12 Ways Semester in Dialogue Enriches your University Experience

February 14, 2022

By Claire Patterson

Students in the Fall 2021 Semester by the Salish Sea collaborate on proclaiming 2022/23 the Year of the Salish Sea.

This article was writen by Claire Patterson an alumnus from Semester in Democracy: The Next Frontier.

In November of 2021, I sat in a booth in a crowded Indian cuisine restaurant in Glasgow. One of my closest friends sat beside me as we waited for one other to arrive. It was the second week of COP26, the United Nations climate summit. We were there to assist with the events that SFU’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue was putting on. We’d both worked contracts on various projects with the Centre since we finished our Semester in Dialogue, Semester in Democracy in the Summer of 2020, and now we were in Glasgow representing the Centre at the biggest climate conference in the world I was thrilled to be at the summit with one of my best friends and spend so much time learning from scholars, scientists and activists as well as meeting with many of them to discuss issues one-on-one. 

Tonight was no different. I had received an email the morning prior from an alumni of the Semester in Dialogue program who had graduated 10 years prior, and across the world, wanted to meet with other alumni of the program! 

Once joining us in the booth, he explained the work he was doing at the summit as an environmental and Indigenous rights lawyer, naming the Semester in Dialogue to be a turning point in his academic career that led him to where he is now. The three of us reflected on our time in the Semester over chicken masala. From the conversation, I began to think about all the ways that the Semester in Dialogue has enriched my university experience.

Here are 12 of the ways the Semester in Dialogue enriched my experience at university and can enrich yours too.

1. The work you do attributes to solving a real-world problem.

The projects that you work on in the Semester in Dialogue help you to solve a real-world problem. Whether it is holding a dialogue with prominent environmental organizations about moving from an individualistic to community-based mindset for tackling climate change, or creating a landing hub of accessible resources for domestic abuse survivors in the community, the Semester in Dialogue allows you to work towards having a tangible impact.

2. You write a publishable piece that the professors will actually help you get published.

Rather than writing research papers that will only be read by your teaching assistant, Semester in Dialogue professors work with you on a topic you are passionate about like affordable housing for students or public art installations. Being able to share the research that you are learning about in a public format helps others become more exposed to different ideas. Sharing is caring! Writing a published or publishable piece is also such an important piece to keep in a portfolio when applying for jobs. Many applications, whether for work or graduate school, require a writing sample. Having this ready to submit saves time and energy.

3. The program is interdisciplinary, meaning you get to learn from students in different faculties.

Many of our current complex social problems require the intersection of expertise in different fields to reach success. Think about art and science, communication and climate change and so many others! Being able to take classes with students who are becoming experts in fields wildly different from yours helps broaden the way that your class as a collective can look at problems. It also makes for really interesting conversations!

4. The daily cohort design allows you to actually get to know other students and professors.

In the Semester in Dialogue, you get to meet with your classmates every single day which brings you closer together as you bond over working and having down time together. The cohort style also links you to the Semester in Dialogue alumni community which gets together to have trivia nights. Once you have been in the Semester in Dialogue, you will always have a home at the Centre.

5. The professors that are with you every day are community leaders that are extremely well respected in their field.

It’s true. The mentorship you receive in the Semester in Dialogue is from amazing thinkers. This semester will be taught by Shauna Sylvester, Dr. Jacqueline Koerner and Kris Archie! Shauna Sylvester, who is the Executive Director of the Centre for Dialogue, is teaching her last semester during Trust, Money and Power: Funding Change, the Semester in Dialogue Summer 2022 course.

6. You become aware of current events/issues that are affecting society now!

The Semester allows you to get outside of thinking about strictly theory and think more about applicable solutions.

7. Thought leaders. Period! Need I say any more?

Thought leaders are experts on the topics that you study in the Semester that come to class multiple times a week for the students to have dialogues with. These experts are renowned figures. Don’t forget to add them on Linkedin to remain connected after the course!

This article was written by Claire Patterson, an alumnus of the Semester in Democracy: The Next Frontier.

8. Students from the Semester in Dialogue are known in the community.

Being a Semester in Dialogue alumni is a resume booster as the Centre for Dialogue collaborates with many organizations across Canada and internationally.

9. You get to study in thriving downtown Vancouver.

When you study a Semester in Dialogue your cohort has a beautiful space to call your own in the Wosk building. Bordering Gastown and near many fantastic restaurants, cafes and cultural institutions.

10. Learning how to work in a group.

It’s important and it’s something you will do for the rest of your life! Semester in Dialogue gives you the space to learn how to work with others and be proud of the work you do together.

11. Personal reflection and growth.

The Semester in Dialogue has carved out room for journaling and reflecting on your personal learning journey to make the most out of the experience. This leads to a lot of growth and the personal reflection gives you space to understand yourself in a deeper way. What do you want out of your time in university? What are you passionate about? How do you approach solving problems?

12. It is really fun!

Last but not least the Semester in Dialogue really is fun! You get the chance to really deeply know your classmates through the format of dialogue and time to share meals and be social with each other.

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