A walk-and-talk with Professor Santa Ono

For the final episode of this season of Arts on Air we had the opportunity to speak with UBC’s president, Professor Santa Ono.

On March 13th, Professor Ono visited the School of Journalism to speak with students. After the session, we took a walk with him as he headed off to his next appointment.

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Although he’s a scientist, Professor Ono’s first degree was a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Chicago. He has a strong connection to the arts and told us that, for him, part of the attraction of coming to work at UBC was its world class Faculty of Arts.

The arts, he says, feed the soul of all intellect — they help you make decisions that are humane, no matter what your field of study.

You can hear our interview with Professor Ono right here.

In this episode, we also headed out on campus to meet some students and find out why they decided to study in the Faculty of Arts.

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We met students who have spent this year studying everything from philosophy to English literature to film production and music. Why did they choose to study in the arts?

Dominique said that her philosophy of the 17th century class helped her cut through the noise of social media in the modern world and see that there is way to intelligently and thoroughly argue your point of view.

Sam, who’s nearly finished a BFA in film production and BA in English literature, said his degree has helped him to critically analyze everything, to learn how to construct an argument, and to recognize that a lot of issues are more complicated than they first seem.

Ethan from the School of Music said that his lessons help him think logically, calm his mind, and problem solve.

And then he gave us a trumpet serenade in the School of Music’s faculty and staff parking garage.

It was a great way to wrap up our final episode as Arts on Air producers.

You can download the episode right here.

Thank you to all of the Faculty of Arts staff and students who have taken the time to speak with us this year. Arts on Air will be back in the fall with a brand new set of producers and hosts from the School of Journalism.

It’s been a great year. Thanks for listening!


Fundrive 2017!

This week we hosted Arts on Air live for the first time with the invaluable help of our School of Journalism colleague Rohit Joseph. It’s CiTR Radio’s Fundrive this week and we were taking donations for the station’s 2017 Shape Your Media campaign.


We played some of the highlights from this season of Arts on Air, including clips from our visit to an opera rehearsal and the School of Music’s Wednesday Noon Hour concert series. We also played snippets of our interviews with professors Molly Babel, Jessica Tracy and Deborah Campbell. And we realized that half an hour isn’t nearly long enough to play all of our favourite moments from this year on the program.

Thank you to our generous donors who helped us meet our show’s target for donations. Thank you also to the Museum of Anthropology and The Vogue Theatre for donating some great prizes for us to give away. And thank you Rohit for joining us and running the board.

See you in two weeks for our final episode of the season!



The past, present and future of information studies

For this episode we stopped by the the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies, also known as the iSchool. Students and faculty in this department still find themselves surrounded by books but, for the most part, they’re concerned with access to information in a more general sense. In the digital age, that job is taking on all kinds of new forms. 


Acting Director Luanne Freund spoke with us about the evolving state of the field and the information professional’s role within it.


Jennifer Douglas in a CiTR studio with Rachel Sanders

Jennifer Douglas, an assistant professor in the Master of Archival Studies program, shared how archival work is not a “fusty, musty, old endeavour,” it’s important and exciting work. For example, in an increasingly digital age, what are the best ways of archiving not only corporate and institutional records but also our own personal archives? Archivists are concerned with what to keep (a simple diary could hold the answers to future questions) and how to keep it.  


Muhammad Abdul-Mageed in his office with Brittany Duggan

Assistant Professor Muhammad Abdul-Mageed was excited to tell us about the intersection of his three areas of study: social media mining, natural language processing, and machine learning. What can we learn from social data? How do we program machines, like Siri, to understand us and respond back? And where will AI go next?

Professor Abdul-Mageed is new to the iSchool this year and says that the varied backgrounds that make up the school inspire creativity in the field.

Hear these three in conversation right here.

The awesome complexity of human speech

For this episode we dropped by the Speech in Context Lab to meet Professor Molly Babel and her team of linguistics students. It’s a very busy team — they run a couple of thousand participants through various experiments each year. And they take full advantage of UBC’s multilingualism and multiculturalism to research speech and language in a variety of ways.


The team at the Speech in Context Lab

One of the fascinating things about human speech, says Professor Babel, is the fact that we all speak with different accents and dialects and yet somehow we manage to understand each other anyway. At the root of much of the research in the Speech in Context Lab is the question: how on earth do we understand each other when we all sound so different? 

Speech is a complicated dance that involves both the listener and speaker — the variability in the ways we speak is both challenging and amazing.


Wondering what linguistics experiments sounds like? We share some snippets of some of the weird and wonderful recordings that the team uses. And we take a mini-tour around the building that houses the lab, which is one of the oldest buildings on UBC’s campus.

You can hear this episode right here.


The building that houses the Speech in Context Lab at UBC

An opera classic and teaching Indigenous texts

In this episode of Arts on Air we visit UBC Opera as they rehearse for their upcoming production of Eugene Onegin. This is the second time the department has tackled the Russian classic based on the novel by Alexander Pushkin to a score by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The first time, Nancy Hermiston, current chair of the School of Music’s Voice and Opera Divisions, was the director and Onegin was played by Krzysztof Biernacki. Biernacki returns to UBC after 12 years as this production’s director. 


Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin was actually written for students, according to Hermiston, and not only demonstrates the lead characters’ singing strengths but also that of the chorus. We spoke with some students about their characters, how they came to opera, and what it feels like to use their bodies as their instruments.

Eugene Onegin runs at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts from February 2nd to 5th. You can learn more at music.ubc.ca.

Listen to the episode here.



In the second half of this episode we speak with Dr. Margery Fee, Department of English professor and McLean Chair in Canadian Studies, about teaching Indigenous texts. Dr. Fee will present her research in a series of lectures on campus as part of her role as the Brenda and David McLean Chair in Canadian Studies. 



The series will touch on oral literature and the problems with thinking about and teaching oral story. It will look at where indigenous voices appeared in government documents like manifestos and declarations to get a better sense of what was thought and said, and in the final instalment Dr. Fee will touch on women’s stories and what they have to say.

In our conversation we also talk about the the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Dr. Fee’s new book and novels she suggests everyone read.

You can learn more about Dr. Fee and the McLean Lecture Series at canadianstudies.ubc.ca.

And, you can listen to the interview at the 15:08 mark here.

Pipeline politics and the performing arts

For the first episode of 2017, we had the chance to visit the office of Dr. Kathryn Harrison, political science professor and Acting Dean of Arts, to ask her about her views on pipelines.


We spoke with Dr. Harrison on the same day the BC government approved the environmental assessment for the TransMountain pipeline expansion. She shared her perspective on the decision, saying that Canada should be investing money and energy in figuring out ways to transition our economy away from reliance on fossil fuels.

According to Dr. Harrison, technological innovation alone isn’t enough to address the challenges of climate change. It’s only once we adopt policies that take into account the social and environmental costs of fossil fuel production, she says, that we’ll find our way forward.

Dr. Harrison has been involved in organizing a new graduate level course called “Leading the Way Toward a Low-Carbon Future” this term. There are some interesting public lectures associated with that course and you can find out more about them right here on the course website.

And you can hear our interview with Dr. Harrison here.

We also had the chance to go backstage at the Frederic Wood Theatre for a rehearsal of the Theatre and Film department’s production of Caryl Churchill’s Love and Information


The play’s director, MFA Theatre Directing Candidate Lauren Taylor, says that, with its 60 scenes, 120 characters and very few stage directions, directing the play was a daunting task. She describes the play as “Twitter theatre” — offering fleeting glimpses of intimate moments with high emotional stakes. Taylor says the play is an all-encompassing experience that’s experienced differently by every audience member.


We caught a bit of the day’s rehearsal and even got a tour of the props table, browsing a variety of intriguing objects — from a Justin Bieber magazine to a typewriter to a stethoscope and a jar of peanut butter.

Love and Information runs from January 19th to February 4th at the Frederic Wood Theatre.

Our interview with Lauren Taylor starts at 17:05 mark of Arts on Air. Check it out right here.

The role of war lawyers and the state of the single family home

In this episode we visit PhD candidate Craig A. Jones in his office in the Department of Geography to learn about his thesis topic, and upcoming book, The War Lawyers.


Jones’ research looks at the the role that military lawyers play in the conduct and outcome of lethal targeting operations carried out by the US and Israel in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine. In the interview he gives examples of how the interpretation of international law can enable violence and how we need to be talking about it. 

You can listen to our interview with Craig Jones here

In this episode we also visited Sociology professor Nathanael Lauster about his book, The Death and Life of the Single Family House.


Professor Lauster explains what single family homes represent in our culture and how Vancouver is a North American model for sustainability and urbanism. He offers a positive perspective on densification by saying that this kind of living makes us more adaptable and compassionate. “The more we lose those spaces where we interact with people who are different,” he says, “The less empathy we have, the less tolerant we are.”

Hear our conversation with professor Nathanael Lauster here starting at around 13:55.