WLU culture panel discusses campus-city dynamics

On Jan. 9, Wilfrid Laurier University hosted a panel to discuss what culture means at Laurier and how the campus can become more connected to the City of Waterloo. The presentation of the panel was a joint effort between Laurier’s Office of Research Services, the City of Waterloo Culture Plan and the Wilfrid Laurier Press.

The moderator for the panel was Beth Rajnovich from the community and culture services with the City of Waterloo.

Lee Willingham, director of the Laurier Centre for Music, discussed the university as a culture creator through research and exploration. Not only does the university create culture, it transmits culture and allows for a blending of cultures.

“The role of the university is that of culture builder, culture bearer and culture broker,” said Willingham.

Lisa Quinn, acquisitions editor for the Laurier Press, discussed students becoming more involved within the community of Waterloo.

“We, as a university community need to seek out ways that we can go out into the community rather than asking the community to come to us,” she told the audience.

Suzanne Luke, curator at the Robert Langen Art Gallery, explained that there are already ties between the Waterloo arts community and Laurier. It is arranged so artists come into classrooms in order to supplement the lecture material with a visual arts perspective.

“In 2006 … we no longer [had] a fine arts program, so all our exhibitions are linked to non arts related programs,” she explained.

Quinn continued, saying that the goal of bringing the arts into classrooms is to make students more well-rounded and allow them to contribute to the community later in life.

Stephen Preece, associate professor in the school of business and economics, sees the Waterloo community as “fragmented.”

“We have communities that keep to themselves,” he said.

Preece said he sees a need for the community of Waterloo to become more linked together through smaller communities.

He commented on the need to extend opportunities for students to be exposed to the arts in the waterloo community and a partnership with the City of Waterloo and Laurier would be better able to provide that for students than the university alone.

“If we haven’t provided students with a ready opportunity to experience the greatest there is in music, theatre, dance [and] multimedia visual art,” he said. “If we haven’t given them that opportunity we’ve failed as a university.”

Preece continued, saying it is necessity for Laurier to partner with the City in order to provide more options for students to experience culture.

“Can we bridge into the community and partner with the community and with the city and think about ways to make that happen?” he asked. “I think there are a huge number of opportunities.”

Paige Sillaby, an assistant and intern for the WLU Aboriginal Student Centre, participated in the panel to provide her view of the Laurier community and her experiences with the culture of campus.

“When the topic came up, I thought of culture and the way I view it is in ethnical background,” she said. “I still feel fairly new to Laurier and Waterloo community, I’ve only been here three years; it’s an ongoing process”