July 10, 2013 - 8:45am

Vancouver Island University student Monica Shore feels fortunate to be completing her master’s degree close to home.

A second year student in VIU’s master of arts in sustainable leisure management program, Shore is conducting a qualitative study as part of her thesis thanks to a $17,500 Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship Master’s Awards from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).

The City of Nanaimo is trying to distinguish itself as a culturally vibrant community in Canada, and Shore is curious to know whether local artists or arts organizations are being adequately engaged in the cultural development process.

“What interests me the most is that Nanaimo is such an interesting place and it has huge potential, but it’s been having a hard time getting past its industrial identity and making a new name for itself,” explained Shore.

“I chose the topic of cultural development because it has a personal meaning for me. There’s a lack of literature on engagement processes period, and also a lack of literature on cultural development in small cities here in Canada and across the globe. In my experience being an artist, changes happen and governments or communities impose new programs but artists often don’t get asked for their input.

“So my research is fulfilling a personal interest of mine, and looking at how trust, collaboration and collective understanding (or the lack of these) between stakeholders in community engagement processes impacts planning.”

Shore’s research is a qualitative case study that seeks to understand one specific planning process, in one place, at one time. “The goal is not to compare Nanaimo to other places, but to learn what we can from this particular cultural planning process, which may help Nanaimo learn about some of its community engagement strengths, weaknesses and opportunities,” she explained.

Shore recently returned to Nanaimo from Iceland where she presented the preliminary results of her research findings at the Nordic Geographers Meeting, which was hosted by the University of Iceland in Reykjavik and occurs every two years in one of the Nordic countries.

She adds that VIU professor Dr. Suzanne de la Barre, her research supervisor, is an inspiring mentor. Dr. de la Barre supported Shore’s initiative to apply for the SSHRC award and provided guidance and encouragement throughout the application process.

“Suzanne de la Barre is so incredibly passionate about what she does and she has demonstrated to me what perseverance and innovation are all about,” said Shore.
Shore, who grew up in Montreal, said coming to the City of Nanaimo to complete her master’s degree “was half planned, half lucky.”

She obtained a bachelor’s degree at McGill University in hispanic studies and humanistic studies, and completed two years in the bachelor of music in jazz studies. She then worked as a professional singer in Montreal, Mexico, Taiwan and up and down the BC/Alaskan coast on a cruise ship prior to settling down on the west coast.

“My partner got offered a job teaching music at VIU, so we moved here and I decided to add to my skill set by going back to school and getting a master’s degree,” said Shore.

“I was looking for a degree that would allow me to focus on the arts and culture, and was thrilled to discover VIU offers a master’s program through the tourism and recreation management department. It just so happens that the City of Nanaimo is in the middle of a cultural planning process. That fits in perfectly with the focus of my research.”
Shore hopes to remain in Nanaimo once she obtains her master’s degree next year.

“I’d like to work in cultural management or as a cultural consultant with entrepreneurial and creative individuals in developing a social enterprise or incubator-type initiative that helps support business start-ups across disciplines,” she said. “Nanaimo keeps saying ‘we need to attract and retain bright, creative entrepreneurs’. I'd like to see the City support this type of initiative and turn talk into action.”


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