By News Editor Aislinn Cottell

Fifteen VIU students will be hitting the campus stairs this winter to fundraise for the opportunity to further their studies abroad with a trip to several Vancouver prisons, the Canadian-American and American-Mexican border crossings, and Death Row in Arizona.

The trip is one of VIU’s Field Schools: short-term Education Abroad programs that give students a chance to explore the world a little further from home while still contributing to their degree. This particular field school was organized by sociology professor Sylvie Lafrenière and criminology professor Elizabeth McLin, and is described as “a comparative analysis of American and Canadian justice systems and border crossings.” The program counts as one 3-credit course from both the criminology and sociology departments, for a total of 6 upper-level credits.

“We are excited to expose VIU students to other world views about justice and managing and living on North American borders,” said McLin. “Our students will get to see first-hand, and ask questions about, another culture’s practices and points of pride. We hope to reciprocate in the future.”

After touring several prisons on the Mainland, the group will travel to Arizona and spend a week learning about the American justice system and what happens to those people who have been given the ultimate penalty per the state law.

Next, students will cross the U.S border into Nogales, Mexico, visit the desert traversed by those seeking to avoid the border crossing, and then be put through the immigration process on the way back. When they return to Canada, they will visit a border town in BC and compare the experience to Nogales, as well as speak with border studies specialists and people who work first-hand with refugees and immigrants to Canada, and compare those perspectives to the ones encountered in Arizona.

“It will be a very emotional, and, I expect, eye-opening experience for everyone,” said Lafrenière.

Although many field school participants are often engaged in studies related to the trip destination, many of the trips are open to students from any discipline, and often even members of the public.

One of the students registered for the upcoming trip, Sally Haynes, is a third-year global studies major with a minor in economics, but last year she did some research in a sociology course that focused on maximum-security prisons, solitary confinement, and their effects on mental health. She is excited to visit the institutions she studied in person.

“As much as you can read about it, nothing replaces direct experience,” said Haynes. “It probably won’t be the most pleasant experience, but I think it will be a very impactful one; there’s so much to learn.”

Haynes said that she decided to register for the field school because of its convenience with her school and work schedule.

“I’m really into doing an internship, but it’s tough. Generally, you have to invest more time, and to take your whole summer off is really challenging, especially if you have to work,” she said. “But with the Field School, because it fits into the school year, it makes it a lot more doable.”

Each student will contribute approximately $3200 for the trip, plus tuition fees, and though Sally says they know they won’t make up that entire amount by fundraising, she said they want to “make as big of a dent as [they] can.”

The group is using the platform FundScrip, a gift card fundraising program where the group gets a portion of the value of each card they sell. They have cards on offer from a range of retailers, including grocery stores like Save-on-Foods and Walmart, as well as Starbucks, gas stations, and more. Those interested in supporting the group can purchase cards at <fundscrip.com> using the code CNX ZG5.

In addition, the students will be selling pizza in the atrium of bldg. 356 from 11 am – 2 pm every Tuesday until December 6 ($2 per slice, $5 for two slices and a pop), and will be holding two bake sales on November 3 and 17, with locations to be announced. The Criminology Students Association will also be hosting a “beer and burger” special at Carlos O’Bryan’s pub on November 10, with half of all proceeds going to the group.


Aislinn is a third year Bachelor of Arts and Science student majoring in creative writing and minoring in chemistry. New to The Nav team this year, she’s enjoying finding out about all the interesting things happening on campus. Her hobbies include reading, drawing, Netflix, and the copious consumption of coffee.