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Wilfrid Laurier University Laurier Brantford
April 17, 2014
Canadian Excellence

Dr. Warrick and Dr. Farrugia signal that its been 10 years for Laurier Brantford
Dr. Warrick and Dr. Farrugia signal that its been 10 years for Laurier Brantford


Society, Culture, and Environment (formerly Contemporary Studies)

Looking back on 10 years with the faculty that began it all Dr. Gary Warrick and Dr. Peter Farrugia

Recruitment & Admissions Office - Brantford Campus

Apr 15/09

When the doors opened for the first time in 1999, there were two people who found their way to the front of the classroom as the first faculty hired at Laurier Brantford. Dr. Gary Warrick and Dr. Peter Farrugia fondly remember the early days, and continue to be strong members of the faculty at Laurier Brantford. As we look back on 10 years, Dr. Warrick and Dr. Farrugia share their memories.

Q) What is your memory of that first class, back in September 1999?

Dr. Warrick - The first lecture at Laurier Brantford is one that I will always remember. I was teaching the original "Grand River course" - CT110 - Regional Ecosystems. I think the class was scheduled for 9:30 - 10:30 am. The lecture was an introductory one and I was using overhead projector slides (pre-PowerPoint). Before teaching at Laurier Brantford, I had taught at the University of Toronto at Mississauga - their lecture timeslots started on the hour, not half hour. As I reached 9:55 am (I was already running over time but it did not matter because the students simply had to walk next door to their next class), I realized that I had not covered all of the introductory material. I apologized to the class about running overtime and told them that I would cover the remainder next class. They all looked puzzled with pens poised - I suddenly realized that I had another 30 minutes left. I asked them rhetorically - "I have another half hour don't I?"  Immediately, 39 heads nodded in the affirmative. After some laughter, I continued and finished the lecture. I am certain that some of the students thought to themselves - "Is this what all of our professors will be like?"

Dr. Farrugia - I remember being struck by the small size of our inaugural class and by its heterogeneity. There were students just out of highschool with middle aged people and some retirees. I remember thinking how strange it was lecturing on WWII when I had two veterans sitting in the front row of my class! I also recall being impressed with the fact that there were 40 people willing to be pioneers and launch into their academic careers at a completely new institution and in a unique program. 

Q) Were you optimistic about the future that first year?

Warrick - Laurier Brantford's first year was considered an experiment. After the first semester, the majority of the 39 students were considering transferring to the Waterloo campus or another university because they felt they were not having a full university experience. The future looked grim. I had taken a leave from my Ontario government job and I fully expected to be back in my office cubicle in Toronto the following September. Then something happened in the second semester, the students changed their mind on Laurier Brantford. More and more of them talked of staying for the following year. To this day, I don't know precisely what happened but I am glad that the students decided to stay. The rest is history.

Farrugia - I think that there was a point at which we were both worried about the viability of the Brantford campus early on. However, as Gary points out, there was a moment when the student body coalesced. It may have been the Christmas party that a number of us organized. It made everyone feel as though we were engaged together in a larger enterprise.

Q) When did the growth of the campus surprise you?

Warrick - The growth of the campus doubled in 2000-2001, and then doubled again in the following two years. I remember Leo Groarke (then Dean, currently Vice-President/Principal of the Brantford Campus) remarking to donors in the third year that if Laurier Brantford continued to double, in 2020 the entire population of Canada would be attending Laurier Brantford! Eventually, our growth slowed but for the first few years, the growth of the campus was astounding.

Farrugia - I am not sure that I would say that the growth of Brantford has surprised me. Given the modest numbers we initially attracted, we were bound to grow by large percentages. As we added new programs in Criminology, Concurrent Education, Journalism, etc. I believed that the model we were developing (applied programs surrounding the interdisciplinary core) was bound to attract students as it equipped our grads for the work world, for graduate studies and for participation in tehir communities upon graduation.

Q) Do you keep in touch with any of the original alumni?

Warrick - Occasionally, original alumni email or drop by my office. I have not been in touch with any of the original 39 for the past two years.

Farrugia - Jessica Rypma (nee Stephenson) is now teaching full time at Brier Park School, where my son, Michael is a student. I also bumped into Justin Sharp a couple of weeks ago at the CT Association sponsored Arts Night. He is in the process of completing an MA in Urban Studies at the University of Waterloo.

Q) Favourite memory of the past 10 years?

Warrick - One of my favourite but also most unforgettable memories is on September 11, 2001. In the afternoon, we held an open forum meeting in the downstairs of the Carnegie Building to provide an opportunity for students, staff, and faculty to talk about the horror of 9-11. There was an intense community feel and it felt like we were one big family sharing our feelings, worries, and hopes around the 9-11 event.

Farrugia - I have a couple that stand out. One is the re-enactments of student protest in 1968 that I have staged most years in CT100*/CT121. One year a  group of students portraying situationist intellectuals came to the front of the class and delivered an impassioned speech, after which the ringleader broke the paper chains they had created to symbolise the obstacles to real freedom.

The other is Guerilla Music. In the Spring of 2001 we organized a drumming event, the leadup to which included clandestinely placed posters with gorilla heads on them. Nobody knew exactly what was going on. On the night of the event, Dr. Groarke, Dr. Haller, Dr. Warrick and I, as well as student Gord Ross dressed up in gorilla costume and drummed for 3 hrs. The audience was free to join in as they pleased as we had buckets of sticks. I can still see Dr. Groarke playing various pieces of furniture with great enthusiasm!

Q) Your vision for the next 10 years?

Warrick - My vision for Laurier Brantford is that we will become known for our innovation in interdisciplinarity, both in the classroom and in research. I also see Laurier Brantford expanding to a campus of 3,500 students, adding two or three more buildings, including a library of our own.

Farrugia - I hope that we continue innovate at Laurier Brantford. I would like to see us explore pedagogies such as Problem Based Learning and Community Service Learning as we prepare our students, not only for the challenges of the workplace or graduate study, but also for the wider world. I hope that we never lose sight of the centrality of developing informed and engaged citizens to our mission here.

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