The Terry Project in 2011/2012: A Year of Change

The past academic year has been a tremendous one for the Terry Project. We have met innumerable people who are passionately involved in the pursuits that inspire them — be that climate justice, gender inequality, journalism, history, graphic design, or slam poetry. We have been humbled, captivated, and challenged; but more than anything, we have learned. In the past year, we have learned that there is hope to affect change on the global issues that The Terry Project cares for so deeply.

Change, however, is not easy. It does not happen because we say that it should, or because it is so obviously right, fair, just, or appropriate. Change happens because people are willing to join each other across disciplines and across generations, and do whatever it takes to make it happen–march, write, invest, research, sing, paint, picket, protest, and struggle.

What follows is an outline of our year of change: the issues we have tackled, the changes we have undergone, and the people we have met along the way.

First, we had to do a little work so people could better understand us. What is the Terry Project? No, it has nothing to do with Terry Fox… We knew we had to better define ourselves.

With the help of Aaron Rolick (who draws cool things for UBC Enrollment Services) and Tierney Milne (who designs cool things all over campus), and Dave Ng (who does cool things all over the internet), we rebranded ourselves–new website, new logo, new graphic designs.

This is what the website looked like when I started in May.

We took outreach a step further, increasing our social media presence creating a smartphone application, and a bi-weekly podcast on iTunes and CiTR 101.9FM. Check out our interview with Canadian TV personality George Stroumboulopoulos, below:

Then, we spent weeks thinking about what issues would be most important to our students this year, and which speakers could best address those issues for our Global Speakers Series. As you could imagine, this was no easy task. Just think of the year we had: rising popular discontent in the form of Occupy and the Arab Spring; a shifting global power balance thanks to the rise of states like China, India, and Brazil; the eurozone crisis and continued financial instability; the climate crisis and the ineffectual response of our international governance institutions.

Who would speak at this year's Global Speakers Series?

Ultimately, we decided our first speaker would be environmentalist Bill McKibben. McKibben, who wrote the first book on global warming and founded the environmental organization, is perhaps the world’s most important environmentalist.

It could not have been a better choice for our first Global Speakers Series engagement. The November 16th talk was just days after Bill McKibben lead thousands in forcing President Obama to delay the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline project. By circling the White House with 10,000 strong, McKibben brought the pipeline to the forefront of national attention; it commanded the front pages of all the major newspapers and TV news stations, even the Colbert Report.

Shortly before our Global Speakers Series engagement, Bill McKibben was arrested for leading protests against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. We were worried he might not make it across the border, but luckily he did.

The victory gave some hope to the environmental movement, but it shifted the battleground to our backyard. Immediately after halting Keystone XL, and days before Bill’s visit, the Harper government claimed that this “may mean that we move quickly to ensure that we can export our oil to Asia through British Columbia.”

The moment Bill arrived, he told us how important BC would be to the future of the climate. The government would try to get dirty tar sands oil out through the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, and it was our duty to stop it. Rather than check into his hotel after a long and exhausting trip, he urged us to drive him downtown to visit Occupy Vancouver (the day after Occupy Wall Street was forcefully ejected from Zuccotti Park).

Appreciating the gravity of this moment, we had a packed two days. We held an interview, hosted a panel discussion, had a working breakfast with student and faculty leaders, and hosted a rousing keynote to a nearly-packed Chan Centre.

In Bill, we saw both an activist and an intellectual, and framed our engagements as an effort to bring together the activists and intellectuals of our community.

It worked. At breakfast, before the Global Speakers Series engagement even began, was formed. This group of students and faculty vowed to unite across faculties, across disciplines, and across generations–they would put academia’s legitimacy to work, and take a stand on the most pressing issue of our time.

In such a short time, this formidable group has already received a tremendous amount of attention. UBCC350 has been noticed by the likes of the CBC, the Vancouver Sun, Global TV, and BC Premier Christy Clark.

We are impressed by the work that they have already done, and so proud that we could play some role in providing the spark that was necessary.

For our other flagship event, the TEDx Terry Talks, it might have been our best year yet. Thanks to inventive, effective, and downright strange marketing, it was our first ever sellout.

And what a powerful day it was! There were standing ovations, uproarious laughter, tearful moments, innovative ideas, and inspiring visions. We heard talks about choral music, obesity and body image, journalism, HIV/AIDS, alternative medicine, bi-polar disorder, and even a satirical piece about privatizing Canadian history. We got creative, too. There was a new set design, a sing-along, and some slam poetry. For a full recap of the day’s events, see Dave Ng’s blog post and listen to our highlights podcast (episode #6).

Last but not least, we closed our year with another amazing Global Speakers Series engagement. In keeping with our theme of change, Kavita Ramdas, former president and CEO of the Global Fund for Women gave a touching speech on how women are at the forefront of progressive social change. She spoke to how women all over the world have taken leadership against all kinds of global injustices–from climate change, to structural injustice, to development, to religious tolerance and gender equality–while at the same time battling oppressive patriarchal structures in their own communities. More on that to come, when video and audio is available.

Kavita Ramdas signing the wall at Freddy Wood Theatre, just under Ben Kingsley.

To all our partners, volunteers, listeners, readers, audience members, and supporters, we couldn’t thank you enough for a wonderful academic year. We recognize that change is not the gift of some enlightened scholar, high-profile speakers series, podcast, or viral video–change is made through passionate individuals uniting around their convictions, committing themselves to making a difference. Going forward, we will continue to do our part in bringing these people together, from faculty and staff to students and alumni. We hope that you will join us.

Oh and one more thing, our next Terry Global Speakers Series speaker. You might have heard of her?

Novemeber 22nd, 2012, the Terry Project will bring Margaret Atwood to UBC's Old Auditorium. Stay Tuned for details.

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Gordon Katic (@gordonkatic) has been student coordinator for the Terry Project for over two years, and in that time started BARtalk, and the Terry Project on CiTR 101.9FM. A former Ubyssey columnist, and now a student at the UBC Graduate School of Journalism, Gordon is trying to use journalism to tell important stories about global issues.