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New OCS program to explore community engagement and identity in Montreal

<ll, Carleton students can explore the “City of Creativity.”

Carleton’s newest off-campus studies seminar – Art, Cultural Politics and Activism in Montreal – aims to engage students with issues of identity and urban life through experiential learning and community involvement.

“It is a program to make connections,” said Stephanie Cox, a visiting professor of French and Francophone Studies and Cross-Cultural Studies and the faculty director of the program.

Off Campus Studies is adding this interdisciplinary program as part of an effort to ease on-campus housing demand this fall term because of planned construction to the dormitory Evans Hall.

Cox hopes the program will attract students from varied academic backgrounds since it involves art, history, language and community interaction.  Students will take cross cultural studies and history classes to learn about the art, diversity and identity politics of Montreal, and they will complete civic engagement research projects to address these issues.

 “It will be a good mix of having the chance to live in a city and experience some of the different cultures of a different urban space,” said Naomi Ziegler, assistant director of OCS. Ziegler hopes students on the program will take advantage of the “creative spirit” of Montreal.
Students will live with families in Montreal and will be able to request home stays with native English or French speakers, as well as families who speak any other language a student is studying. 

“You don’t necessarily have to travel to China to practice your Chinese,” Cox said, stressing the diversity of Montreal.

Cox said she hopes the program will appeal to students who have questioned their own identity, who have studied language, or who want to find out what it’s like to live in a city. 

Cox said she believes in “connecting academics with life experience.” Classes will involve discussions with visiting activists and artists, as well as work with community organizations and artists for students’ individual research projects.

Cox plans to lead students on short expeditions to Toronto and Quebec City, as well as “deeper into the heartland” for whale watching on the St. Lawrence River.  Within Montreal, students will explore the cultural politics of Quebec’s unique system of interculturalism.  She said she hopes this study abroad experience will “attract students for exploring.”

Ziegler said that the program to Montreal “could be the start of a newer model” for studying abroad at Carleton, as the office is interested in giving students opportunities to examine urban issues.  One possibility is that the program could travel to a different city each year, while still addressing similar subjects.

“Gaining the proper distance makes you a proper observer,” Cox said.  She believes that traveling, even to neighboring Canada, is an important way to gain this outside perspective on a student’s own identity.

“Let’s hope I can pull it off,” she said.

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