Connect with us


Semester in Dialogue 2016 brochure

Upcoming Course(s)

Applications for Spring 2019 are OPEN.

Complexity of Health and Wellness

Full-time, 15 credits (DIAL 390W, 391W, 392W)

Health and wellness are complex topics worthy of exploration on many levels.  

The systems we have in place for “health care” are really “sickness care” systems.  In Canada, this sickness care system is primarily the responsibility of the provinces and territories.  In most jurisdictions the system uses the largest portion of provincial tax dollars, in addition to receiving transfer payments from the Federal government. Wellness in the form of prevention receives a very small proportion of the funding.

Canadian’s tend to perceive our healthcare system as universal and think it is excellent.  But not everyone is treated equally and there are many services not covered. Commonwealth Fund rankings put Canada at 10 out of 11 countries surveyed, including Australia, New Zealand, France, Sweden and the UK.  Only our neighbor to the south has poorer performance and costs more.

The Spring 2019 Semester in Dialogue will use dialogue and systems thinking as a means to examine the nature of health, inequalities and the boundary between health and other societal issues.  Specific themes that may be explored with invited guests and through assignments include:

  • Mental health and addiction
  • Indigenous health and wellness
  • Aging, dementia and home and community care
  • Precision health and personalized medicine
  • Disability and diversability in the community
  • Obesity and chronic disease prevention


Dialogue is intended to be an engaging and inclusive conversation for all participants, and is based on an understanding that everyone in the room is coming from a different background, and will have different interests and views. The goal of the Semester in Dialogue is to create a space where views can be expressed, and where participants can actively listen to each other and learn something new.  Dialogue ultimately provides a space to bring together diverse viewpoints, explore these differences, and work towards understanding them better.

Systems thinking recognizes that complex problems are different from simple or complicated problems.  Think: “cake, rocket, child” (simple, complicated, complex).

  • Baking a cake is simple.  It is easily reproducible, context doesn't matter much and it doesn’t require a lot of expertise.  A recipe is helpful.
  • Sending a rocket to the moon is complicated.  It is also reproducible after some trial and error, requires and benefits from lots of expertise.  Detailed recipes are necessary.
  • Raising a child is complex.  Lessons don’t necessarily transfer from one child to the next. Expertise is not all that helpful.  The outcome is hard to predict. A recipe can’t be constructed.

The Spring 2019 Semester in Dialogue will apply systems thinking to both understanding and addressing complex health and wellness challenges.

Course runs Monday through Friday 9:30-4:30


Dr. Diane T. Finegood is an experienced research leader and strategic thinker with an excellent track record of heading national and provincial health research organizations.  She served as President & CEO of the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (2012-2016) and inaugural scientific director of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s Institute of Nutrition, Metabolism and Diabetes (2000-2008).  Diane is currently a Professor in the Centre for Dialogue and Semester in Dialogue at Simon Fraser University.

As a bridge-builder and systems thinker, she has successfully facilitated the needs of disparate stakeholders to carve out common ground for effective dialogue, collaboration and outcomes.  Diane is also an internationally recognized researcher whose work and expertise range from cell biology, physiology, and mathematical modeling, to population and public health, health policy and knowledge translation.  She has received a range of awards, which reflect her impact as a leader, scientist, partner and mentor.

Dr. Scott Lear is a Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University and the inaugural Pfizer/Heart and Stroke Foundation Chair in Cardiovascular Prevention Research at St. Paul's Hospital. His research spans the breadth of prevention of chronic diseases at a population level to the management at an individual level. This includes the identification of environmental characteristics that may act as facilitators and barriers of healthy lifestyle habits, investigation of the role of ethnic background in risk for obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and how technology can help improve health care access and delivery.

Chris Yakimov is the Associate Director, Digital Community Engagement for the Office of Community Engagement, SFU External Relations. He has worked as a digital strategist in the private, nonprofit and now public sector, and has a BA and MA from UBC in Psychology and Education, respectively. His graduate thesis was a narrative inquiry that explored the power relations brokered by the word “self”, in academic, therapeutic, and everyday discourse. He’s heavily influenced by thinkers like Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Antonio Damasio, Jaron Lanier and Judith Butler, and brings an abiding and passionate interest in the roles of emotion, autonomy, language and power within the complex bio-relational system that is “us”. Current interests include: critical deconstructions of economic and business systems, blockchain, cooperative governance, and the underutilized potential of fiction in knowledge mobilization and pedagogy. Vancouver-born, he loves hockey, photography, cli-fi, breakfast sandwiches and looking forward to whatever his three-year-old daughter will say next.

SFU Semester at CityStudio (Fall 2018)
—Applications are now closed.

Full-time, 15 credits (DIAL 390W, 391W, 392W)

Semester at CityStudio brings together bright, innovative students from diverse backgrounds, disciplines and universities to collaborate with The City of Vancouver on demonstration projects. CityStudio is an immersive, team learning environment combining interdisciplinary skills with the complexity of collaborating within a group setting. The course combines dialogue and design elements, and requires students to engage with communities, research existing urban interventions and design projects to improve the world around them. Students will co-create projects based on needs of City of Vancouver and the community and are encouraged to bring an open mind about project scope to the program. 

By focusing on current issues that matter in Vancouver, students have an opportunity to develop innovative solutions that assist The City of Vancouver in reaching its goals. Students cultivate the skills necessary to conduct student led dialogues, public presentations, and to engage in multi-stakeholder processes with policy makers and City of Vancouver staff. The course offers field experiences, on-the-ground training, leadership development, group process, and urban sustainability project management skills.

Course runs Monday thru Friday, 9:30-3:30.
Students register through SFU. Course open to students from all participating universities.

Course instructors 

Janet Moore

Holly Schmidt is a Vancouver artist, curator and educator. She has a research-based practice that engages processes of collaboration and informal pedagogy. Moving across disciplinary boundaries, she explores the relationships between practices of making, knowledge creation and the formation of temporary communities. Her exhibition, public art and residency projects include Pollen Index (2016) Charles H. Scott Gallery, Till (2014/15) with the Santa Fe Art Institute Food Justice Residency, Moveable Feast (2012) Burnaby Art Gallery, Grow (2011) Other Sights for Artists’ Projects. Upcoming projects are Midnight Picnic (2018) Boca Del Lupo, Locals Only (2018) AKA Gallery, and Accretion (2018) 10 Different Things with ECUAD Living Labs, City Studio and Vancouver Public Art. She’s developed and taught course in social practice at Emily Carr University of Art and Design, as well as curating community engaged artist projects with the Contemporary Art Gallery.  

Adrian Sinclair is Director of Engagement for Transformation Projects and for The Vancouver Mural Festival. For over 10 years, Adrian has produced civic events, public programming and large festivals in Vancouver. Adrian specializes in event design, stakeholder engagement, and event management that aims to transform how art and culture is seen and experienced in cities. Formerly, he applied his passion in this area as Public Programs Coordinator at The Museum of Vancouver. In addition to his public engagement work, Adrian is the co-author and illustrator of Freestyle Focus Group: Learn to Freestyle Rap and Build Community (2016). He is also Co-Founder of the BC Mobile Sauna Society.