Last Friday, Mount Allison University hosted part of the nationwide Open Doors, Open Knowledge initiative, organized by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. The event showcased programs orchestrated by members of the university, designed to foster cooperation between ‘town and gown’.
Town Councillor Bill Evans welcomed attendees to the event on behalf of the town. A Mt. A graduate who has lived in Sackville since 1967, he feels that he has one foot in the town community and another in the university. He later commented that he was disappointed, but not surprised, by the poor turnout: There were no students in attendance.
“Apathy’s always been a problem,” he said.
Evans nonetheless remains optimistic. While town and gown relations have improved over the years, a lot remains to be done, and he sees encouraging student engagement as one of the best ways to get there. Evans believes that more is needed from everyone. “It’s part of continuing your education,” he said. “You could do a lot worse than doing some good.”
While recognizing that “many wonderful events” happen regularly at the university, and that last week was exceptionally busy, Mt. A’s Acting Marketing Manager, Melissa Lombard said, “We would have liked to see more people, in particular students, attend this event, as it highlighted three engaging community outreach projects involving students, faculty, and staff.”
Approximately twenty-five people turned up to the R.P. Bell Library theatre for the event.
Commerce professor Rosemary Polegato shared her experiences with Culture Days, a celebration of creativity and community across the country every September. Her Arts and Culture Marketing class has been the local powerhouse of the event since 2010, as her students annually take on the responsibility of organizing, advertising, and running the Sackville program.
“They’re able to say ‘this is our project, we own it’… it belongs to the students,” said Polegato. “It’s amazing how talented the students here are.”
The motif of youth drive and initiative continued in a presentation by Laurie Ricker, the coordinator of App Camp, a summer program designed to teach children how to program Android apps.
“Bringing science to kids in the region is what we’re trying to achieve… [the camp] empowers kids by letting them ask, ‘how does that work?’”
At App Camp, Mt. A computer science students helped instruct the kids (aged ten to thirteen) to use App Inventor software, developed by MIT to teach programming techniques to those without prior training.
Rebecca Blankert was the third speaker, presenting the Owens Art Gallery Student Outreach Program. The program is a collection of projects inviting students and townspeople to the Gallery, including Family Sundays, Handmade Study Breaks (open to all, four times a year, allowing attendees to learn techniques from local artists), and the Artists in Schools initiative.
“The programming is free,” said Blankert. “Education should be accessible for everyone.”