‘The work in our faculty is more relevant and necessary than ever’

Spotlight on: The Faculty of Arts and Science
November 22, 2021
By Marco Buttice, BA 21, and Taylor Tower

Natalie Kouri-Towe and Marlihan Lopez Natalie Kouri-Towe and Marlihan Lopez steward the Interdisciplinary Studies in Sexuality program at the Simone de Beauvoir Institute.

As the world grapples with the health, economic and broader social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic — including calls to action against inequity and violence over the past two years — students are choosing Concordia’s Faculty of Arts and Science to gain the knowledge and tools needed to confront today’s most pressing, interconnected challenges.

“The work in our faculty is more relevant and necessary than ever,” says Dean Pascale Sicotte. “Not only what is done, but how it is done, as well as by and for whom.”

Looking towards the future

In August, CBC News reported that interest in Canada’s past is growing among students in response to socialjustice movements like Black Lives Matter and heightened awareness around Indigenous rights and reconciliation.

The desire to learn more is reflected in Concordia’s Department of History, where undergraduate courses are full. At the graduate level, there has been significant growth in numbers of applications, registrations and admissions.

The faculty’s First Peoples Studies program in the School of Community and Public Affairs (SCPA) is also gaining traction. Numbers for the 2020-21 academic year show a considerable increase in enrolment. The program welcomed two faculty members — Nicolas Renaud and Sigwan Thivierge, BA 15, MA 16 — as assistant professors.

Among Renaud’s areas of expertise are Indigenous ecology, colonialism and decolonization, and Wendat worldview and history. He is also a documentary and experimental filmmaker. Thivierge is a linguist who specializes in Algonquin and Kartvelian languages and works both in theoretical linguistics and community language reclamation. “We are truly excited about the diverse approaches to First Peoples Studies that these two faculty members bring to the School of Community and Public Affairs,” says Anna Sheftel, BA 03, who was recently named principal of the SCPA.

“We’re confident that through their exceptional research and teaching profiles, they will enhance our already dynamic First Peoples Studies program.”

Connecting students to communities

The Simone de Beauvoir Institute’s Major in Interdisciplinary Studies in Sexuality has grown exponentially since its inception in 2019.

“We saw a 30 per cent growth in enrolment in the last year alone,” says program director Natalie Kouri-Towe. “We now have 150 majors — over 100 more than we had anticipated when it first launched.”

Kouri-Towe also directs the program’s practicum, a 100-hour community placement experiential learning course that benefits both student learning and local organizations. “Our students gain skills and experience, building connections with communities throughout the city of Montreal,” she says. “The success of our program lies in our outreach and program coordinator Marlihan Lopez,” says Kouri-Towe of the feminist activist who in 2019 was named one of the world’s 100 Most Influential People of African Descent Under 40.

“Her years of experience in community organizing in Montreal have helped link students with placements that connect to their interests and commitments.”

An intersection of disciplines

Like other faculty programs and departments, Concordia’s Department of Biology also experienced an increase in enrolment throughout the pandemic. There were 160 more applicants and 118 more admissions than in 2020.

Two new programs — the Bachelor of Science in Systems and Information Biology and the Bachelor of Computer Science in Health and Life Sciences — are connecting students at the intersection of computer science and biology. The interrelated programs are a partnership between the Department of Biology and the Department of Computer Science at the Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science.

The goal is to provide students with the technical skills required to advance the exploration, understanding and operations of biological systems in an era of big data and data analytics.

“I am proud of the faculty’s momentum and the new, exciting learning avenues that we are able to provide to our students,” says Sicotte.

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