Reflections on a Sheridan Trip to India

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— Ronni Rosenberg

This evening, I was driving on my customary 401 route home from Sheridan, freshly returned from a ten day trip to India. Even in thick traffic, driving in Canada is a comfortable, upholstered affair. It was an acute point of reference. India feels like a country on the move, the city streets clogged with people, animals, bicycles, motorbikes and cars.  When you take to the highways–usually two-lane thoroughfares–every driver is an active agent in the high-speed choreography of the roads. As a passenger, you physically feel the human force and wit that constantly powers and maneuvers the vehicle you are traveling in, sidling, skirting, and avoiding head-on collisions every few minutes. Driving in India is active physical movement and instinct—not an auto-piloted commute.

India’s people are graceful and gracious, their languages laced with English. It is easy to feel an affinity with them. Sheridan is rigorously and successfully recruiting students from India, particularly from the Punjab. On this particular trip, we were a delegation of six. We visited high schools, colleges and universities to recruit students, and to develop program articulations. These were rare and fascinating glimpses into Punjabi culture, through their educational system.

We also hosted a number of pre-departure orientations for students poised to emigrate to Canada, via a Sheridan education. These events were truly moving: students arrived with friends and families. The excitement, aspirations, anxieties were palpable. Sheridan did a remarkable job of presenting essential information, allaying anxieties in an atmosphere of familial warmth and humour.

Richard Finch provided a number of memorable memes that students will forever associate with Sheridan, but probably mostly with Richard. Asking them how they imagined one greeted a fellow student once in Canada, he acted out –repeating multiple times–the classic Canadian style greeting: “Hey” pause “how ya doin’?” This became his hilarious signature line; there were others.

For the concept and execution of these recruitment and orientation expeditions, we must credit Sheridan’s International team, led by the truly game-changing and indefatigable Drew Ness. Drew and his team  have driven the phenomenal growth of international student enrolment in Sheridan’s Faculty of Animation, Arts and Design— up 81% since 2011!

On this trip we were also joined by his outstanding team of (uber-fixer) Anuraj Bajwa and the ebullient Rama Ishak. At the end of the pre-departure orientation event, Anuraj planned the surprise entry of a local Indian drummer duo, who surprised everyone with a sudden booming on their Punjabi dhol drums. At which point, everyone broke into Punjabi dance circles. It was a heady moment.

Danielle Palombi, Manager of Library Tutoring Services, had prepared an outstanding presentation on academic integrity and copyright issues. When she fell acutely ill from the invasion of an Indian super-bug, we had the rare opportunity of experiencing the private India health care system at extreme close-up. Due to our existing relationship with the private clinic INSCOL, Anuraj was able to line up instantaneous front-line care. We were greeted by the clinic owner, nurses and GPs on an emergency night visit and they gave her first-rate care, barely superlative enough to describe their gracious and expert solicitousness. They patched and repaired her with fairly immediate results, and even met her the next day for follow-up.

We also visited the National Institute of Design in Ahmedebad to explore a different kind of relationship, built on shared faculty passions, expertise and research. This is a remarkable Indian institution, created in the 1960s to promote Indian design. They do so by working closely with indigenous artisanal crafts, as well as introducing and innovating design through emerging technologies. Almost entirely, their programs parallel the programs we offer in the Faculty of Animation, Arts and Design.

This coming February, Chris Walsh will be leading a workshop in Stop-Motion Animation as part of their “Open Elective” series that hosts experts from around the globe leading a huge range of lectures and workshops. With Chris leading the way, we hope to build faculty relationships that will promote exchanges and shared projects. This kind of international exchange of ideas, expertise and friendship will enrich our faculty and further internationalize the Faculty of Animation, Arts and Design.

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