopolis II: Mongrel Cities of the 21st Century
by Leonie Sandercock
In conjunction with City-Building: Vancouver and Regional Planning

The Humanities and Social Sciences á la USA

February 3rd, 2014

It’s no secret that universities are increasingly becoming glorified job-training centres, with their traditional core – unbiased investigation in the sciences and humanities – increasingly left behind in the rush for the almighty dollar.

While employers still boom their interest in employees with a broad education and state a preference for well-rounded creative thinkers, the view from the hustings looks like a different thing.

The venerable American Academy of Arts and Sciences, ever-concerned about the state of education, issued its major report in 2013, The Heart of the Matter: The Arts and Sciences for a Vibrant, Competitive, and Secure Nation, that raises alarm-bells on several counts, but also looks to be ideologically blinkered in its own fashion.

An education in the humanities and socials sciences must, it seems, have a practical purpose and effect. The Commission’s opening question is narrowly framed: “Who will lead America into a bright future?” And its answer is:

Citizens who are educated in the broadest possible, so that they can participate in their own governance and engage with the world. An adaptable and creative workforce. Experts in national security, equipped with cultural understanding, knowledge of social dynamics, and language proficiency to lead our foreign service and military through complex global conflicts. Elected officials and a broader public who exercise civil political discourse, founded on an appreciation of the ways our differences and commonalities have shaped our rich history. We must prepare the next generation to be these future leaders.

It’s hard to quarrel with some of this, but whither creative thinking for its own sake, play in its most sophisticated and varied sense, curiosity unbridled, intellectual adventure without a clear goal at the outset? For further reading see the whole report online.