Douglas College collaboration helps students create better cities
By Aaron Guillen, Staff Reporter
An interactive English course at Douglas is changing the way that students improve their academic writing, while also improving the city in which they live. Jasmine Nicholsfigueiredo, faculty member of the English Department and Chair of Education Council at the college, is leading her classes to new horizons with her experiential learning approach. Nicholsfigueiredo avidly promotes student engagement in the community and the classes she teaches embraces it. Her ENG 1130 class takes a look at how to “create better cities” with multiple guest speakers and collaborative sessions, one of which includes New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Cote.
“One of our course units focuses on the role and importance of public spaces in a community [and] the mayor seemed like a natural fit,” Nicholsfigueiredo explained.
“We are immensely fortunate that he has volunteered to lead students on this walking tour. Students might very well learn to see their surroundings in unexpected ways. [Over the course], students will work in research pods to investigate some of the environmental and social issues facing their cities. Together, they will have an opportunity to think critically about ways to improve these components of urban life and—if they wish—present their ideas to the mayor in the future.”
In a brief walkabout, Cote took Douglas College students around Downtown New Westminster to discuss relevant issues, including housing affordability, waterfront revitalization, and heritage sites.
Along the walk, Cote addressed the importance of rental housing, with the prevalence of families living in apartments. According to him, most spaces have been given a par of three rooms due to the high demand. While on the subject, housing affordability for students was brought up and Cote admits he’s open to the discussion.
“It’s a work in progress,” Cote added.
“We are aware that students live nearby the campus and there’s a need. It’s hard for students to afford the rentals here [in Downtown New Westminster], but I’m open to the conversation to make apartment buildings more affordable nearby the college. Right now, our biggest concern is with rental housing.”
In addition, Cote explained to the students the history of New Westminster—from a declining population and irrelevant ports after World War II, to the rediscovery the city has gone through in the last 20 years. By recognizing the importance that the waterfront holds for the city, the mayor takes pride in the decision to tear down the majority of the parking lot, a former division.
Along with the redevelopments around the 8th and Columbia area, heritage revitalization is important to Cote. Along the walk, Cote took the students to Trapp Block, a heritage building currently used by local businesses after being vacant for many years. Cote expressed the value that heritage sites bring to the “street-scape.”
“Douglas College students are a significant part of our community, and as the city plans for the future, their engagement in our cities future is important,” Cote said in a press release.
“I’m looking forward to showing students where our focus is going to be in the coming years and, more importantly, allowing them to better understand the urban challenges and opportunities we face in New Westminster.”