New Academic Programs Announced at Mount Allison

On September 21, 2020, Mount Allison announced a number of new academic programs available to students starting this year. Many of these programs are interdisciplinary, engaging multiple perspectives from diverse fields on a single topic.

            Students can now pursue a BA in Women’s and Gender Studies (WGST). “Mount Allison offers an exciting variety of courses that look at gender, race, Indigeneity, sexuality, and disability, and now students can take these under the umbrella of a WGS major or honours degree,” said Dr. Leslie Kern, the director of the WGST program. WGST focuses on analyzing systems of oppression and privilege. “Students will pay particular attention to gender, but our program also focuses on anti-racism, decolonization, and queer and trans perspectives,” she added.

Aude Gazzano, a third year WGST student, encourages everyone to take a WGST course during their degree. “Sexism, racism, colonialism, elitism, and ableism are very common in the academic world and it is important to learn about it, so we can begin to change that,” she said. She is excited to be able to graduate with a WGST major, and enjoys the interdisciplinary approach of WGST. “I love learning from different perspectives and challenging my own biases,” she said. Students interested in learning more about WGST are encouraged to reach out to Dr. Kern (lkern@mta.ca) and to the Mount Allison Women’s and Gender Studies Society (@mtawgstsociety on Instagram).

            A BA in Geocomputing was also introduced. “Students will learn how to conduct powerful analyses of the spatial dimensions of social and environmental problems,” said Dr. David Lieske, Department Chair for Geography and Environment. Geocomputing studies geographic theory, computer science theory and application, and the human-environment relationship. “Students will learn how to address the spatial aspects of a huge range of problems, such as identifying and classifying features on the earth, or constructing and testing models to make predictions about what might happen in particular locations in the future,” Lieske said.

“It is the chance to use computing to understand dynamic, pressing, real-world social and environmental problems,” Lieske said. “This is an especially rich career area,” he added. “All branches of government, non-government and academia recognize the need for graduates who can apply advanced computing to solve problems involving environmental change and resource management.” Dr. Lieske invites interested students to reach out to him by email at dlieske@mta.ca.

The new community engaged learning (CENL) minor can be added to any degree. Dr. Fiona Black, head of the Department of Religious Studies, and Dr. Leslie Shumka, associate professor of religious studies and CENL, collaborated on responses for an interview by email. “This interdisciplinary program facilitates personal and professional development, helping students to learn what civic and social responsibility means,” they said. A CENL background is useful in a variety of fields to help create meaningful change in communities. “The skills acquired are important for anyone in any profession who wishes to be an engaged and active member of their community,” they explained.

“The beauty of CENL is that it is engineered to be complementary to students’ main areas of study,” said Black and Shumka. “It allows a practical opportunity for students to think about how what they are studying can be brought into the community around them.” CENL features a set of diverse experiential and community-based electives, and options for independent studies and practicum experience. For more information on CENL, students can contact religion@mta.ca.

            Mount Allison has also added a new Bachelor of Arts option for cognitive science, which is currently also offered as a BSc program. “Cognitive science is about understanding the information processing capacity of the human mind. It kind of falls at the junction of philosophy, psychology, and computer science,” explained Dr. Geneviève Desmarais, program advisor for cognitive science. The BA and BSc programs will have the same core courses, but students in the Arts program will be able to take more arts and humanities electives. “The way we model the human mind has a lot to do with how we think it works. The arts can bring a question of perspective,” said Desmarais.

Hadley Rawling, a fourth year cognitive science and psychology student, is a co-president of the Cognitive Science Society. “CogSci is such a cool degree. However, currently it is quite small,” she said. “Opening it up to be completed as a BA or BSc gives the program the opportunity to grow,” she said. Rawling believes the new BA option opens the program to more diverse perspectives and discussions. “There are so many channels to explore under the realm of cognitive science, which means there is a little bit for everyone,” she said. Students curious about cognitive science can learn more from Dr. Desmarais (gdesmarais@mta.ca) and the Cognitive Science Society.

Students can also pursue BA in Canadian Public Policy (CPP) or add a CPP minor to any degree. “CPP is an interdisciplinary program examining public decision-making and policy processes related to environmental, social, health and economic policy,” said Dr. Mario Levesque, associate professor of Canadian politics and CPP. The CPP program is flexible, allowing students to select courses that meet their interests. “Students learn where they can and want to insert themselves in the decision-making process to pursue changes in policies of interest to them,” said Levesque. “The fun part of the CPP program is that you are addressing the ‘black box’ of decision making. The CPP program explores the process in how to achieve needed changes.” Students interested in learning more about CPP can email Dr. Levesque (malevesque@mta.ca) or Dr. Craig Brett (cbrett@mta.ca).

A number of other new minors and certificates have been announced as well, including minors in data science and visual communication and culture. The new certificates include data management, data analytics, foundations of health, theatre arts, and Canadian arts and culture. More information on these programs is available on the Mount Allison website.

Mira Donaldson
Mira is a contributor to the Argosy.