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Students and researchers come to Halifax from around the world for unique summer course on migration and identity

- August 4, 2017

Participants in the International Summer Institute on Migration and Identity. (Provided photo)
Participants in the International Summer Institute on Migration and Identity. (Provided photo)

Brexit. The U.S. presidential election. The ongoing refugee crisis. These are just some of the issues associated with migration and identity that we’ve faced over the past year.

With that in mind, Dalhousie’s Jean Monnet European Union Centre of Excellence, along with the European Studies program, Canadian Studies program and Office of International Relations teamed up with the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 and the University of Groningen Centre for Canadian Studies to develop a unique summer course.

The International Summer Institute on Migration and Identity brought together students and researchers from both sides of the Atlantic. The two-week intensive program ran from July 4-14, and was based out of the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21. Twenty students from Australia, the Netherlands and different parts of Canada spent each day learning more about topics such as multiculturalism and interculturalism, migration and identity in Canada and the European Union, and identity in the EU.

“Registration for the course exceeded expectations,” said Megan Chipp, international partnerships coordinator with the Office of International Relations. “These were excellent students, who were very enthusiastic about what they were learning.”

Internationalization and experiential learning


The International Summer Institute on Migration and Identity is the first of three new summer institutes that were proposed. In 2018, two more institutes will be held. One will have a focus on agriculture, specifically food technology, and the other will be on oceanography as part of the SEASIDE program.  Financial support has been provided by the Provost’s Office through the Academic Initiatives Fund.

There were many firsts associated with this particular summer institute. Not only was it the first time this course had been taught, but it was also the first time this group of partners had collaborated on an initiative like this.

“This is something really different,” says Jerry Bannister, an associate professor with the Department of History. “We’ve never taught together before or held a full course at Pier 21 before, so it was a big leap for all of us.”

The partnership with the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 stemmed from an existing relationship with the university. Dr. Bannister and Monica MacDonald, the manager of research at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, had worked together before, and were looking to collaborate on a larger scale.

 “Our staff had the opportunity to work with Jerry on a Canadian Studies course for the past couple of years,” says Dr. MacDonald. “The subject matter was such a good fit. We wanted to make our research at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 better known, and partnering with Dalhousie on a project like this goes a long way in helping achieve that.”

A community collaboration


The partnership included more than just a beautiful location to hold the classes. Staff from the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 were involved in delivering parts of the curriculum, and assignments were integrated with the collections at the museum.

“We had a combination of lectures, student presentations, formal discussions, and discussions in the exhibit areas themselves,” says Dr. Bannister. “It’s really innovative that way, and goes beyond coming to listen to us talk in a traditional environment. It’s a new approach.”

This “new approach” appeared to have been very popular with the students.

“For two weeks, we had 100% attendance at every lecture, and I think that says a lot,” says Constant Hatenboer, who was on his second student exchange at Dalhousie. “It was fantastic. We had professors from so many different disciplines, it’s a great location and we got to do so much with the collection. It was definitely a success.”

The organizers of the summer institute are hoping to do it all over again next year.

“It’s not just a one-off. It’s clear from the success this year that there is a demand, so that’s our hope” says Dr. Bannister.

For more information about the International Summer Institute on Migration and Identity, visit the website.


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