“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way.
On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”
— Arundhati Roy
Professional & Collegial Competencies
The artefacts in this section were chosen to demonstrate a range of professional competencies and active engagement in my field of educational studies.
Image Source: Promotional photo from Netflix Canada, Television Show called The Chair.
10. CASAE & CASC, Board Membership
During the early part of my PhD, I joined two organizations that I thought could be helpful and relevant to the work I was looking to do. One was the Canadian Association for the Study of Adult Education (CASAE) and the other was the Canadian Association for the Study of Co-operation (CASC). I also became a board member for both these organizations, and while I have recently stepped down as such for CASC, I am still a board member for CASAE.
One of the key learning opportunities with both organizations was to help organize programming for the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences (the largest such gathering in Canada, and one of the largest such gatherings in the world) and another was to advocate for greater inclusion of BIPOC community members in Congress programming and participation.
I have been involved in organizing for conferences before, but learning more about Congress as a key way for academics to share and explore research and learnings was new to me. Both organizations did not have any staff at the time, so members did everything to organization their own conferences within Congress, and then to coordinate with Congress staff to ensure access to any that might be interested in attending different organizations events.
The first session I organized for CASC was a Roundtable event during Congress 2021 with Dr. Jessica Gordon-Nembhard, City University of New York and Dr. Sonja Novkovic, St. Mary’s University. The purpose of the event was to look at:
Developing Culturally Appropriate Learning Opportunities for Co-operative Development
How do we engage with more diverse communities as
a sector? How do we #buildbackbetter in a way that
promotes the co-op model as a tool for doing so? Who
is already doing work in this area? What does it mean
to create opportunities for learning that make sense for different communities? How can design thinking around 'extreme users' actually enable us to develop better and
more inclusive learning opportunities for everyone? What
does it mean to create culturally appropriate, safe, and
brave learning spaces that are more inclusive?
There is a recording of this event but unfortunately there was a technical problem and the visual recording was only of me. The audio recording though does include Dr. Gordon-Nembhard, Dr. Novkovic and other participants.
I was inspired to offer to help organize this session because of the experience with co-op learning Sobaz of iMOVe and a program participant had. The experience Sobaz and the participant had was not a good one as mentioned before. The instructors were mainly older, white men and almost all of the other participants were white. The materials featured were also euro-centric. This led to me thinking more needs to be done to include BIPOC people in the co-op movement in Canada.
Image Sources (top to bottom): Website Screen Shots, Social Sciences and Humanities Congress (https://www.federationhss.ca/en/congress/about-congress), Canadian Association for the Study of Adult Education (https://www.casae-aceea.ca/), Canadian Association for the Study of Co-operation (http://www.coopresearch.coop/)
Image Sources (top to bottom): Website Screen Shots, Social Sciences and Humanities Congress (https://www.federationhss.ca/en/congress/about-congress)
11. 2nd Congress Session
For Congress 2022, I suggested a joint panel and discussion event called:
Exploring Diverse Approaches of Curriculum to Support Broader Learning about Co-operation and Co-ops
In this interactive joint session co-hosted by the Canadian
Association for the Study of Co-operation (CASC) and the
Canadian Association for the Study of Adult Education
(CASAE), panellists will discuss and inquire together about
new approaches to curriculum that could enhance learning
about co-operation and co-ops within a community education
/ development context, and enhance inclusion of diverse
learners in these topics.
The panel guests I invited to this event included Dr. Ashwani Kumar (education professor at Mount Saint Vincent University, and expert in Meditative Inquiry as an approach to curriculum), Dr. Susan Brigham (also an education professor at MSVU, also familiar with Dr. Kumar’s work and an expert in africentric approaches to learning), and Sobaz Benjamin (Executive Director of iMOVe, filmmaker and writer/director of the NFB film ‘Race is a Four-letter Word’).
I had a meeting with the panellists before the event and told them why I had suggested the event for Congress (which was a way of building on the roundtable I had suggested the year before). In keeping with my learnings about Dr. Kumar’s work around meditative inquiry, I suggested that instead of prepared presentations, the panellists would speak in an in/non formal way to the topic.
The panellists then also suggested that they would limit their remarks to their own personal experiences (as they did not feel they knew enough about the topic and each others' work to speak more generally), and we discussed trying to make sure we would allow time for group discussion as well. In addition, I invited each panellist to share something artistic as part of their participation as a means to explore and share their thoughts beyond verbal expressions. Dr. Kumar shared some Indian music, Dr. Brigham shared an image that was important to her related to the Quakers, and Sobaz shared a recording of him doing Djembe drumming.
In the course of the planning conversation, it was also noted that I was the only white person and I was acting as host, in a position of power. I explained my goal was to be an ally and advocate ‘making space’ for this conversation to happen at Congress. To address this, we decided that I would say very little, that panellists would introduce themselves and they would continue one after the other with only a short introduction to the event and management of the discussion by myself. This was a great learning for me to about ‘making space’ for conversations such as this to take place, and for me to practice applying the principles of meditative inquiry I had been learning about from Dr. Kumar.
with Dr. Kumar
While I was still doing coursework for my PhD, I participated in the first of two conferences on meditative inquiry organized by Dr. Ashwani Kumar. I had taken Dr. Kumar’s course in the Fall 2020 and was very intrigued by his work related to meditative inquiry and how he was inspired by Indian philosopher and educator Jiddu Krishnamurti. In February 2021 I then attended a wonderful, online conference about Krishnamurti and the relevance of his teachings for ‘a world in crisis.’ The conference was very well organized for an online conference and I was able to attend all the events.
I think because I seemed so keen on the conference and on learning more about Krishnamurti and meditative inquiry, Dr. Kumar approached me after the event about writing a review of the conference. I did and it was published in the first issue of a new journal called Holistic Education Review. This was a great opportunity for me to be published, even though it was not a peer-reviewed article. I appreciated the opportunity to reflect on the event and offer my perspective on the importance and value of it.
In early summer 2022, Dr. Kumar invited me to prepare a presentation for another conference he was organizing with some of my fellow students based on his new book called ‘Engaging with Meditative Inquiry in Teaching, Learning and Research.’ This event was held in August 2022, and I designed and offered a session on the application of Dr. Kumar’s ideas on meditative inquiry as a practitioner in community development. I had already mentioned to Dr. Kumar that I was interested in exploring how meditative inquiry could be used to enhance learning in community related to community development and/or social movement learning. These were my primary areas of a practice as an adult educator, and now a key area of interest as well for my PhD research.
The title of my presentation (starting at about 12:58 in this recording) was:
We Know What We're Against, But What Are We For?
Meditative Inquiry in Practice in Community
This was the abstract I wrote for my presentation as part of the conference:
In her presentation, Community Development practitioner and
Educational Studies Ph.D. Student Laurie Cook will speak
about how Kumar's work on meditative inquiry in general
and the meditative inquiry collection — the focus of this conference
— could inform community development work and practice. In
particular, she will look at how meditative inquiry might be able
to inform the research she is doing related to inclusive economic development for marginalized and racialized people and communities
as part of a project funded by the Mitacs Accelerate Fellowship program. The organization Laurie will be working with for the next
three years as part of the Mitacs program, and speaking about, is
In My Own Voice (iMOVe) Arts Association. iMOVe uses cultural production to help people of African descent who have been
incarcerated to re-integrate into the community.
I also suggested Dr. Kumar create a website not just for this conference, but to enable access to other resources related to the work he was doing. This was the website that was created with help from other students.
The abstract I wrote for the publishing of the conference proceedings related to my presentation was as follows:
In her presentation, Laurie Cook spoke about how Kumar's work
on meditative inquiry in general and the work and perspectives
collected in Kumar’s new book, Engaging with Meditative Inquiry
in Teaching, Learning and Research, could inform community
development work and practice. In particular, she looked at how meditative inquiry might be able to inform the curriculum
development and research she is doing related to inclusive
economic development for marginalized and racialized people
and communities as part of a project with the community
organization In My Own Voice (iMOVe) and funded by the
Mitacs Accelerate Fellowship program.
iMOVe uses cultural production and the arts to help people of
African descent who have been incarcerated to re-integrate into
the community. This includes using a unique program developed
by iMOVe founder Sobaz Benjamin called The Kintsugi Monologues
for people to learn cultural production and film / television skills,
to be able to make a living in these industries, and to support
leadership skill development and systems change in these communities.
Some key points Cook looks at in her presentation is the challenge
UK community development practitioner and educator Margaret
Ledwith talks about which is the “political nature’ of the work of community developments; that it is “either perpetuating the status
quo or creating the context to question.” Cook then connects this
point by Ledwith with the nature of what meditative inquiry is
about according to Kumar as “the art of understanding oneself
[but also] one’s relationship to people and the world… [and as] an existential process through which each one of us discovers our own
truths [by] living wakefully, meditatively and creatively… with
people… and the world around us.”
Cook then talks about how she feels iMOVe is already starting
to use meditative inquiry methods in its curriculum, and has been
for many years, but there have not been the resources to document
what they have been doing. The Mitacs project will help Cook to document what iMOVe has already been doing, but also to do research
on how they can improve and expand on the work they are doing -
and how meditative inquiry could be used in a more intentional
way to help them accomplish their goals.
Another part of the project Cook talks about, and another way of applying meditative inquiry in relationship to it, will be to help
iMOVe develop learning opportunities to help teach others (in government, community, academia) about iMOVe’s unique approach, and why it is important as a means of helping people of African descent who have
been incarcerated to re-integrate into community.
Cook wraps up her presentation by suggesting some articles and books
such as Ledwith’s work, Community Work as Critical Pedagogy, Why
David Sometimes Wins by author Marshall Ganz, Putting the Active
into Activism by Braidotti, and Social Movement Learning: A
Canadian Tradition by Hall.
This was a very exciting opportunity for me to practice bringing together a variety of ideas I had been exploring in the PhD program so far, both theoretical and practical, and then sharing them with others in relation to the practice of meditative inquiry as an approach to learning. The more I have reflected on meditative inquiry, the more I see it as essential to the practice of adult education and learning in community that feels most important to me.
As a believer in 'radical' adult education and the importance of critical thinking, each time I'm asked to put something together for a presentation somewhere I get to reflect more and more on what I think is important for the practice of community development, inclusive community-based economic development and social movement learning as a means to create change in the world that creates a more connected, compassionate and equitable world.
Image Sources (top to bottom): Screen Shots, Meditative Inquiry Website (https://meditativeinquiry.wixsite.com/ashwanikumar), Photo, UBC Website (https://educ.ubc.ca/announcing-the-winners-of-the-2022-ubc-faculty-of-education-alumni-educator-of-the-year-award/), Photo, Booktopia Website (https://www.booktopia.com.au/curriculum-as-meditative-inquiry-ashwani-kumar/book/9781137320544.html), Kirshnamurti, Licensed Photo, Alamy Stock Photos.