The four month work-study leave funded by the fellowship was to undertake university courses related to Third World issues particularly involving refugees and immigration.
I chose the University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario at which to do the fellowship for several reasons.
The first was that there are many suitable courses at UWO which relate to the Third World. Secondly, UWO Graduate School of Journalism Professor Andy MacFarlane provided the necessary academic approval by giving me the splendid title of “visiting scholar”. And, thirdly, UWO is 3,000 miles from my home province and offered a chance to learn about Ontario at the same time as studying.
Due to work commitments at the Vancouver Sun, the fellowship was undertaken from March 1 to June 30 which meant diving mid-stream into the March Courses which had started in January.
However, this proved to be no serious problem because all the professors provided reading lists and it was not too difficult to catch up with the major background of the courses.
The courses I audited starting March 1 were: Politics of Africa, Politics of the Middle East, International Politics, Politics of the Environment, and Intelligence, Subversion and Terrorism. All five of these courses were in the political science department. The course on terrorism was undertaken because it was useful background on the Sikh situation in Canada.
Unfortunately two geography department courses, one on developing countries and the other on Latin America, conflicted in timing with the other courses and could not be fitted in. However, Professor William Osei and Professor Harry Taylor, who taught these courses, both gave me lengthy interviews and provided reading lists.
As a necessary change of pace from all the politics and Third World, I also did two courses in a Western Literature and Civilization interdisciplinary program which included Marxist and Existential literature, and a music and art survey 1500 to 1900.
Then, of course, there were all the public lectures which a university offers and I went to about 20. These included lectures such as In Search of a Middle East Solution by Prof. James Graff recently returned from Gaza, a Forum on Refugee Determination, and a two-day lecture series on development with talks on non-government organizations, famine and medical aid.
I would particularly like to mention the assistance of Professor Robert Henderson who works jointly in political science and journalism. He has spent many years in third world countries and gave me a sort of “directed reading” program at the suggestion of Prof. MacFarlane.
This assistance, which included daily discussions, was made possible by the kindness of the Graduate School of Journalism. Although Ii was not, of course, taking any journalism courses, the school took me in as “one of the family” and gave me office space left vacant by a professor on sabbatical. Apart front the fact that this gave me a warm place to read between classes in the winter, It was great to have a “home” on campus. Without this, I might have felt a little lost at UWO because the Michener Fellowship is a one-man-band. Thanks to journalism, I was never at a loss for an office, a telephone, and lively company.
In an attempt to say thank you, I addressed one of the journalism classes, giving an informal lecture on reporting for daily newspapers. I invited the students to drop in to see me for a chat at any time and they took me up on the offer. So it was great to be able to help up-and-coming reporters at the same time as studying.
In the summer semester, I did an intensive daily course offered by the sociology department called Population Studies. It was a comprehensive look at population changes throughout the world and was most helpful in the areas of refugees and immigration.
In the second semester I also took part in a three-day conference on Canadian-American relations sponsored by UWO’s Centre for American Studies. This was not directly related to my field of study but it was extremely interesting and I attended at the invitation of the Centre director.
While in London I also visited the Cross Cultural Learner centre which offers an amazingly large program of refugee aid and education about the Third World. It’s the largest centre of its kind in Canada and refugee resettlement in this country would be much easier for everyone if there were more such places.
And in case you get the impression, that the fellowship was all work and no play, I can assure you this was not the case. I enormously enjoyed south-western Ontario including canoeing on the River Thames, King Lear at Stratford, hikes at the University of Toronto farm on the Niagara escarpment, and exploration of the Mennonite villages around Elmira.
It was a wonderful experience and I am most grateful to the Michener Foundation.