New program puts arts to work

by Ty Stapleton

Alexia Riche, a second-year student from Mauritius, joined the UPEI faculty of arts in 2016 to study in the Diversity and Social Justice Studies (DSJS) program with the dream of becoming a lawyer. 

This year, she has added even more skills and a clearer path to her dream by double majoring in both DSJS and the new Applied Communication, Leadership, and Culture program. 

“I was accepted here at UPEI, and because I want to become a lawyer, the DSJS program seemed very interesting to me," she said. "And in my second year, I learned more about the ACLC program, and I liked the communication and leadership aspect where you really work on these skills.” 

Courses in the Applied Communication, Leadership, and Culture program examine the history, purpose, and uses of a Liberal Arts education, while focusing on communication, leadership, and culture. ACLC students examine ties between community engagement, citizenship, and social responsibility while gaining technical digital literacy skills. 

“Class discussions, in-class activities, and guest speakers prompt our students to think about their work in terms of application,” said Dr. Kate Scarth, who teaches the first-year ACLC courses Digital Literacy and Putting Arts to Work. “We’ve had speakers from community organizations talk to the class about their own educational and career backgrounds and make the communication and leadership skills and experience more explicit.” 

Second-year student Alex MacIsaac had completed a year of university study in Ontario, but was looking to apply his love of writing and shift his academic focus. 

“I’ve always enjoyed writing and all of English class in high school, and it was where I excelled. The ACLC program looked to be a more practical application of communication skills, which was exactly what I was looking for, and that drew me to the program.” 

As students progress through the ACLC major, their third- and fourth-year courses focus on experiential learning and completing projects related to communication, leadership, and culture. Students seek out corporate and community groups to work on real initiatives that benefit the public and complete a fourth-year placement for additional on-the-job experience. Throughout the program, ACLC students maintain a close relationship with program faculty and advisors to explore the many available career paths. 

“We use consultative mentorship to determine students’ goals for the program,” says Lisa Chilton, ACLC program director. “As students’ perspectives change throughout their academic studies, our program adapts to meet their expectations for employment.” 

Alexia is already starting to see the benefits of her ACLC classes. She’s hoping to apply the valuable skills she’s learning to a future career in law and human rights advocacy. 

“In my DSJS courses, I’m reading the material, listening to lectures, and learning about facts and developing ways of thinking, but with the applied skills of ACLC it’s about ‘how am I going to use what I’m learning and this way of thinking later? How am I going to develop and adapt what I learn and apply it to my workplace setting?’”

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