Monday, February 13, 2012

Durham College/UOIT Respects Diversity

I had the honour of spending precious, too-little time with Durham College’s President, Don Lovisa, and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology’s Provost, Dr. Richard Marceau, on the occasion of their Black History Month Mix and Mingle “Respecting Diversity”, organized by Rochelle Ramathe, Diversity Director, with special guests including Oshawa City Councillor Doug Sanders and Oshawa Mayor John Henry.

Their respective remarks showcased their level of leadership, not only in Durham Region, but of national and international scope, and it’s my pleasure to share them here.

It's noteworthy to mention that one of my closest friends is a senior engineering technician for a respected small firm in Toronto. In considering pursuing his P.Eng, he told me he would love to do the Durham College program, which speaks very highly to what's happening at Durham College academically. Kudos!

Even closer to home, my 13-year old son has demonstrated from an early age that he's got that wonderful combination of intellectual curiousity and mechanical inclination. Among the schools we've already begun to consider, as we plan his development, is Durham College.

So, it is no empty flattery when I say I appreciate Durham College - in my personal circles, DC keeps popping up, and when I engaged the Mix and Mingle, it was not at arms-length, but by embrace.

Mr. Lovisa, in preparing to speak at this event, told us that he started to do what we do these days – Google. At some point, he felt compelled not to just sit in front of the computer, but to go out and talk to his students, and he found much more insight into what “Black History Month” means to people.

A study published in 1995 in the Journal of Educational Psychology entitled “Learning facts versus learning that most questions have many answers: Student evaluations of contrasting curricula” (Nicholls, Nelson, Gleaves, Vol87(2), Jun 1995, 253-260), demonstrated that individual memorization of “closed” facts was not as efficient a learning method as collaborative discussion of questions with open answer possibilities, where it was possible to do the latter. Not to oversimplify, but in comparing with what Mr. Lovisa did, the results are the same – individually picking up a few facts from a Google search is one way to learn; but engaging open communication with others – tapping into the College’s diversity - was likely a better approach to getting a feel for the meaning of Black History Month.

Clearly, Mr. Lovisa either read this paper, or has read or been a part of similar research, or just intuitively knew this. Either way, it’s most evident that Durham College’s leadership intimately engenders principles of higher learning – not just theoretically, but practically, personally, sincerely. That is exciting.

Dr. Richard Marceau, Provost of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, found that the free society we enjoy today is due in large part to the initiatives of Black people who have championed freedom and equality, many to the ultimate sacrifice. Dr. Marceau also declared “we are all Africans” – dignified in our diversity, yet bound together as one in the fellowship of humanity. 

In other words, Durham Region’s leaders in higher education recognize indeed that “Black History Month is for everyone”, and that the legacy of Africa and the heritage of Africans has been bequeathed to all people. As such, connecting to that heritage is important, for everyone.

Durham College/UOIT are beacons beckoning people to come and discover opportunity in Canada; opportunity that is being developed and redefined in the labs and lecture theatres of higher learning; opportunity that is positioned to leverage its resource of a diversity that is engaged, active, outreaching and dynamic.

Mr. Lovisa and Dr. Marceau's remarks resonated throughout my preambles on why we celebrate Black History Month in February, why it is important, and the keynote which introduced the OughtThoughts Diversity 2.0 framework.

Oshawa’s slogan is “prepare to be amazed” – Durham College/UOIT’s Black History Month Mix and Mingle was, indeed, amazing.

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