Special Event, Undergraduate
Students stand up against extremism and radicalization
By Christine Palka
Voices Against Extremism (VAE), a team of 23 undergraduate university students, is standing up against extremism and radicalization with a public art exhibit that celebrates Canadian diversity. The exhibit is being held on Thursday, December 1 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at HiVE Vancouver.
Art is H.E.R.E.: Reshaping Identities will feature artwork by local artists, including paintings from youth and children, expressing their personal experiences as Canadians. All works support the motto of humanize, educate, respect and empower in an aim to remove barriers against the acceptance of marginalized peoples.
The art exhibit is open to everyone. Visit the Facebook event listing to RSVP.
VAE is a nonprofit group started by the students of this semester’s Criminology 481 class taught by Richard Frank, assistant professor in the School of Criminology. The students are participating in an international competition sponsored by Facebook and the US Department of State. The purpose of this competition is for university students to utilize theoretical constructs and engage the real world in combatting violent extremism.
"Our experience thus far has been amazing. Rather than sitting in a seminar room memorizing theory and spending our semester reading academic publications, we are using the knowledge we have to impact the world. It’s even more unique that, instead of the usual top-down learning experience, we get to work alongside the teaching assistants and Professor Frank," says Nathaniel Lam, a criminology major who is taking the class.
"It’s empowering to take the knowledge we have already learned in past criminology courses, along with our other skills and talents, to produce a campaign that is making a real difference in our communities."
VAE produced a variety of communications initiatives using social media and their website to help educate the public on extremism and radicalization. They’ve created a video on the history of extremism, interviewed members of the community to share various personal narratives, and regularly host information booths.
In recognition of their efforts, VAE was recently announced as one of three finalists for a regional competition hosted by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Representatives from VAE will travel to Hamburg, Germany to compete against two other nations for the top prize.
"The students have totally embraced this campaign. Even if we cannot measure the community engagement that this campaign has caused, you can still see a definite change in how the students are engaging with the material. The amount of work they have put into it has been nothing short of amazing. It's been a really different class than anything I've done before and has been a huge learning experience for me too," says Assistant Professor Richard Frank.
Visit the Voices Against Extremism website for more information.