SASAH: Now More Than Ever

Joel Faflak

Since the founding of the School for Advanced Studies in the Arts and Humanities in 2013, our key mission has been this: “To advance the study of the arts and humanities by helping students realize their potential to transform the world through critical thinking, cultural production, creative activity, and community engagement.” Now that the world has become a little more ‘complicated’ since then, the SASAH Vision Statement rings truer than ever: “To educate imaginations and inspire creative and compassionate leadership in others.”

I find myself raging in each class I teach, each time wondering if I’ve gone too far, perhaps scaring our students when maybe I should just be passing along information. But we all know that’s not how education works, or should work. And you all know that the world, however more complicated it now seems, has always been a little more complicated than we anticipated. It might be great if there were no crises to mobilize us into action, but not too realistic.

So, I look into our students’ eyes and ask them, as I ask of myself, what can be done? It’s a somewhat different form of a question the SASAH Advisory Council asked our students last Fall: “What can we do?” The asking has become just a bit more urgent and necessary. As if our students weren’t mobilized enough, I sense that now more than ever they know the SASAH learning experience is essential preparation for the future. And above all, I see in them, just when my rather more apocalyptic imagination sees only dark clouds forming, the capacity to see things otherwise. Or as the late, great Leonard Cohen said, “There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

Whether they’re organizing an eco-festival; opening a thrift shop for second-hand student furniture; interning for Canada’s top architectural firm, at TIFF, at The Walrus, or at the Stratford Festival; empowering disadvantaged female youth in London to know that they can have access to the same education we’ve all had the privilege to enjoy; or writing a poem or painting a canvas – SASAH students are creating a movement of their own, offering us all a way of seeing the world differently. This gives me great hope, as does the knowledge that you’re all there to help them, and to keep asking, “What can we do?”

Dr. Joel Faflak
SASAH Director

SASAH at Western

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