Jane Desmond discusses the resilience of international students juggling school, family separation, and travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Discover how trust and teasing are central to Oliver Masakure and Stacey Wilson-Forsberg’s interdisciplinary research collaborations. Alumni artist Shazlin Rahman shares how her work inspired by her grandmother, a batik sarong maker from Malaysia.
#13 If We Could Get a Bill from WhatsApp
June 22, 2020
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0:00 Interview with Jane Desmond, International Student Advisor, Laurier International
0:910 Interview with Oliver Masakure, Associate Professor, Business Technology Management and Stacey Wilson-Forsberg, Associate Professor, Human Rights and Diversity
20:44 Interview with Shazlin Rahman, Alumni, Digital Media and Journalism
To learn more about our host, Associate Professor Bruce Gillespie, Program Coordinator of Digital Media and Journalism.
Thank you to Melissa Weaver for One Market graphics and Nicole Morgan for campus promotion. Music by Scott Holmes.
To send feedback or volunteer to be a guest, please contact Bruce Gillespie (email@example.com) or Tarah Brookfield (firstname.lastname@example.org). Connect with us on Instagram andTwitter and Facebook. Never miss an episode! Sign up for an email reminder each time we release a new episode.
Bruce Gillespie 0:06
Welcome to One Market keeping the Laurier Brantford community connected. I'm Bruce Gillespie. This is Episode 13. This week we hear an update about how international students who weren't able to leave Canada before the borders closed are coping. Then, we speak with two professors about their productive and unique research partnership, much of which takes place over WhatsApp. Then, we check in with one of our alumni about an art project inspired by her grandmother who was a batik sarong maker. All that and more coming up on this episode of One Market.
Our first guest is Jane Desmond, Laurier Brantford's international student advisor. When Canada, like much of the rest of the world, closed its borders in March, some of our international students were unable to return home to their families. So, I started by asking Jane, how many international students ended up staying in Brantford, and how they're making out?
Jane Desmond 1:07
We have quite a few students locally. Many of them have transitioned from the residents into off campus homes. Other ones, they, as you said, they have been unable to return home to their own countries due to their own countries having closed the borders, or the unavailability of flights. So, we are still providing the support to them here.
Bruce Gillespie 1:37
So, from what you've been hearing from students, what's that experience been like for them?
Jane Desmond 1:43
Yeah, it's been a box of surprises, I'd say, like, there is so much to learn, so many things that they have to learn and adapt to, they have to get going on their resilience. They have to deal with, not only with the pandemic issues that we are facing every day, they are also having to deal with all this current racial frictions that we are seeing. So, yeah, there are lots that they're dealing with right now.
Bruce Gillespie 2:23
No kidding. And it must be even harder to have to deal with that so, for many of them, so far away from home away from your family support systems.
Jane Desmond 2:31
Yes. Yeah. It's really challenging, I believe. And that's why we're trying to, as much as possible, to remain connected, and to provide the support they need as we continue forward towards the fall.
Bruce Gillespie 2:50
And that's great because, normally when students are looking for support from Laurier International, they'd probably come see you in person because, as of this year, you have a great big, beautiful office and the One Market building on campus that you probably haven't been in in months. But, so I assume like everybody else, you've had to transition all of those support services to a remote model.
Jane Desmond 3:09
Yes, yes, we love our office, but we haven't been there in many, many months now. So, it feels atleast like we haven't been there many months. So, yeah, but we still continue to see students virtually we have meetings set up, we have webinars that we put for students to attend. And this setup, this package kind of provides to their needs in the immediate term.
Bruce Gillespie 3:43
Now, you're doing sort of this the formal advising you've always done, but I understand you're also sort of doing some more laid back programming.
Jane Desmond 3:50
Yeah, we've always done because we try to focus on regulation. So, we do a lot of immigration webinars dealing with their documents because we need those to be always current. We also deal with some other events, but we can't host those events in person. So, you're trying to kind of have a certain form of normalcy by having like the Coffee Club, which is a program we we host every week, several days a week, on a weekly basis. Or we have also Speak, which is another program that students are invited to attend, so they can talk and they can, kind of, engage with each other in a free environment where they can discuss pretty much everything, you know. And they can also find the support of the Laurier International community as they go along.
Bruce Gillespie 4:52
That's great. I mean, obviously as we're all learning, Zoom meetings are not the same as meeting people in person, but it's nice to be able to try to replicate that, sort of, social, personal experience in some way online.
Jane Desmond 5:03
Yeah, it's definitely difficult to replicate or to, yeah, to exchange the face to face engagement that we usually have, you know, through a Zoom meeting. But, at this time, it's really necessary that we all work together with a set goal in mind, and we are going to keep and stand firm, so that this can come to fruition. So, we are really working hard to keep our sanity while we do that.
Bruce Gillespie 5:36
I think we're all in that boat these days. Students had until last week to accept their offers at the beginning of June. So, now, this is the time of year when you folks, I guess just like us, are starting to look at you know, questions about registration and the fall. Are you changing any programming you would normally do this time of year?
Jane Desmond 5:56
Well, we are, as many of the other departments on campus, we are trying to adapt, so that we can try to deliver a set of programming that is as relevant and authentic as possible to our, to the community. But, yeah, we have had to adapt and we are still as we look forward towards the fall, we are constantly in meetings to make sure that we get it right, so that our students are well served, well supported through this time of great transition and uncertainties at times.
Bruce Gillespie 6:36
I'm not surprised to hear that because, as I mentioned to you before we started, the feedback I hear from our students who are from international places is always that the supports they receive from the staff and programming at Laurier International is always top notch. We always hear nothing but glowing reviews about you folks, so I'm not at all surprised to hear that you're deep in the planning about what comes next.
Jane Desmond 6:56
Yeah, it never stops to amaze me, the quality, and the camaraderie, and the support we have as a team and how we work together. And in fact, because of this pandemic, we had to, kind of, come together even more. And now we are even closer because we are constantly meeting. So, usually I am at Laurier Brantford by myself, yes, I do connect with them, but it's not as closely as I am right now. So, I think our students are getting the benefits of this constant interactions with a great group of people. And they are so devoted to really serving our students, and I'm so proud to be part of Laurier International at this time.
Bruce Gillespie 7:49
That's great. What are you hearing from students about the fall? Are they, sort of, excited? Are they still, sort of, wondering what everything's gonna look like? What's the, what's the sense you're getting from them?
Jane Desmond 7:59
It's a set of mixed emotions because we don't really know what is going to happen in the fall, everything is like a day to day, information is changing, and even the directives, what we need to do, is changing so constantly. So, many students, they are still in that phase of, "What am I going to do towards the fall? How is the fall going to look like for me? Am I going to going to stay home and complete my semester through online learning, staying home? Or am I going to travel back to Canada and still carry on my studies here?" So, yeah, some students will definitely stay home, some other ones will continue their program on campus, but in a virtual mode. But, I also hear a lot of resilience in their voices and they are coming together, they are stepping up to support each other. So, we hear lots of interesting stories in that sense.
Bruce Gillespie 9:09
That's great to hear. Jane, thank you so much for telling us about this today. It was great to speak with you.
Jane Desmond 9:14
Thank you so much for having me.
Bruce Gillespie 9:17
Our next guests are Stacey Wilson-Forsberg and Oliver Masakure. Stacy teaches in the Human Rights and Human Diversity program, while Oliver teachers in Business Technology Management with a part time cross appointment to HRHD. We wanted to talk to them because they have a very fruitful research partnership and a unique way of working. But, before we get to that, I asked them how they started working together in the first place.
Stacey Wilson-Forsberg 9:44
I guess, I think it was 2014 with Edward Shiza, and we got together to put a grant in, the original SSHRC grant that we put in, an insight development grant looking at The educational outcomes of African youth, male youth primarily, in Ontario. We put that grant in together, I guess we started it in 2014, and I think we've been writing grants and writing journal articles, and revising journal articles ever since. Right, Oliver?
Oliver Masakure 10:19
Absolutely. Prior to working with Stacey, I worked with also with Chris Gadd on the performance of transfer students, and we look particularlyat Laurier Brantford. And that project actually excited me so much because, you know, transfer students tend to do very well. So, when Stacey said, "Oh, let's work on this." You know, I'd already studied working on education as well.
Bruce Gillespie 10:46
Tarah and I both heard you talk about how you guys work together in the past. For those folks who don't know how you work together, could you explain how this relationship works?
Stacey Wilson-Forsberg 10:56
The Stacey Oliver method, huh?.
Bruce Gillespie 10:58
Exactly, the Stacey-Oliver method.
Stacey Wilson-Forsberg 11:01
We actually, I talk about this a lot at home with my husband because I just, I'm always going on about how well we work together, we're like a machine. And I think, I'm very, I have to write everything down. Like, I can't even think unless I write things down. Whereas Oliver is very verbal, he has to talk everything out. So, we spend a lot of time on the phone. When we're actually on campus, we spend a lot of time together, having coffee, always brainstorming. And usually once we get something roughly onto paper, we're just constantly going back and forth, and back and forth. And talking everything out, and it works really, really well, the way we do things.
Oliver Masakure 11:53
And an interesting way we also do things is, like Stacey said, we talk a lot on the phone, but I think if we could get a bill from WhatsApp on how much we spend time, it would be a lot. So, we spend a lot of time just talking, and you know, when we have ideas, we just call each other. And because we are from different disciplines, backgrounds, we tend to bring in different perspectives. But, we we're also hard on each other. I mean, we tend to tear apart each other's writing, but it's all good. I mean, because we know the, you know, the goal is to improve both the ideas, and the writing, and the product. We also do a lot of, we consult, a lot. I mean, we talk to teachers about what we're doing and whether it's, you know, it's the right approach. And so, we can do lots of different things.
Stacey Wilson-Forsberg 12:51
Yeah, yeah. No, and I had to think about how, you know, how is it we work together? But, I think Oliver can write an entire journal article over WhatsApp. It's, it's constant. But, the other thing with Oliver being an economist with more of a quantitative background, and my backgrounds mixed, I mean, I have sociology, I have Spanish literature, you name it. I tend to be more vague, my writing tends to be sometimes journalistic, but sometimes kind of flowery and metaphors, whereas Oliver is very precise, and very meticulous. And he'll go through things word by word by word, and he'll yell at me when he doesn't like the word, or will argue about it. But, by the time something goes in, whether it's a, we have a grant proposal going in this week, to SSHRC, it's impressive because there's not one word in that sentence that's not supposed to be there if Oliver's been at it.
Bruce Gillespie 13:52
To me, this is what's amazing about how well this research relationship works then, because in many ways, you sound like complete opposites. But, you might, sort of, look at on paper and think, you know, these two would never actually be able to partner effectively.
Stacey Wilson-Forsberg 14:03
Yeah, it's amazing, and there's also a lot of trust, I think.
Oliver Masakure 14:08
Stacey Wilson-Forsberg 14:09
And I mean, you know, we know that working in teams, you always have to put a lot of trust that the person is going to do what they say they're going to do.
Oliver Masakure 14:19
Stacey Wilson-Forsberg 14:20
That they're reliable. And the way, Oliver tends to work in the evenings, especially now because he's with his children. I tend to work in the mornings. And I always know that when I stop working and I'm too tired in the evening, the ball goes to his court, I wake up the next morning and he's got the draft back to me. And there's no discussion, it just automatically happens. We know that we're always going to do what we say we're going to do, and it works. It works really well. And Oliver mentioned partnerships as well, we are always, our research is community engaged research. We're dealing with primarily African families with refugee backgrounds. We've got a couple of non-governmental organizations involved, before the lockdown. We were running around a lot to different organizations, and we both enjoyed that. I think we're both pretty extroverted people, and we don't do well in an office all the time.
Bruce Gillespie 15:19
Fair enough. Oliver, can you tell us about some of the recent projects you've been working on with Stacey?
Oliver Masakure 15:25
Yeah, so we've been working on, as Stacey mentioned, you know, the experiences of African immigrants, both refugees, and also those born in Canada anyway, how do they progress in school? What issues they face? And the role of, you know, teachers, and particularly the role of parents at home? And it's interesting, because as a parent, these things are always running through your mind. And, you know, you're terrified. And, you know, yeah, I should say, this research on education, it has been the most one directly, you know, wakes me up at night, because I'm a parent, right? Whereas my other research particularly on, for example, innovation, I don't have direct contact with people, I just use secondary data. So, this one is particularly intense, but also the most rewarding in the sense that, you know, when you get a grant, or when you're speaking to your students, or the parents, there's a direct reflection of yourself as well, in the research. You know, it's, it's, it's just one of those research research streams where you think, "Wow, am I a participant? Or am I a researcher?" Yeah.
Bruce Gillespie 16:48
Do you two have advice for other, you know, researchers who are looking to work together and how to make these kinds of partnerships work? Or, even for students who are doing group work and trying to get different personalities to work? What kind of advice do you have for other people to work together?
Oliver Masakure 17:02
Well, I think working with people across disciplines is always a challenge. But, I think the most important advice would be just trust each other's you know, input, trust each other's criticism, do not take it personal, right? The end goal is to improve your work, to improve your analysis, to improve your understanding of the issues that you're trying to investigate. And those different perspectives, at some point are going to converge, right? It's just a question of sometimes methodology, sometimes even the language we use, right, may be different. For example, Stacey mentioned that I am particular with, and I like things that are precise. And Stacey is more a (unclear) person, I guess. But, at the end of the day, we are saying the same thing. It's just a question of how are we putting it across? So, yeah, I think it's just, trust each other's inputs, and that's how I think. But also, make sure you keep to deadlines, right? I mean, one of the things that Stacey and I push each other is, we're always reminding each other that we have this thing coming up. And as parents, we are also busy, right? But, we also make sure that we don't miss any deadline. I mean, we don't have any excuses whatsoever.
Stacey Wilson-Forsberg 18:28
Yeah, absolutely. And actually, that reminded me of advice that, yeah, handling constructive criticism, for sure. And yeah, we go after each other a lot with constructive criticism, but in a funny way, we tease each other a lot as well. And also having that room to always brainstorm. I mean, it's unbelievable how we can be writing a grant or writing a journal article, and then all of a sudden, we have a whole other idea for something else. There was one point we were meeting for coffee to discuss cutting down on our work, actually, I needed to cut down on my work in the fall, and we ended up outlining a whole new SSHRC grant with a pencil on a napkin.
Bruce Gillespie 19:10
Well, that didn't work very well.
Stacey Wilson-Forsberg 19:11
Yeah, no, it didn't. But, having that room to even, coming from different disciplines and different methods, and style of doing things, being able to sit down and be creative and come up with ideas.
Bruce Gillespie 19:26
That's great. Well, it's clearly a partnership that's working well for you. And I think a nice, sort of, example of the of the ethos at the heart of Laurier Brantford, which is all about interdisciplinarity, you guys are showing that and living that.
Oliver Masakure 19:38
We try. We try, it's not the easiest of things that, you know, because I mean, for us, it's just what Stacey says, you know, I question it. What I say, she questions it. And so, what's important is to recognize those ideas can be different, but there's also so much intersectionality, right? And just making sure that we stay on track. We don't give ourselves excuses about why we don't do.
Stacey Wilson-Forsberg 20:11
Oliver Masakure 20:12
Yeah. So, that's important.
Bruce Gillespie 20:15
This is great. It's been wonderful to get deeper insight into the Stacey and Oliver method. Hopefully we can try to apply it in our own lives. Thank you both for talking to us today.
Oliver Masakure 20:24
You're very welcome.
Stacey Wilson-Forsberg 20:25
Thank you, Bruce.
Bruce Gillespie 20:27
Our final guest is Shazlin Rahman. Shazlin graduated from the Digital Media and Journalism program, and is a communications and community engagement specialist at the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting. But, in her off hours, she's an artist working on a project inspired by the work of her late grandmother, who was a batik sarong maker in Malaysia. I started by asking Shazlin to tell us a little bit about her grandmother.
Shazlin Rahman 20:53
So, my grandmother, I call her mok, m-o-k, which is, like, the Kelantanese slang for mother. I didn't quite get to have an adult relationship with her. And after moving here, and, you know, having my own adult questions about life, I find myself turning more and more to her, and thinking about what she would do in different situations. And it would present really interesting hypothetical situations in my mind, because my life is so different than hers. But, what I found from her life, like, from talking to my mom, and my aunts, and other relatives who knew her, she was a trailblazer, she did things very differently than what people around her did. And she did so many things to support the family and to raise and educate her daughters. And that's what I find most inspiring about her. Like, I find myself just turning back to her and finding inspiration from her life. And part of the, some of the things that I found about her, found out about her was that she used to make batik sarongs, which is, you know, clothing item that Malay women wear as a bottom, it's like a skirt.
And it was, you know, almost serendipitous because at first I found that my mom had a few of my grandmother's batik sarongs with her that she took after my grandmother passed away. And then, as I dug around for more stories, I learned from my mom and my aunt that my grandmother used to make batik sarongs herself. And it was that, like, kind of, work from home industry that she did that finally helped her accrue, you know, surplus income that eventually helped the family out of their generations long cycle of poverty. And so, a couple years ago, as part of my Her Sarong project, I went home and was going through her stuff at her house and meeting with relatives, and I found this huge stash of batik sarongs that she left behind, they were just sitting in a cupboard in her house, which my uncle and his family lives in now. So, I just hauled all of that back with me to Toronto. I couldn't bear to leave any of them behind, and there was, it was a range, like, there were some that were still brand new, and the colors were still fresh and crisp. Meaning that she never really wore them. And then, there were a couple that I grew up seeing her wear them.
Bruce Gillespie 23:31
Oh, so you remembered some of them?
Shazlin Rahman 23:32
Yeah, so I remember, there were a couple that she really loved. And me and my cousin's, like, we remember her wearing those and washing them and drying them, and then wearing them again. And they're completely worn out, the colors are faded, and the material is so soft. Some of them are, you know, patched here and there because she, you know, she kept fixing them and wearing them. So, I have all of them here with me. And I would just take them out occasionally to find some ideas and inspiration to create my own artwork. The kind of artwork that I create is very distinct from the batik sarongs that she had. And definitely very different from the batik sarongs that she would have made when she was younger. But, I still feel like it's still part of the same thread from, like, the work that she did to provide for the family, to the kind of artwork that I'm now inspired to make.
Bruce Gillespie 24:34
So, a couple of years ago when you went back to look to your grandmother's house and her things, you actually had a documentary made about you and this project, which is great. And we actually were able to screen it on campus a couple years ago. It was so much fun to have you back in to see the story come to life. And one of the things that really struck me was, you know, we're used to thinking of, or I guess I'm used to thinking of this, kind of, clothing based piecework as being something that you would have to do for money. That you wouldn't, sort of, find any sort of art in, that it's something you did solely as a means of making income. But, what we see through your photographs, certainly, and through the documentary film was how much of an artistic project it is, I mean, these batiks are just beautiful. They're artworks in and of themselves, they're not at all what I think of when it I think about piecework.
Shazlin Rahman 25:23
Yeah, absolutely. And you wouldn't think that if you went to see the workshops, where Malay women work to produce these batiks pieces as well. And I was just blown away by the pieces that they were producing, in such informal and often uncomfortable environments. I mean, the workshops are just basically sheds with a roof over top and all the equipment and the all the fabric underneath. And, you know, this is Malaysian weather, and it's hot and humid all the time.
Bruce Gillespie 25:55
Shazlin Rahman 25:56
But, each piece is just, you know, an incredible piece of work, because these women, and it's interesting the division of labor there as well. So, men typically are the ones who draw the motifs in the fabric. And then, once the the the motifs have dried, and then the women will come and take over and colour them. And they all, you know, they all use their own judgment and their own colour palettes to fill in the blanks and bring this piece of fabric to the finish line. And you can see how, like, each of them have a very discerning taste and judgment, and what colours go together, and what kind of hues they want to use, and the kind of look that they want to create overall for that piece. And then, over top, like, they also have other constraints, like, they need to finish everything within a certain period of time, right? So, they need to finish colouring within a day, before noon, because they need that long period of time for the colours to dry naturally in the sun, right? So, everything needs to be completed before noon. And then, there's also the restrictions, the constraints from the workshop owners themselves, like, they don't want to use, like, a lot of colours or strong hues throughout each piece.
Bruce Gillespie 27:22
Shazlin Rahman 27:23
Because they want to be economical, right? So, there are these extra constraints that these women are juggling on top of finishing each piece on their own. So, you know, it's phenomenal the kind of work, the kind of pieces that they complete. And then, additionally when you take into consideration, like, none of them have any kind of formal training, everything just happens informally. And then, they typically go into the work as they need to or as they can, right? So, if they need work, the one workshop that I visited for a couple of days and spoke to the woman there, the owner, who was also a woman, was just really incredibly wise and very kind hearted lady and she was, you know, she you can see the relationship between her and the women who worked in her workshop are very familial.
And she talks about how they would work at her workshop for as long as they want to, or as long as they can. And then, they might, you know, have a baby, or they have, you know, some changes in their life circumstances and they will go away. And then, when they need that extra income, they come back and they just, you know, work again in her workshop. So, it's all very informal. So, you wouldn't, you know, it's not like they're artisans and they have the time and space to dedicate to working on their craft for a significant period of time, righ? So, they're doing this very informally as well. So, like when you take into consideration all of those things that are happening at the same time, and you look at the pieces they create it's really mind blowing.
Bruce Gillespie 29:10
It's a fascinating story. And I am struck by the fact that he said that, you know, men are typically the ones who would create the designs and the women are the ones who would sort of colour and paint them, because in the the artwork that you do, which are, you'll correct me if I'm wrong, because I'm not going to talk about it properly. But, they're gorgeous pen and ink, freehand line drawings and have this beautiful, sort of, they're organic, but sort of geometric at the same time, but it seems to me that as someone who's been following your work, that until recently, you were mostly just doing black and white kind of stuff. And you've only recently started incorporating colour into your own pieces.
Shazlin Rahman 29:46
Yeah, so I think I'm just, like, a typical, I don't know, very self conscious and very highly critical of my own art, and I was not confident enough to use colour in the beginning. But, I keep wanting to bring more and more of my grandmother's sarongs into my my art, and eventually I come to the conclusion that, you know, there is no other way to do that besides, like, venturing boldly into using more colours in my own artwork. So, that's when I started using colors, and I feel great. And I created a few pieces that are really colourful, and it's based on this faded batik sarong that my grandmother used to wear a lot. The colour is really, the colours are all really faded, but I can imagine, like, they would have been a lot more vibrant when they were newer, and that's what I've tried to replicate in some of the newer pieces that I've created. It's quite satisfying. Initially, I was really constrained by this idea of trying to replicate my grandmother's batik sarongs and I don't think, I eventually had to break free of those constraints because it was not, you know, not realistic.
And also, not how I want to authentically bring my grandmother's batik sarongs into my art. And it also just reminds me of how, like, the one of the stories that I get from my aunt about how my grandmother used to colour batik as part of her work from home, was that, like, again, they had very limited range of colors. And she had to really stretch her creativity to make use of all those colours. And she, you know, she alongside my mother and my two aunts, they all worked on making those batik sarongs, they actually develop new techniques. They figured out how to mix colours and create shading in the pieces, which was not what, not commonly done at the time. And it was kind of risky, because if they ruin the fabric, then they don't make any money from that, right? So, I just started to remember, like, my grandmother, even in her colouring and making this batik sarong, she also took risks. Even though, you know, the risk was really high, and she would have lost significant income if things went wrong, but she still did it, and she produced some really creative and original work in her time. So, I try to remember that and carry that into my work.
Bruce Gillespie 32:24
Well, It's a lovely way to keep those traditions alive. So, thank you so much for telling us about them today.
Shazlin Rahman 32:29
Bruce Gillespie 32:30
If you'd like to see some of Shazlin's art and photography, you can visit her website at hersarong.com.
And that's a wrap. Thanks for joining us. We hope it's helped you feel a little more connected to the Laurier Brantford community. As we head toward the end of our first season later this June, we're already starting to think about our second season, launching in late summer, just in time for the new school year, and we'd love your feedback. What have you liked about One Market? What would you like to see more of? You can share your thoughts by taking a very short online survey, and you can find a link on Twitter or Facebook @onemarketlb. We'll be back with a new episode in about a week. One Market was created and produced by Bruce Gillespie and Tarah Brookfield. Music by Scott Holmes, graphics by Melissa Weaver. Thanks for listening. Keep in touch.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai