What is your most memorable lifelong learning moment
as a UBC Continuing Studies staff member, instructor, student or friend of CS?
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Ray Bradbury and the Rain By William Koty, Director, UBC Continuing Studies Centre for Sustainability
"OK, I'll lower my speaker fee to $5,000 if you promise it will rain while I'm visiting Vancouver," said the voice over the phone.
I nearly jumped out of my seat. Ray Bradbury was reducing his fee from $20,000 to $5,000! "Yes, of course it will rain!" I said way too quickly. But then I backtracked: "Well, the conference is in June and June isn't one of our rainiest months. But there's a pretty good chance it will rain."
"I'll bring my umbrella," I heard him say. The deal was settled - Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451, was going to be a keynote speaker for W.R.I.T.E '95, the Writer's Retreat on Interactive Technology and Equipment, being held at Performance Works on Granville Island. It was the second annual W.R.I.T.E conference hosted by UBC Continuing Studies and SFU Continuing Studies and was shaping up to be a barn burner. It wasn't until several months later that I learned why our keynote speaker was looking forward to rain.
Bradbury delivered his keynote address in the blacked-out darkness that covered the windows of Performance Works so that the two large projector screens on either side of the stage could better be viewed. Data projection technology was still relatively new and not that bright in 1995.
During his talk Bradbury played the preacher, played the raving Captain Ahab in Moby Dick (one of his most successful screenplays with Ahab's role performed by Gregory Peck in the 1956 movie directed by John Huston). As he spoke, he also played the wizened writer who never gave up, never compromised, all of which was true. Ray Bradbury was all these things - artist, preacher, entertainer, wizened author.
There was great emotion flowing from the audience as Ray ended his talk. He had touched a nerve deep inside every attendee. Some in the audience were in tears. Everyone was standing, clapping as loudly as possible to hand him a huge ovation.
Ray had spoken about being true to oneself as a writer. Of standing up to the media companies. Of standing up to those business people who understood neither art nor artists. Of not succumbing to the allure of technology for technology's sake.
What's important is to ensure your true authorial voice is present in whatever you create. That no matter the medium, whether radio, TV, books, magazines or the Internet, the critical thing is to speak your true self, to give your authentic authorial voice to the stories you need to tell. That in this age of fragmented media with CD-ROMs and the Internet, always tell stories that are real, that communicate the human experience, that speak your truth, that come from deep within. "Never lose your authentic authorial voice!" he had commanded.
It was later the next day while we were walking past the Haida houses and totem poles behind the UBC Museum of Anthropology that I asked Ray, "Why did you want it to rain while you were here?" It was a partly sunny day. Large cumulus clouds from the northwest drifted overhead. We were dressed for cool weather despite it being the third week in June. A cold front had passed through the night before. It had rained. Not hard, but softly and sporadically. I was glad it did. The rain fulfilled my part of the bargain.
I assumed that because Ray lived in Los Angeles he was bored of constant summer sunshine and wanted rain simply for a change of pace. But he said: "I love taking long walks in the rain, late at night, in cities. You see reflections of light everywhere. Strange shadows. You hear the hiss of rain-drenched tires. You feel the splatter of falling rain, the dripping water from the umbrella. It's a magical time. I can walk for hours in the rain. I get my best ideas while walking in the rain."
I was surprised, astounded, by his proclamation. I thought it somehow weighty, but stupidly said "So why do you live in LA?" "Because that's where the money is," giving me a wry look and a chuckle as if I were rather naive. But he continued, "I come to Vancouver every chance I get just to walk in the rain. If I wasn't so busy I'd come more often. Your invitation to speak at the conference was all I needed. It paid my way."
We continued our conversation as we walked amongst the totems, talking about long winter nights of constant rain, of aboriginally inspired science fiction, and of the future of the Internet. "I don't like the Internet," he declared at one point. "It cheapens the work that artists do." I didn't argue with him. But I thought it ironic that he chose to be a keynote speaker at a conference for writers working on the Internet when he didn't fully believe in this emerging medium of communication.
Ray, at least, was being true to his own voice.
(Note: William Koty was co-chair of the W.R.I.T.E. conferences along with Charles Tremewen, a program leader at UBC Continuing Studies. The conversation has been fictionalized, though based on actual events. Written November 2012.)
Day One: or, How I Hired Myself
It happened in a very different world from this one, somewhere between the invention of the telephone and the advent of the internet. In those days, students could register for a course at the door on the first day of class, and coordinators had to live like traveling salesmen, ready for anything and prepared for surprises—or so they thought!
One day, I decided to tag along with Régine, the Assistant Coordinator of the then Language Institute, to serve as a French teacher in waiting. I had received no job offer, but I was ready all the same should an opportunity present itself. We had spent the morning downtown, in a church basement, the only classes UBC was able then to afford, registering students and giving the go-ahead to two classes taught by "senior" instructors. We were getting ready for the afternoon class and looking at the schedule I realized that Régine had forgotten to assign an instructor to that particular class. We were going to the YWCA without a French teacher! On a wave of inspiration, I told Régine that if we arrived at the YWCA and there were enough students to run the course, I would happily teach it. And when we showed up to a room of eager students, she had no other choice but to hire me.
Because men were not allowed in many parts of the YWCA in those days, my only experience of the place was a classroom without windows, but the opportunity was an exciting one for me. Thus began my first job with the Centre for Continuing Education—as Continuing Studies was called at the time—and I truly enjoyed it.
The same experience repeated itself in a way the following term when I was hired to teach for the Summer Language Bursary Program. During the instructor orientation, we realized that we did not have enough language monitors for the afternoon and evening sociocultural animation. A couple of us offered to work as monitors in addition to our morning teaching commitments. This became a true "full-time" job. Teachers in the morning, workshop leaders in the afternoon, and program animators in the evening, we found ourselves doing everything from teaching grammar, to organizing sporting and cultural events, to cleaning up after students when they had finally gone to bed. I remember on some days heading home as the sun was rising on 4th Avenue, to take a shower and change my clothes before hopping back on the bus (of course!) and heading back to UBC to teach my first morning class.
That year we ran two six-week programs, and at the end of the first one, we found ourselves not only preparing for the big program-end talent show, attended by over three hundred students in both the English and French programs, but also, shortly after, wiping away our tears of adieu as we handed out certificates of completion and began the arrangements for the next program. With only a brief weekend between our goodbyes and our new hellos, it was a summer of contrasts and excitement.
That full-time experience lasted only one summer because the following summer I was hired as the SLBP Coordinator and was faced with new challenges: how to tie it all together, how to make sure that the staff were doing their work and keeping the students' constant spirit of rebellion in check. It was the seventies, and French politics was a hot topic. Challenges abounded. I will always remember trying to convince teachers not to smoke marijuana in the teachers' room. After all, it was a different time, one where accepting a ride home from a student meant more than just accepting a ride. In fact, there was a spirit of adventure to the world then, one that's been lost in our world of pre-registration, and obsessive tweeting and texting. In today's world, everyone is conversing with just about everyone, but the person in front of her. This is why face-to-face classes have become such a challenge. Almost no one is really there anymore, but everyone is somehow everywhere at once. Our spirit of adventure has become virtual—like everything else in "the cloud." - Francis R. Andrew
I remember when just prior to Vancouver hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics, those of us at Robson Square were frantically moving out to prepare for the International Media Centre to be housed at our downtown facility. So much planning for our staffing, programs, and operations along with so many continuous changes was the norm for many months beforehand, but the days just before the IMC moved in were crazy with all the physical moves and setups. Once the International Media Centre was established, I wasn't even able to access our own offices without a security check and a security pass stating "You Gotta Be Here". But once I was able to access our facilities at Robson Square I was astounded to see all the media groups, the broadcasting technologies, the renovations, and the excitement of the pending world event. Having been at Robson Square and assisting with the very first designs of our space there back in 2000, along with several subsequent renovations since then, I felt a sense of pride that our home would soon be in the world spotlight. I have kept that security pass as my souvenir of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics International Media Centre at Robson Square. - Vince Wong, UBC Continuing Studies Technology, Media, and Professional Programs
I remember when I took a group of visiting students on an exchange program from France to "Bard on the Beach", as part of their three-week Continuing Studies English immersion course at UBC. The students, all teachers of English in lycées, ranged in age from mid-twenties to mid-fifties. The play we had chosen was A Midsummer Night's Dream, which we had studied together beforehand. A few knew the play, but others had found it difficult to follow, and were skeptical about the value of seeing a production in Elizabethan English. Nevertheless, they all showed up at Vanier Park on the appointed evening. With a clear sky and a warm setting sun, Vancouver and English Bay looked their best, and the students were in high spirits, chatting and laughing as they took their seats in the big tent. The lights went down, silence fell, and the play began.
Though this was some ten years ago, I vividly remember the production: it was utterly magical, combining words, music, scenery, and costume in vivid and exciting ways that made a powerful appeal to the senses. As the play drew towards its conclusion, and Oberon released Titania from his spell, I turned to look along the row of our French students. They were sitting rigidly in their seats, their eyes glued to the stage. Every one of them was utterly transfixed by what was playing out before them. When the play ended and we rose to leave, one of the group, an older woman, remained momentarily in her seat. As I came nearer, I could see she was in tears. "Is anything the matter," I asked anxiously. She wiped her eyes before replying. "This was so beautiful," she said; "I wish it would not end."
For me that moment was almost as magical as the play itself. - Herbert Rosengarten, UBC Continuing Studies Writing Centre
I remember in 1990 my friend telling me about a great job on campus taking international students on sailing trips. Being a Cultural Assistant at the English Language Institue was a perfect job for me as an undergrad - I laughed a lot with the students, created hundreds of fruit plates and played a lot of volleyball at Games Nights at Thunderbird Gym. I was just going through old photos of that era and found one of six Cultural Assistant's, including myself, in a talent show at International House dressed in flowy hippy outfits likely plucked from our parent's old trunks or Value Village. It was a great student job and a fantastic introduction to Continuing Studies. And I'm still here 22 years later! - Karen Rolston
I had just arrived back in Canada and was missing the international networks I had worked with in Europe. When the UBC Continuing Studies calendar came in the mail to our rental suite, I was immediately drawn to the programing in Intercultural Communication. A week of special events and courses was about to start and I signed up immediately. Within days I was connected to a new network of students and facilitators around the world. The UBC Certificate in Intercultural Studies not only opened my eyes to the fascinating communication styles I had experienced abroad, but it was also the beginning of a new career within Continuing Studies. - Deena Boeck
Having been around with UBC Continuing Studies for some 25 years as a work study student, an instructor and then a programmer, I must admit that I don't have much to brag about my own commitment. When I look around, there are people, instructors and colleagues alike, and even students that have been around years before me. The commitment of such magnitude says a lot about this place being a place of mind, a place of journey into lifelong learning and also, a place to share and mature into a better person. The only retirement plan I have in mind is to retire to become a full-time student again with UBC Continuing Studies. - Lang Sun
The fall 2007 term was my first group of Multimedia Intensive students. As many of our full-time programs are, it was a wonderfully diverse group in skills, backgrounds, interests, age and talents. The transformation of ideas and the sheer amount of work they had accomplished from September to December was impressive. However, their camaraderie had also grown and they had become close friends, which transpired in short films such as "Riding the Beaver", referencing the Burrard Beaver on a student's daily seabus commute and an impromptu award for "Best Use of Yak". Graduation was boisterous and the celebration continued well into the night.
I realized my impact as a program leader to support and deliver programs that not only teach relevant, employable skills but to bring like-minded people together to connect, not only future colleagues, but friends for life. - Diana McKenzie
I remember my job interview for a position at UBC Continuing Studies in 2004. I was nervous because it was my first interview after losing a large portion of my vision due to a medical illness. I had no idea how telling an employer that I was borderline legally blind was going to be received. Not only did I get the position, but I met another Continuing Studies staff member who had less sight than I did my first day. The people at Continuing Studies helped me build confidence around my disability and the department has become like a second home to me. - Allan Dias
My most memorable event was the first annual UBC Continuing Studies (CS) picnic held at Locarno Beach which was a great success. The weather held out for us and the park was the perfect place. It was very exciting planning activities ... organizing games and shopping for prizes for kids of different age groups. It was so gratifying to look around and see happy families ... babies to grandparents enjoying themselves together - a perfect opportunity for me to meet CS families and get to know them. It was amazing to see the entire Plessis family volunteer at the picnic. The food was delicious, the kids loved the face painting, the caricature artist and the piñata was the highlight! My enjoyable moment was watching my three sons play bocce, soccer and volleyball with our team members. I know everyone had an absolutely wonderful time. - Joyce D'Souza
In 2002, a student from out of province called to register for one of our week long summer intensive writing courses, but she was also interested in taking sailing lessons. She wanted to write during the day and sail at night. So we helped organize her sailing lessons as well. She had a blast. This summer, 10 years later, she came back to to do another intensive with us and repeat her uniquely Vancouver experience. She loved it. - Ramona Montagnes
While I am a great believer in education of all kinds, and have tremendous respect for teachers regardless of their subject matter, when I first came to UBC Continuing Studies as Director of the English Language Institute (ELI), I had no special interest in the teaching of English to international students.
But I quickly learned that teaching English is really only part of what we do at the ELI. What we're actually about is helping people from different countries, languages, and cultures communicate with one another first, than understand each other, accept and tolerate each other, and then, and this is what makes it all especially gratifying, respect and finally like one another. It is the friendships I see that we foster, among our whole community, students, teachers, and staff, that I have come to most value, and which makes my work here so satisfying. - Mike Weiss
My memorable lifelong learning moment began when I first walked into the Writing Centre on a sunny day in 1998 and signed up for "The Well-Trained English Tutor: Techniques for Effective and Ethical Tutoring" with Ramona Montagnes and Judy Brown. Around the same time, I noticed a posting on the wall at the Writing Centre advertising Marlene Schiwy's "Jungian Writer's Group." I was drawn to the idea of meeting once a week in Marlene's home, writing and reading aloud with a group of like-minded women. After that I took all the courses Marlene taught through UBC Continuing Studies - the journaling courses, her autobiography courses, the week-long summer body-soul intensives. Over the years, I have taken many other writing courses offered through UBC Continuing Studies - Children's Book Writing, Novel Writing, Creative Writing, and Report and Business Writing.
Once I completed the tutoring course and had tutored at the Writing Centre for a couple of years, Ramona asked me if I'd like to co-teach with her in the Writing 101 portion of the Humanities 101 programme. This was the first time I'd ever taught in a classroom setting and, while nervous at first, I loved it, especially working with people from the Downtown Eastside who were truly motivated to learn. Ramona guided me and helped me to find my teaching wings. After a year, I carried on by myself and now, five years later, I'm still a guest lecturer in the Writing 101 course, facilitating the journal writing class.
Three years ago, Ramona asked me if I'd thought about getting a Master's degree and encouraged me to pursue the idea. A year later, I was accepted into a Master's program at the University of East Anglia in the UK and arrived back in Canada in 2011 armed with an MA in Life Writing. I now teach "Getting Ahead with Grammar" at UBC and will start teaching a grammar course at SFU this fall.
Walking through the door at the Writing Centre that day over fourteen years ago was a life-changing moment for me, and I am grateful for the learning and teaching opportunities that have come my way since then. - Maureen Phillips
I remember when I first started teaching at UBC Continuing Studies (CS) on the Global Career Development Program in January 2007. There I was with 18 energetic Korean students who often reminded me of kindergarden children.We focused on intercultural communication and work place preparation in order to get them ready for their internships. However, discipline was often an issue with students being late and loud with lots of cajoling and phyical contact. Actually they were hitting each other (half jokingly) and I often had to separate the culprits.They all went onto internships which they completed successfully and I lost touch with them.
About 6 months later one student, Hyemi, emailed me from Korea, reminding me that she was the girl who was always late. She was now working with a German company based in Korea but was very grateful for her UBC Global Academics experience.
She really appreciated the classes and saw their value along with the internship. All of this had helped to contribute to her success in gaining her position. It was nice to look a back at that very frustrating month and see that I really did have an impact on at least one student. It had been a rough start for me at CS but I am still working on Global Academics programs in CS and hopefully providing a positive learning experience for my students. - Marg Toronchuk
I have taken a couple of continuing studies courses at other universities and nothing quite compares to the ones being offered here at UBC. The instructors, as well as the participants seem more engaging, knowledgeable and I have learned quite a bit from these courses. I remember taking a course in Mobile Content Design and Strategy where the instructor asked each participant to present an idea for a mobile application that needed to be developed. One idea that was presented is actually on the market today. If only we had patented those ideas, we could be living off the royalties now . . . Needless to say, I'm definitely looking forward to register for a few more classes this year. - Ben
My story of Continuing Studies took place last fall when I signed up for a Social Media course to help me understand the marketing opportunities that social media could provide. The course took place Thursday evenings (6:30-9:30pm) and, quite honestly, the thought of sitting in a classroom for three hours after I had just spent eight hours at work -- sitting in meetings and at my computer - was not very appealing. However, after the first class I began to look forward to my sessions. The instructor was very dynamic and engaging, and the conversation and ideas sparked by classmates energized me to thinking how I could apply some of the new learnings to my workplace. My extra-long Thursdays were well worth it! - Kim C.
In 2008 I was invited for the first time to speak to the graduating class of the UBC Certificate in Aboriginal Health and Administration. As it was a Sunday morning I thought of it as a protocol responsibility for my new position as Executive Director and accepted "working" on Sunday morning. However, this special graduation in the spiritual First Nations House of Learning proved to be one of the most moving experiences of my professional life. Surrounded by their family and members of their communities, each adult learner stood at the microphone and spoke eloquently about the challenges and accomplishments that allowed them to proudly graduate on that special day. Their stories of transformation always involved their loved ones in the audience--siblings, parents, partners,children,friends and colleagues. As we enthusiastically applauded the committed graduates and the communities that supported them, I realized the great joys that awaited me in my new leadership role... - J.P.
In 2000, I was working full-time days and decided to teach an evening course on Web programming. As a program director in Continuing Studies, I felt extra pressure to make it a successful course and I spent many evenings and weekends preparing for it. On the evening the course was to run, I arrived early and made sure the lab setup worked, but by that time, I was utterly exhausted. With an hour to go before class, I told the labs staff that I needed to sleep and I found a quiet spot in the adjacent room and conked out right there on the floor at the back of old Lab C, one of the most uncomfortable places I've probably ever slept...but that night it was heaven. With 15 minutes to go, staff came in and woke me up. After throwing some water on my face I was refreshed and ready to teach! - Peter Moroney
September 1997. Continuing Studies Building at West Mall not far from being ready to be opened. ELI would be hosting their courses there that fall. Running late, terribly late with setup of networks, computer/language labs, servers... Still, it seemed everything could be done before the first day of the term. Then a water pipe just outside the building breaks and floods the electrical transformer. No power, the basement of the building under few inches of water. Brand new carpets, furniture, unpacked cardboard boxes, worse yet - computer equipment, servers included, sitting in the water. People working around the clock to dry everything out, repair the damage. Eventually, I could go back to the server room and continue installations. Then my assistant, hired to help with all the work disappears. No email, no phone call, just vanished. No problem, I was thinking, great opportunity to keep all the glory for myself. One full week left, plenty of time.... hmm.
Yes, it was done on time. We welcomed our students for the term. Unfortunately, instead of expected number only a third showed up for the courses. That was the year of Asian economic crisis. Did we all enjoy our modern high tech facility? It was a wonderful feeling of achievement and a joy seeing how much students enjoyed the experience. - Rade Ljustina
My standing joke with my son's classmates father about how I met him at UBC three decades apart. It was after one evening class how while waiting for a friend I stumbled on his name on a graduation photo just perfectly situated on one of the most highly trafficked location of the outside the ladies washroom in the Angus building. "Nothing but the best location, location, location for me", he says. - I. Lee
As I sat in the Chan Centre last week watching my former homestay "daughter" receive her MSc in Forestry, I was thinking about how Continuing Studies has provided a "home away from home" for me for the 20+ years of my employment here, and about the very large (global) extended family it has given me. That includes not just the 15 or so international students I have welcomed into my family over the years through the ELI's homestay program, but all the colleagues who have offered me their support and encouragement through many life changes - my own continuing studies, graduation(s) from UBC, marriage, babies, divorce, bereavement, re-marriage, parenting teenagers, ... :) The history of Continuing Studies is composed of so very many interconnecting personal histories, like my own... Happy 75th! - Maureen M.
Whenever I hear people talking about wanting more light/window by their workspace, I think of working in the basement of UBC Robson Square. You never knew if it was sunny or raining. In fact, there were constantly talks of getting a webcam just to be able to get a glimpse of the outside world. That, or a submarine telescope. - Anonymous
One of my best memories with UBC Continuing Studies is the first culinary arts course I took with Chef Eric. He had a real outgoing personality and was soon regaling the group with stories about meeting Bono from U2 and other adventures he's had. Not only was Eric great but the food was awesome too. I've made the mussels dish many times now and always get a lot of compliments. - Tanya
Canapes, hotels and Olympic mascots...oh, my! Hosting CAUCE 2009 wouldn't have been the same without the adventures of hotel catering and handling of the special guests, 2010 Olympic mascots. The photo with my event team, the mascots and the olympic torch was the highlight of the event for me. - Monica Killeen, CAUCE 2009 Event Coordinator
UBC Robson Square has always been an attractive workplace with its convenient location right in the middle of the business centre, bustling shops and restaurants as well as being part of the frenzy of the bustling downtown core with its many interesting occasions including 420. As part of a public facility, one of the most interesting non-job description was playing cops-and-robbers. I remember having meetings where we had catered food in the hallway. Whenever a person walks by slowly, your third-eye will be on alert to check if the food is safe. I remember an instance of one of the managers running down the hall in the middle of a meeting to chase after a person who stole a cupcake from the table. Definitely fond memories of working downtown. - Anonymous
It doesn't matter if I'm taking a practical skill development course like HTML authoring or a personal development course in emotional intelligence. But when I get that 'aha' moment in class it's always thrilling! - M.K.
Our offices at Carr and Duke Hall are the backdrop of some of my most memorable moments as part of the UBC Continuing Studies team. Located in a beautiful, park-like setting with a view of the water, these two former dormitory buildings were a bit quirky to say the least. Floods and power outages were semi-regular occurrences. I remember the heat going out one time and we donned gloves to finish work on the course calendar. All six locations where CS currently operates have great features, but in my mind nothing compares to my memories of the quirkiness of Carr and Duke Hall! - Mary Holmes
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