July 19, 2019 - 2:15pm
Using artistic expression to foster cross-cultural relationships, Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) new Canada Research Chair hopes to create a space for emerging youth leaders to connect and invoke change in their community.
VIU Faculty of Education Professor Dr. Amanda Wager’s new appointment as Canada Research Chair (Tier 2) in Community Research in Art, Culture and Education will provide her with the opportunity to create a collaborative and creative youth-led community research initiative.
While working as an elementary school teacher in Chicago, Illinois, Wager became aware of the lack of art represented in the curriculum and how students’ culture wasn’t considered in the classroom. Her students were of Mexican-American decent and most spoke Spanish as their primary language, but all their exams were tested in English and were not culturally responsive.
“It didn’t seem fair to not incorporate this cultural knowledge into the classroom,” says Wager. “That sparked my desire to teach using the arts and build upon the knowledge of students, their families and communities.”
Wager’s dedication for change led her to create the Urban Community Action Centre for the Arts, which will be run by and for youth in the community – including VIU undergraduate and graduate students – and will facilitate cross-cultural relationships with Indigenous, non-Indigenous and international communities.
“How do you get people of very different cultures, beliefs and insights to collectively come together and advocate for change?” asks Wager. “What is their mutual connection? Art is where the connection is.”
Wager plans to spend the first year of her five-year Canada Research Chair term building relationships in the community and developing the program. The subsequent years will focus on implementing the program in the community with a group of 10 to 20 youth leading the initiative.
“I am hoping to find space at the Nanaimo VIU campus to hold the program, so youth can get exposure to the university and possibly begin envisioning a future here,” she says.
“Wager is recognized as one of Canada’s emerging research leaders in her area. Her innovative research program will create tremendous opportunities for a range of community partners in the region, our students and faculty,” says Dr. Nicole Vaugeois, Associate Vice-President of VIU’s Scholarship, Research and Creative Activity office. “We are thrilled that she chose VIU to execute her research program.”
The program uses creative processes to build relationships within a collective group of youth and the team will determine a cause to research and advocate for. Wager will support the youth leaders on how to become researchers and facilitate the program, though the ideas and delivery of the process will be completely youth-led.
“Historically, youth have been a driving force for social change,” says Wager. “By empowering our youth in the community to advocate for what matters to them and giving them avenues to express themselves creatively, we are building capacity for the leaders of our future.”
Rae-Anne Guenther, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University