Courses

A History of the James Bay Neighbourhood

Learn about the history of James Bay, Victoria’s oldest residential district, from the 1840s to today.

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A History of Ross Bay Cemetery

Ross Bay Cemetery is a designated heritage site and one of British Columbia’s most iconic Victorian era cemeteries. John Adams, author of A Historic Guide to Ross Bay Cemetery and long-time member of the Old Cemeteries Society, will trace the origins of the cemetery from 1872 to the present day.

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An Introduction to the Art and Architecture in the Islamic World

This course will examine the development of Muslim religious and social practices that gave rise to a tradition of “Islamic” art and architecture. We will look at the requirements for educational and complexes of charitable foundations such as hospitals and soup kitchens, and the evolution of places for religious assembly, including mosques.

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China’s Belt and Road Initiative: Multiple Perspectives

China’s Belt and Road Initiative involves development projects in over 100 countries. In this course, we focus on Eurasia where it includes both overland and sea routes designed to kick start regional connectivity and economic growth.

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Chinese Victoria: History of Victoria's Chinatown

Victoria's Chinatown is the oldest, permanent, urban Chinese community in Canada—dating back to the 1858 Gold Rush on the Fraser River.

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Christmas in Old Victoria

Find out how Christmas was observed in Victoria during the 19th century, from the annual decoration of the churches to the competition between butcher shops for the fanciest store window displays.

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Conspiratorial Thinking in the Age of COVID

Our social media networks have become filled with strange claims: that Bill Gates is micro-chipping us through our COVID vaccines, that COVID itself is a hoax, etc. How do some of us come to believe such wild claims?

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Detecting Dementia Early: What Do We Know? (Mary Winspear Centre)

Dementia is not a natural part of aging. It is an umbrella term that encompasses all types of neurodegenerative diseases that affect memory, judgement and cognitive skills severely enough to impact daily life.

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Doing Philosophy is Learning to Die

In 1580 the French philosopher Michel de Montaigne wrote his essay Doing Philosophy is Learning to Die, recycling many passages and ideas from his favourite Latin philosophers, especially Lucretius and Seneca. We will explore the Latin sources and historical context of Montaigne’s essay as well as his ways of thinking and writing.

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Ecclesiastes and the Meaning of Life

Ecclesiastes (Qohelet in Hebrew) is arguably the most enigmatic book of the Hebrew Bible. This course explores historical, literary and theological aspects of Ecclesiastes and its relevance in present times.

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Emily Carr's James Bay

Emily Carr was born in Victoria’s James Bay neighbourhood in 1871 and died there in 1945. Instructor John Adams will bring to life the places, people and events that featured in Emily’s world.

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Empire and Desire: The Ottoman Palace in Western Imagination

Topkapı Palace served as the seat of Ottoman imperial power for 400 years.

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Fairfield History

Before 1843, what did the terrain of Fairfield look like, where were the village sites of the Indigenous inhabitants, and how were the streams and waterways used as a shortcut from Ross Bay to the Inner Harbour?

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Forensic Anthropology of the Human Skeleton

This six-part series will examine topics of forensic anthropology and concepts relating to the recovery and analysis of unidentified human remains in a medico-legal context.

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Ghosts and Legends of Victoria

As October draws to a close, people begin to think of Halloween. Historian John Adams has been collecting ghost stories from Victoria for 25 years and will share some of the classics and some of the most intriguing during this presentation.

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How to be Happy for Others

Someone else’s success may make us feel jealous or resentful. But, is happiness a commodity in short supply? In this course, we will learn how to step out of our self-centred view and rejoice in the happiness of others.

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Human Evolution

Bringing together the evidence from the fossil record, recent genetic advances, and the archaeological data, we will examine the biological and cultural characteristics that define humans, as well as the major theories for how such characteristics evolved.

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Networks and Borderlands: Bordering Processes in the 21st Century

In this first lecture, we'll establish the framework for our future discussions. What do borders look like in the 21st Century? Does it make sense to talk about borders in digital spaces, and if so, what do they look like? How do online social movements and ideologies engage in bordering processes?

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Networks of Rage: Far-Right Extremism Online

In this lecture, we will assess how far-right activism in North America has used digital landscapes to effectively transcend national borders. We will examine some of the ways that far-right ideologies emerge, how they use the internet and social media first to organize, and then to spread internationally.

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Secrets of Ancient Egypt’s Lost Turquoise Mines

Many have heard of King Solomon’s Mines, but few know of the turquoise mines of Serabit el-Khadim. High above the Sinai Desert in Egypt lie the ruins of a mysterious temple dating back to the 12th Dynasty.

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Skepticism and Critical Thinking in the 21st Century

In light of growing anti-intellectualism, we are faced with a daunting prospect - a world where facts matter less than popularity, and where certainty threatens to replace truth. We are entering what some scholars refer to as a post-truth age and it is happening at a perilous time.

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Social Networks: How Conspiracy Theories Move in Digital Spaces

Today, conspiracy theorists from around the world can come together, share their beliefs, and develop new ones to then be spread through our social media networks. How does this happen? Why do they spread so quickly, and what can be done about it?

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The Changing Face of Victoria's Chinatown in the 21st Century

In 1995 Victoria’s Chinatown was designated a national historic site of Canada because it is the oldest surviving Chinatown in Canada, it was the largest urban centre of Chinese population in Canada until the first decade of the twentieth centu

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The Sculpting of Myth and Imagination

The flat lands of Tuktoyaktuk to the ice cap of Greenland and … the little grub that defies hibernation.

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The Social Construction of Borders

Borders help to define citizenship and to exclude the unwelcome and Other. But what of culture? Does cultural identity stop (or start) at the border?

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The Storm Rises: Qanon as Conspiracy and Quasi-religious Movement

Of all the conspiratorial claims to have emerged in the past five years, perhaps the most bizarre—and dangerous—is Qanon, a paranoid, conspiratorial movement that has in recent years taken on an almost religious dynamic. What is this movement? What do its followers believe? Why do some of its more lurid elements feel so familiar? 

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Troy Revisited

Troy is a well-known legendary city and an archeological site in the northwest corner of Turkey. Homer’s Illiad defines a walled-city in front of which the Acheans and the Trojans launched a fierce battle for Helene’s sake.

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Victorian Cities of the Dead

Some of BC’s most impressive 19th century cemeteries are located in Victoria, and instructor John Adams knows them intimately.

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How Does Immigration Impact Communities (Mary Winspear Centre)

This talk looks at current research on how partnerships between locals and immigrants are structured in Canada and their impact on communities.

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Biological Pest Controls (Mary Winspear Centre)

Find out how beneficial insects are used to control pests more efficiently than chemical pest control.

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Cross Border Management in Comparative Perspective

View the Borders in Globalization: Cross Border Management in Comparative Perspective program page for full details.

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Trade and Customs Borders in the 21st Century

Please view the Borders in Globalization: Trade and Customs Borders in the 21st Century program page for full details.

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An Introduction to Humanities

An introduction to the various ways in which scholars from different disciplines in the Humanities interpret, analyze and evaluate texts.

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Introduction to Canadian Contemporary Issues

An introduction to contemporary issues in Canadian society including: politics, economic and social structures, cultural and arts policy, science and technology, multiculturalism, bilingualism, Indigenous issues and gender issues.

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Introduction to Canadian Culture

An introduction to the multidisciplinary study of cultural structures and expression in Canada, including such forms as literature, fine arts, mass media and communications.

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Issues and Ideas in Canadian Environmentalism

This course offers an opportunity to explore how the physical environment of this country shapes the Canadian people.

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University 101

A desire to learn is all you need for University 101. This non-credit course in the humanities is for you if your economic and social circumstances normally pose obstacles to university education (e.g., low income, mental health challenges, single parenthood, homelessness).

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University 102

A desire to learn is all you need for University 102. This non-credit course in the social sciences is offered to people whose personal, economic and social circumstances might pose obstacles to university education (e.g., low income, physical or mental health challenges, work and family responsibilities or lack of opportunity).

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University 201

University 201 is a course for people who have completed at least one of the University 101 or 102 courses. The course runs in all three academic terms and covers a wide range of different topics on a monthly basis.

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Conspiracies and Radicalization in the "Post-Truth" Era

To better understand the rapid spread of conspiratorial thinking and extremist ideologies.

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Dead (Wo)men Do Tell Tales: The Archaeology of Death

We will explore themes in mortuary archaeology, followed by an in-depth exploration of the evidence for the treatment of the dead from the Viking world.

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Haunted Victoria

Analyze haunting stories with John Adams, well-known ghost storyteller.

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Industrial Victoria

This illustrated talk about an often overlooked part of Victoria’s history explores lost industries, the people who owned them and the workers who toiled for them.

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Nerdology: The Sociology of Video Games and Digital Media

This course will discuss video games as the revolutionary creative and commercial products they are. 

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On the Cannibals: Wondering about Eurocentrism

In this discussion seminar we will study Montaigne's developing lines of thought, illustrated by 16th c. images and narratives, and with reference to Montaigne's ancient sources.

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Rockland History and Architecture

The Rockland neighbourhood and its homes and families.

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The Myths That Plato Told – Part 1

In this discussion seminar we select two of these stories, connecting Plato's treatment with other ancient sources and interpreting the myths in terms of Plato's own philosophy.

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The Wisdom of Proverbs

Proverbs offers a much richer understanding of the meaning of wisdom throughout the Bible and in our own lives. This course uses a combined lecture and seminar format with plenty of time for discussion and questions. 

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Are We Alone?

Humans have for thousands of years looked up at the stars and wondered if we are alone or if there other intelligent beings out there.

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Threats to Humanity

There are a number of existential risks, both natural and human-induced, that could end human life on Earth.

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The Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Understanding the Deeper Causes - Mary Winspear

This lecture will reveal the deeper reasons behind Russian aggression beyond the often-cited but misleading security concerns.

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Kids These Days and the Ongoing Evolution of Language

Current language practices are simultaneously a reflection of historical linguistic states and a window to future linguistic states. In this talk Dr. Alex D’Arcy explores this relationship between past, present and future, problematizing the fact that language change unfolds as a continuous succession of present moments.

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Dirty Money, Secret Sex: Political Scandals in Canada

There have been thousands of political scandals in Canadian history, but they have rarely been examined as a collective – it’s always been far too gratifying to witness the stumbles of the powerful to give much thought to the scandals after the fact.

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Towards a Federal Europe: Democracy in the 21st Century

The European Union (EU) is neither a federal state nor an international organization-it is something in between. What do we make of this entity?

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Petty Traitors and Domestic Tyrants: Spouse Murder in England, 1660–1800

This talk will explore the real incidence of, and trials for, petty treason in Britain’s largest criminal jurisdiction, the Old Bailey courthouse.

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New Frontiers: The Sociology of Video Games and New Popular Media

You will explore the social, political and moral dimensions of video games in contemporary Canadian and American societies.

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Neoliberalism in Canada: Its Origins, Impact and Future - Mary Winspear

In this talk, Dr. Leifso will review how neoliberal thought was mobilized in the twentieth century by thinkers such as Friedrich von Hayek and Milton Friedman before being taken up across the world in the 1970s and 1980s.

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Using Particle Physics to Understand the Universe

Particle physics allows us to understand nature at its most fundamental level, whereas astrophysics allows us to understand nature at its very largest scales. How do these two fields overlap?

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Green is the New Grey: Seniors and Medical Cannabis

Over time, the likelihood of developing various conditions increases and many standard therapies may not be effective or associated with intolerable side effects. More and more seniors are enquiring whether medical cannabis might be a safe alternative option.

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Life Stories: Art and the Stages of Life

Art shapes our experiences of growing up and growing older. This presentation uses artworks to explore the impact of photographs, paintings, textiles and furnishings on our life stories.

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Good Fire Ahead: Controlled Burning in the American West

What causes modern wildfires, and how did they get to be so destructive? This presentation explores the social and political background of wildfires, first showing 100 years of forest management in the United States, followed by a case study of an Indigenous-led project navigating policy challenges in California.

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Thinking About Religion Today

The study of religion is currently characterized by provocative developments calling into question the conceptual basis for this field of study.

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Transitions

Humanity needs to make a transition away from fossil fuels as a source of energy. What can we learn from the big transitions human societies have faced in the past? Each participant will investigate a transition that they find interesting and share their findings with the group in a presentation meant to stimulate discussion.

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Why Did the Computer Do That? Explaining Software in a Probabilistic World

Have you ever wondered about the role software plays in every system that touches our lives? This talk covers social network software like Facebook, but also software that is making decisions about driving cars, prescribing medicine and recommending hires.

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Writing Gooder Humour (Mary Winspear Centre)

Join award-losing Times Colonist columnist and author Jack Knox as he shares the secrets of humour writing.

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The Neuroscience of Aging

In this session Dr. Krigolson will discuss how the brain grows from conception to birth and then how it ages throughout the lifespan.

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The Myths That Plato Told – Part 2

After people die, where do their souls go? And what happens to them? Plato explored this question in three different works and three different ways, each time by creating a new myth out of elements of traditional Greek mythology.

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Reasons to be Inspired Every Day

Where can we turn to find authentic inspiration that will encourage us to live fully-engaged, joyful and meaningful lives?  This course will offer a number of key insights from Modern Buddhist teachings that are both extraordinary and eminently applicable to our lives.

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A New Look at James Bay History

In this richly illustrated look at the history of James Bay, instructor John Adams brings an updated focus to the past looking at Indigenous origins and current involvement, Hudson’s Bay Company farms, gold-rush-era land speculation, locating the colonial and provincial government buildings, industrialization, zoning for high-rise apartments in the 1950s and 1960s and the eventual backlash against them. 

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Photo of pensive statue.

The Epicurean Way of Life

Death is nothing to be feared, there are no intimidating gods in the world, and what's good to have is easy to get, once you learn how to distinguish real good from illusory goods.

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Not Just a Little Bit of Olde England

For years Victoria had the reputation for being so very English. Local historian John Adams will sort fact from fiction and show that there was a lot more diversity in the city than tourism promoters, beginning in the 1920s, wanted us to believe.

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Painting of a person holding a heart.

Residing in a Peaceful Heart

The key to a happy life is learning to reside in a peaceful heart. This is the essence of Buddhist practice and something we can all learn to do.

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Photo of hourglass and old book.

Victoria 100 Years Ago: A Look at 1923

Join local historian John Adams for a trip to the Victoria of 1923. You’ll learn about the Chinese Students Strike, a proposed curfew for children, plans for the CPR’s Steamship Terminal... and more!

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Photo of person giving presentation with a captivated audience.

How to Give a Great Presentation

Dr. Krigolson will provide tips on how to give an outstanding presentation including how to engage your audience, how to speak and how to design good slides.

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Content woman relaxing on couch.

Enjoy Life in the Present Moment

We all aspire to enjoy our lives and fully appreciate those we care about. But how often is this our actual experience?

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Illustration of indigenous beading.

The First Treaties: The Roots of Indigenous-Settler Relations in Canada

This talk explores the 500-year history of alliances and treaties involving the Indigenous Peoples of what is now Canada and settlers who arrived from Europe and elsewhere after 1500.

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Special Topics in Canadian Studies

This online course explores the history, achievements and possibilities inherent in grassroots organizations in Canada, using examples from across the country but with a focus on British Columbia movements.

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Chinese New Year Customs

John Adams, author of Chinese Victoria, will explain how the date of the annual event is calculated, how the twelve Chinese zodiac animals were chosen and show many of the items popularly used in the celebrations.

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Illustration of Jack the Ripper in front of Big Ben.

Jack the Ripper and the Royal Family: Murder and Myth

In this talk, Dr. Devereaux reviews the theories, many of them preposterous, which have suggested that Jack the Ripper–the most famous killer in history–was either a member of the royal family or someone acting on its behalf.

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Illustration of AI view of a crowd.

Legalizing Illegal Mass Surveillance

In this talk, based on her interviews with Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers, Dr. Ogasawara gives an overview of contemporary mass surveillance activities and discusses how they relate to our everyday lives and democracy.

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Shakespeare’s Adopted Children

This talk will explore the sometimes surprising nature of the family in Shakespeare’s theatre. We will examine adoptive bonds in Shakespeare to understand how the plays portray and challenge the importance of genealogy and inheritance.

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Conspiracy Thinking: A Rational Guide to Thinking Irrationally

In this talk Dr. Devereaux introduces the major human needs that animate conspiracy thinking in the modern world.

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Introduction to Intercultural Studies

An interdisciplinary exploration of theory and practice in the field of intercultural studies. Focuses on understanding the application of intercultural concepts and theories to effect social change.

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Intercultural Communication in the Workplace

As a global citizen, an understanding of cultural difference and ability to communicate effectively with diverse communities is critical for work in both local and international settings.

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A Look into the Eye

This presentation will introduce the anatomy of the eye and the retina, explain how the retina works, the diseases that affect it and explore advances in treating retinal disease.

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Conspiracies and Radicalization in the Post-truth Era (Mary Winspear Centre)

We will explore the emergence of what some are calling the "post-truth" era, where the foundations of the modern age—observation, empiricism and a recognition of the existence of a shared reality—have begun to crumble.

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Into the Woods with German Myths and Fairy Tales

Why do we need fairy tales? What is a hero? What is a quest? Why do fairy tales often take place in a forest environment? What is the cultural significance of wolves and ogres?

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Boosting or Maintaining Your Brain Power as You Get Older

This presentation looks at ways to maintain or boost brain power through lifestyle choices, especially the role of physical activity which is the number one way to preserve memory and other cognitive functions.

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Police Ethics: Its Nature and Implications

This presentation examines the ethical issues that surround the conduct of police officers in the exercise of their duties.

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Ukraine and the Middle East: Impact and Responses

This talk will examine the impact of the Ukraine war on the Middle East, from food security to energy prices, while also considering how regimes and populations have responded to Russia’s invasion.

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Gold Nanoparticles: Radiation Therapy Enhancers

A science-driven look at how incredibly tiny gold particles can be used in the treatment of cancer.

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The Neuroscience of Human Decision Making

Recent advances in neuroscience have helped us understand how we make decisions. In this talk, your instructor will review these advances and provide practical applications of these concepts.

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Photo of a world globe with a thumbtack on Iran.

A Journey through Iran (Mary Winspear Centre)

Long before Marco Polo travelled through Persia, the country was admired in many ways. Visitors were in awe of the country’s bustling bazaars, ancient monuments, parched deserts, snow capped mountains and legendary hospitality.

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Near Extraterrestrial: The Extreme Environments of Seafloor Vents

The discovery of ecosystems at deep-sea hydrothermal vents in 1977 altered the global perspective concerning the boundaries of biological systems. Thousands of meters below the ocean surface, in complete darkness, dense communities of species were found not only existing but thriving.

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Murder and the Media in Victorian England

The newspapers of the Victorian age were obsessed with murder. This talk reveals the origins of this fascination in the rise of the modern newspaper press and a growing fascination with the cultural divide between towns and the countryside.

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Expected and Actual Performance of Green Buildings: Lessons Learned

This presentation will introduce the concept of Green and Sustainable Buildings, and the results from an investigation which critically analyzed the designed and actual performance of Green Buildings in Victoria and Vancouver.

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Apocalypse Now: Christian Right Literature and Politics

This talk suggests that the increasing Republican extremism in the United States may lie in the biblical worldview of apocalypse that animates its conservative white Christian base.

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Emotional Politics in Canada

That politics is an emotional business is likely unsurprising to anyone paying even casual attention to events such as the presidency of Donald Trump or the resentment-fueled freedom convoy in 2022.

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James Teit and Indigenous Rights in BC, 1880s - 1920s

In this talk, Wickwire will draw from her 2019 book, At the Bridge: James Teit and an Anthropology of Belonging to show how Teit’s journeys – between Shetland, UK and British Columbia; between Boasian anthropology and Indigenous forms of knowledge; between socialist politics and Indigenous political campaigns – fostered cultural bridges that were rare even by today’s standards.

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The European Union and the World: Impact and Value

We will will look at what the EU has developed in terms of culture, politics, and economics. The presentation looks at how the EU is of value to the world as well as its impact.

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A Journey through Iran

Iran’s exciting history, its extraordinary rich ethnic and religious diversity.

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Something I Want to Share

Here is a chance to have an attentive audience for your enthusiastic exposition of a topic that you find fascinating. You may already have a lot of information or you may be looking for an excuse to do more research.

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