Above: VIU students Keltie Chamberlain and Diana Pearson en-route to Converge 2017. ???? Diana Pearson

By columnist Diana Pearson

On February 6 and 7, VIU student representatives Keltie Chamberlain and Diana Pearson joined VIU President Ralph Nilson in attending Converge 2017 in Ottawa. This event was organized by Universities Canada, and brought Canadian students, university presidents, leaders, entrepreneurs, and activists together to address some of the most pressing challenges in our world today.

The four prominent discussions of Converge 2017 were about how Canadian universities could work towards reconciliation, strengthening the arts, breaking down barriers to education, and ensuring support for global migration.

Universities Canada is a membered organization which advocates on behalf of post-secondary institutions to the federal government. Twice a year, membered university leaders unite to share ideas and address challenges in higher education, with the goal of improving education, research, and innovation across the country. This year’s conference was a special occasion, to celebrate Canada’s sesquicentennial, and to frame important conversations about Canada’s future.

“The conversations focused on strengthening Canada’s place in the world while enhancing the social and economic prosperity of its growing population over the next 50 years,” said Nilson.

All attendees of Converge were welcomed by Algonquin Anishinaabe Elder, Claudette Commanda, who spoke of the “collective responsibility to include First Nations, Inuit, and Métis youth, not just in our discussion, but in our actions.”

Roberta Jamieson, founder of Indspire, asked that all universities work with indigenous educators to create “opportunities for educational experiences” for youth, including “indigenous law, history, language, values, science, [and innovation].”

CEO of McKinsey & Co., Dominic Barton, spoke about economic power shifts, technology development, and job displacement in Canada, as well as Canada’s role in global economic development.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau answers questions from student delegates across Canada at Converge 2017. ???? Courtesy of Converge Flickr

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau answers questions from student delegates across Canada at Converge 2017. ???? Courtesy of Converge Flickr

Students were buzzing as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrived for a Q&A; and probed him with questions about sexual violence, mental health, and concerns of some Indigenous communities, including poverty, boil-water advisories, and missing and murdered Indigenous women.

“Panels of bright young entrepreneurs, scholars, and independent thinkers who shared their ideas in TEDTalk fashion provided exceptional opportunities for in-depth discussions… by all participants,” Nilson said. Some of these panelists included UVic’s Transgender Studies Research Chair Aaron Devor, Co-Executive Director of Canadian Roots Exchange, Max FineDay, and Maayan Ziv of AccessNow..

Chamberlain, Pearson, and Nilson arrived back in Nanaimo with an intention to implement some of the changes learned at Converge 2017 within VIU campuses.

“We know post-secondary institutions play a big role in shaping Canada for the better,” Pearson said. “I feel proud to be a student of VIU, where reconciliation is a priority and involvement with the Nanaimo community is supported. What I’d love to see more of at VIU is faculty and students working together to find creative solutions to the big challenges we face today, such as climate change, reconciliation, economic instability, and the health and well-being of all Canadians.”

In a world of increasing complexity, post-secondary students face many uncertainties, however, Nilson left Converge feeling assured that with support, young leaders are capable of working towards a better future.

“I was pleased to have Diana Pearson and Keltie Chamberlain, as the student representatives from VIU, share their thoughts and ideas throughout the two days of dialogue,” Nilson said. “I learned a great deal, and know that Canada has a highly committed and talented group of people emerging as leaders to continue building Canada, learn from the past, and invest in the future.”

One of Diana’s passions is to encourage sex-positivity and open, shameless conversations about sex and sexuality through her column, “Dirtyin’ The Nav.” Her future path includes completing a Masters in Gender Studies and Social Justice, and teaching pleasure-based sex education. She is a non-fiction writer and a musician. As a copy editor, she revels in making The Nav look pretty.