Guest Blog – Virtual internship with CIFOR

Students' workspaceGuest blog by Taelyr Keeley and Abbey Lin

It has officially been six months since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. The global pandemic has and will change many aspects of our daily lives. Covid-19 is not only affecting the health of millions, it also has adverse effects on our global economy; specifically, development funding. In the global development sector, funding is extremely important as it allows organizations to do the work that they do; which is vital to our survival. The donor landscape for the development sector is changing rapidly as Covid-19 continues to spread throughout the globe. Many governments are cutting back the amount of funding they issue each year, with the US cutting their development funding the most. Cutting back millions of dollars of development assistance affects the livelihoods of those living throughout the global south. Many rely on the development programs that are created to provide basic services like, food, shelter and healthcare; without these programs people are left behind.

Our internship with the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) has been very rewarding yet challenging. We were able to attend conferences, lectures and meetings that discussed food security, climate change, the changing development landscape, and the donor landscape. All of these topics also paid special attention to how they would be affected by Covid-19. Put simply, without funding from donors, programs cannot happen. When programs cannot happen, this adversely affects the citizens that require these programs.There are scientists all throughout the world working on critical projects. These projects are saving lives and providing livelihoods for millions. An example is the “Governing Multifunctional Landscapes in Sub-Saharan Africa” project led by CIFOR. This project focuses on addressing sustainability in income, food and energy in the rural communities of Kenya which heavily rely on the forests around them. As our world economy is beginning to fail, there is less funding available for government safeguards against Covid-19 let alone funding for development projects. Funding is being redirected because of the global pandemic and it may be hard to predict where the money will go. It is crucial in how we approach donors and let them know how important these projects are.  Throughout our internship, we have had the pleasure of working with different contacts within CIFOR to learn the ins and outs of the donor landscape. We have been able to learn that development programs are equally as important as government safeguards for Covid-19. Climate change is an emergency that needs to be addressed at least the same as Covid-19 or higher; if we do not there will be no planet for us to live on.

Scientists that are currently working for CIFOR are providing necessary research to adapt and mitigate the effects of climate change; specifically, in the regions where climate change has the greatest impact. Without this research, millions of people are left vulnerable to these impacts. For a large population in the global south, the impacts are food insecurity, migration, lack of income, etc. Everyone deserves the opportunity to have food on their table, clothes to wear and a roof over their head. The risks of losing development funding on a large scale are immense. Scientists are doing the work that is necessary to improve the lives of millions and lift them out of extreme poverty.

Covid-19 has provided the world with the opportunity to observe how a lower human footprint changes the environment. In Italy, the Venice canals cleared up and ocean-life began to return to the area. In India, you could see the Himalayas for the first time in decades. In China, the smog cleared so much that you could actually see major urban centers again. Covid-19 has shown that the climate can change and adapt. It is our presence that is having the greatest impact. If we can make changes to the way our society behaves post-covid-19 then we can truly mitigate climate change. It is the time that climate change needs to be taken seriously as we have tangible evidence as to the impacts of the human presence.

As we reflect over the last three months that have flown by working with CIFOR; we can’t help but think that we would’ve been writing this from our office in Nairobi, Kenya. Instead, we are writing this from home in Abbotsford, Canada. We are disheartened that the opportunity to live and work abroad was lost but, we appreciate staying home more. This may come across as a weird answer to our readers, but it just makes sense as we end our internship. Yes, we had to stay home and miss out on opportunities of a lifetime, but we got to create an experience of lifetime in a different way. We were able to connect with scientists and colleagues from around the world. Create country profiles and learn from the scientists working in those countries. We got to skype late hours into the night early morning due to time changes; this was very hard for us, don’t be fooled. We also were able to save our carbon footprint of travelling from Canada to Kenya. Though we weren’t able to receive funding for our internship, we were able to allow that funding to be used for future interns. We need to remember that we are doing these things for the bigger picture and that we are contributing to a greater mission; not for our own personal enjoyment to experience travel internationally. Yes, don’t get us wrong, Covid-19 has been extremely difficult in more ways than one. We acknowledge its impact and mourn the countless lives lost.

We have discussed the positives of our internship, it’s time we addressed the negatives. As we were not able to travel to Nairobi, we had to adapt our internship to an online format. This meant meetings, conferences and work was conducted at random times to fit the time zone with whom we were dealing with. An online format also involved the now famous Zoom meetings, we were thankful for the times our camera didn’t have to be on as we were usually in bed.

Working in different time zones is not an easy feat to accomplish; we often were receiving emails days later or at times we were not working. This was difficult as we weren’t able to receive feedback at desired times. We all know how emails work, right? Well, we also had emails get lost in the thirty-email thread or were forgotten by our colleagues. It canbe hard sometimes when you work with very busy people who are more than willing to help but must also deal with schedules, piles of work, and different time zones. Incentives to check in were not as frequent since there is no longer the requirement to be physically present.

An important thing to note, however, is that Covid-19 changed the way a majority of us work. We have to work out the kinks in an online workplace to improve productivity and communication. It was quite the honour to be the guinea pigs of a virtual internship. We were thrown into ground zero of the birth of virtual internships and saw what impacts COVID-19 had made in the world of research and funding. We have been able to learn so much and provide feedback for future virtual interns. We have learned that you don’t need to live in the country where your work is based. This is a capability we never would have considered before; thank you internet! So, a little bit of advice from your summer interns is to not be afraid of a virtual internship. You can learn so much more than imagined! There is no time to wait. Some people may think that doing something virtual isn’t as meaningful or “cool”, but this is the new reality that we are in now. We are trying to find out the issues and solutions to this world and those who truly want to reach out and help will not let something virtual stop them. The show must go on; the world’s issues will not wait, so neither will we!

We’d like to give a huge thanks to CIFOR and UFV for giving us this opportunity in the midst of all these events. It has been truly a meaningful experience to work with the amazing staff of CIFOR who were more than willing to show us their work and how they are going about their work along with the pandemic. We are grateful that UFV coordinated and made this internship happen as it was all definitely worth it. Even though this time we weren’t able to physically experience working with CIFOR; with COVID-19 this is the new norm that must be accepted. Because of COVID-19 we were able to work with scientists and researchers beyond Nairobi, Kenya and got to meet more different people than we would have in person! We may have missed out on the actual physical interaction experience but this internship has set us up for possibly more opportunities to travel when this pandemic is over.

“How wonderful is it that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

– Anne Frank

Taelyr Keeley and Abbey Lin are fourth year Global Development Studies students at UFV.

1st Mad Monday Challenge

Dr. Linda Pardy (Associate Dean of Students and Communications Professor) outlines the challenge to both teams.

The first Mad Monday Challenge to come out of the College of Arts’ pilot project called the Student Experience Design Lab (SXD Lab), which supports real-life student-led learning opportunities, was a success.

On March 9, two student teams were challenged to conceptualize the branding of the College of Arts Experiential Learning Project. Students formed two interdisciplinary teams (comprised of Graphic and Digital Design, Criminology, Communications and Visual Arts) and were tasked to brainstorm ideas, write a report and present.

Each team worked collaboratively and applied their different skills to the challenge in order to win a grand prize of $500.

Read more1st Mad Monday Challenge

6th pARTicipate Biannual Poster Competition

Winners have been announced for the 6th pARTicipate Biannual Poster Competition. The theme of the 2019/2020 student poster contest was “Save the Earth!”

Jenna Cowie-Randle (BFA student) displays her poster: Fight for Our Planet, 2020

“For this competition I was heavily inspired by a 1960/70’s tie-dye, nature-esque look tied in with a military style ‘fight for your right’ kind of propaganda poster,” said Jenna Cowie-Randle, BFA student and second place winner.

“I wanted to put the two ideas together to create a piece that acts as a fusion of hippie and army messages, which at first may seem contradictory, but in the end I thought mixed so well— fighting for nature,” said Cowie-Randle.

To countdown and honour Earth Day 2020, the competition invited student participants to reimagine what can be done both individually and collectively for the betterment of the planet, and to empower change for a sustainable community, region and Earth.

Read more6th pARTicipate Biannual Poster Competition

Artist Q & A: Chantelle Trainor-Matties

Chantelle Trainor-Matties is a Visual Arts student at UFV

UFV Visual Arts student, Chantelle Trainor-Matties designed this year’s 2020 Student Leadership Symposium artwork, which was centered around the theme of “Empathy in Action.”

Chantelle Trainor-Matties is a mixed media artist, who is set to graduate with a Visual Arts diploma in 2020. She has created a variety of design work for small businesses and clients from around the world.

She currently works as a freelance artist (frettchanstudios.ca) for herself and also as an artist for Nations Creations. Some of her latest accomplishments include: the 2019 “Pink Shirt Day” hosted by Nations Creations and the New Student Orientation Symbol for UFV in 2019She recently became international, having her Indigenous artwork sold on merchandise across Canada and Seattle, WA.

Read Chantelle Trainor-Matties’ Q & A below to learn more about her creative process:

Read moreArtist Q & A: Chantelle Trainor-Matties

Peace Summit of Emerging Leaders

Abdul Aziz Ghafoor, Bachelor of Science student at UFV

UFV students Abdul Aziz Ghafoor, Katelyn Van Hove and Tara-Lynn Kozma-Perrin have been chosen to attend the Peace Summit of Emerging Leaders conference to be held on February 5-7, 2020. The three winners will represent both UFV and Canada in Bangkok, Thailand.

“I’m very excited to attend the conference and meet all the other young leaders from around the world to help share some of the skills I’ve learned and to learn a bunch of skills as well, which will be very useful for me and the community here,” said Ghafoor, BSc student.

Read morePeace Summit of Emerging Leaders

Ethics of Internships

On November 26, UFV held a panel discussion entitled Ethics of Internships. The event was hosted and organized by Dr. Cherie Enn’s (an Associate Geography Professor at UFV) and seven students from the Global Development Studies class (GDS 400). Dr. Enn and students worked hard during the fall term to organize the event and invite speakers. Funding support came from the Queen Elizabeth Scholars.

The panel included both UFV students and internship hosts, those of whom held a range of differing views when it came to the complexities of international and domestic internships.

“Presenting at the Ethics of Internships event was a great way to reflect on our experiences and roles as GDS students and interns. Discussing the opportunities and challenges surrounding internships through a parody encouraged us to critically reflect on why GDS students do internships and how to ‘practice development’ in a positive way,” said Gina Dhinsa, a Global Development Studies student at UFV.

Read moreEthics of Internships

Minister of Multiculturalism, Official Languages and La Francophonie for a Weekend

Raymond Kobes, BA, French Major & Business Minor, 2018 

“I went to Victoria for University Model Parliament” says Raymond Kobes. It was there in January 2018, that the UFV French alumnus and member of Universities Model Parliament was selected to be the Minister of Multiculturalism, Official Languages and La Francophonie for a weekend.

“Basically when you go to Model Parliament, it’s as if Ottawa was postponed and you were actually in Ottawa as the official representatives and members of parliament” says Kobes. Over the course of the weekend, Kobes was responsible for three portfolios: Multiculturalism, Official Languages and the French culture.

In this role, Kobes was expected to field questions by the opposition regarding certain bills that related to his area. “It was really neat because there were so many different opinions and different world views… but when it came down to it, we were all there for a common goal of learning how to get involved in the political world and how we can best make a better Canada” he says.

To be an effective member of parliament, Kobes recommends becoming a good orator because a large part of the job will include giving speeches and asking or responding to questions from either side of the House of Commons. He also recommends becoming bilingual. “The best part about [being a Minister] was that I got to use my French in the House… and got to share with other people why those things are important” says Kobes.

Growing up in Abbotsford, Kobes was drawn to politics at an early age and dreamed of one day becoming a member of parliament. “I look forward to my future in politics, hopefully, as a member of parliament in the future and a lot of that has to do with my education here at the University of the Fraser Valley” says Kobes.

Kobes graduated this June 2018 from UFV. He is set to teach French for one year at Credo Christian High School in Langley starting September 2018, and then plans to become heavily involved in the Canadian federal election in 2019.

To watch Raymond’s short video interview, click on the link: https://bit.ly/2NloL72

To watch Raymond’s full video interview, click on the link: https://bit.ly/2mr2vx2

Eyém Sqwà:l – UFV’s Literary Café at the Harrison Festival of the Arts

Eyém Sqwà:l = Strong Words @ the Harrison Festival of the Arts

Date: Monday, July 9 at 8:30pm 2018
Location: Memorial Hall

Tickets: Adult $28.00 ($25 til June 22nd)      Student/Senior $25.00 ( $23 til June 22nd)

UFV’s Literary Café at the Harrison Festival of the Arts offers an intimate opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the West Coast’s brightest writers and poets.

This year’s theme Eyém Sqwà:l : Strong Words, celebrates the voices of two powerful Stó:lō multi-media artists and their oral, performance-based style, along with world-renowned spoken word artist, Shane Koyczan who has been called the “poet of our generation.”

KELIYA

Keliya is a poet, screenwriter, filmmaker and hip hop artist from the Stó:lō Nation. She is also a graduate from the UBC Film Studies Bachelor of Arts program and aims to tell stories about her people that are not only modern and traditional, but also from an Aboriginal perspective.

Keliya has travelled across Canada and the US performing for communities and youth. These are the people for whom she makes her art and she is passionate about spreading messages of empowerment and love in this way.

OSTWELVE

Ronnie Dean Harris aka Ostwelve is a Stó:lō /St’át’imc/Nlaka’pamux multimedia artist based in Vancouver, BC. He has worked as an actor and composer on the APTN/Showcase TV series, Moccasin Flats, toured internationally as a hip-hop performer, been a director, programmer and producer for the Vancouver Indigenous Media Arts Festival and is now the Program Director for “Reframing Relations.” This Community Arts Council of Vancouver initiative allows Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists to interface with students and youth in schools and communities around the concept of reconciliation. Check out his website @ www.ronniedeanharris.com

SHANE KOYCZAN

Shane Koyczan is an extraordinary talent who has blown the dust off the traditional designation “poet.” He is a writer and multi-media spoken word artist whose work has appeared in print, viral videos, opera and his own furiously-honest, award-winning performances. His first published collection, Visiting Hours, was the only work of poetry selected by both the Guardian and the Globe and Mail for their Best Books of the Year lists in 2005. Koyczan followed up on that success with Stickboy, a novel in verse that chronicled the dark journey of a bullied child. From these words of helpless rage, he was asked to produce the libretto for a full operatic produced by Vancouver Opera in 2014.

Our Deathbeds Will be Thirsty was released in 2012. The book features the piece, “To This Day,” a poem about bullying that went viral on Youtube, receiving over a million views in a matter of days. Most recently Koyczan embarked on a journey to discover his own origin story. One result is the documentary, Shut Up and Say Something, in which he meets his father for the first time. For more information check out: shanekoyczan.com

You May Be Wrong, But You May Be Right: Exploring Biases with Sven Van de Wetering

“People who think they’re always right are almost always wrong. People who are always willing to consider the possibility they’re wrong tend to be right much more often,” says associate psychology professor Sven Van de Wetering.

It is this basic conundrum that Van de Wetering wanted to explore in a course he’s designing — one that looks at ideological biases from a psychological perspective. Heuristics, Biases and Critical Thinking, will be available in Winter 2019 and Van de Wetering sat down with the College of Arts blog to talk about his inspiration for this new offering.

“We know a huge amount about how we, as human beings, fool ourselves,” says Van de Wetering. In fact, he says, there is no shortage of psychological literature on the topic and he recently found a book that listed 99 different biases, which he says isn’t even complete.

What isn’t discussed as much is how to recognize these biases in your own thinking and how to account for this not only in research, but in day-to-day discussions.

One of the things that led him to the topic is a recent crisis in his field of social psychology, where liberal thinkers have been accused of shutting out their more conservative-minded colleagues. Van de Wetering was at first determined to do some research into this question, but eventually he and his research assistant, Flora Oswald realized that what social psychologists really need is more help identifying their biases from the outset. He considered developing a workshop for his peers, but decided that those who chose to attend such a program were probably already aware of the need to take other perspectives into account.

“Maybe, what I need to do instead, is catch them young,” he told himself.

Fortunately, Van de Wetering, who has been teaching psychology at UFV for 20 years and has access to a new crop of students every semester, is in a good position to do this. Encouraged by Oswald, he came up with a 13-week course in about 20 minutes. Still he wasn’t sure how interested students would be in the idea of studying their own prejudices and biases, so he offered a prototype in winter 2018. The response, he said, was overwhelming.

Moving away from the typical lecture format, Van de Wetering asked students to do a great deal of reading ahead of time and then to spend class time discussing real-world issues through the lens of various biases. Issues like: should there be a ban on pit-bulls? (an interesting topic, but one Van de Wetering says he’ll probably never use again, as it was too inconclusive.)

Van de Wetering also made it clear from the outset that the students would have input into the way the class ran.

“Just about my first line . . . was ‘I am not the only smart person in the room. I’m counting on you guys to help me figure out what it is we’re actually doing to think critically in this course,’” he said.

Students, he says, loved being so involved. “I think I’ve touched a nerve – I think I’m offering something that they really, really want: relevance and an active role in the overall design of the course.”

With algorithms constantly directing content on our social media channels to things we’ve shown interest in before, Van de Wetering thinks a class about biases is particularly relevant today.

“If you are actually seeking the truth, having people echoing your prejudices back to you is not a good thing,” he says. “You want people to challenge you even if it turns out that they’re ultimately wrong.”

A Few Examples of Cognitive Biases

  • Confirmation Bias: Favoring information that conforms to your existing beliefs and discounting evidence that does not conform.
  • Halo Effect: Your overall impression of a person influences how you feel and think about his or her character. This especially applies to physical attractiveness influencing how you rate their other qualities.
  • Self-Serving Bias: The tendency to blame external forces when bad things happen and give yourself credit when good things happen. When you win a poker hand it is due to your skill at reading the other players and knowing the odds, while when you lose it is due to getting dealt a poor hand.
  • Narrative bias (from Van de Wetering): The tendency, when one has embraced a narrative that can be used to explain a certain group of facts, to ignore facts and possibilities that do not cohere with that narrative.