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York University
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Popular New Course a Model of Glendon’s Multidisciplinary Education


There is a new course at Glendon this academic year, which is an outstanding example of the multidisciplinary nature of Glendon’s liberal arts education. It is taught by Glendon and York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies graduate Charles-Antoine Rouyer, who brings a refreshing, holistic approach to content as well as delivery.

Under the title of
Communication, Health and Environment, this full-year, first-year course within the Environmental and Health Studies Program in Glendon’s Multidisciplinary Studies Department intertwines these three areas of study which are rarely joined together. Rouyer presents a smorgasbord of topics – he calls it a ‘buffet’ - which on closer examination necessarily connect, allowing students at all levels to get a taste of different disciplines before choosing to focus on any one. The course also covers their interrelationships, particularly with respect to key health determinants and urban sustainability.

Rouyer’s personal take is that we cannot separate these fields, because they have overlapping aspects and implications. As an example, the definition of ‘health’, according to the World Health Organization, is that it can be physical, social or mental. The Faculty of Environmental Studies teaches that ‘environment’ pertains to natural, social, urban and economic spheres. And ‘communication’ may occur through the various media, or person to person.

Rouyer brings a wealth of formal qualifications and hands-on experience to his teaching, both in the field of the environment and in the area of communication. As an exchange student from Bordeaux, France, he first came to Glendon in 1984. He went back to France and applied for landed immigrant status, returning in 1989 to Glendon and eventually completing an Hon. B.A. in Economics, with a minor in psychology.

He had some interesting experiences along the way, including planting trees in the far north of Ontario and meeting others at Glendon who, like himself, were deeply interested in nature and humanitarian issues. He was also exposed to holistic health-care through meeting chiropractic students who were staying in the Glendon residences.

“The connections were not obvious at the time”, explains Rouyer. “At present, I see multidisciplinary studies as a ‘jack of all trades’ and [hopefully] ‘master of connecting the dots’. The connections among different areas of study are important to make. While as a species we have amassed a vast amount of knowledge, as individuals we experience such a degree of specialization that we know more and more about less and less. Each field of study is often compared with individual silos, isolated from each other. I feel that this is partly why we are experiencing the current environmental problems and why we need a more holistic, multidisciplinary approach to these issues, in order to foster a healthier world and a better quality of life for all.”

Rouyer took his first steps in journalism as an undergraduate at Glendon, writing for ProTem, the student newspaper. This first publishing experience led him to write for L’Express de Toronto, one of the city’s French-language newspapers, while taking evening courses in journalism at Ryerson. Currently, he is still contributing regularly to L’Express, Radio-Canada (Toronto) and TfO, Ontario’s French television station. Eventually, he went on to a Masters in Environmental Studies at York, focusing on the ‘Healthy Cities’ concept, which is a world-wide World Health Organization (WHO) program.

Rouyer’s work as a journalist concentrates on urban health, sustainable cities, urban ecology and ecotourism. On March 16th, he will be making the introductory remarks at the York Faculty of Environmental Studies lecture by prominent sustainability author and lecturer, Bob Willard on The Next Sustainability Wave. *

Rouyer brings his experience to the classroom in all three areas of the Communication, Health and Environment course. In the field of communication, he strives to develop his students’ media literacy and focuses on raising their awareness of current issues. “I encourage them to question the content of what the news media present”, says Rouyer. In his classes, students analyze and criticize print and other media products for content as well as presentation, for what gets talked about and what doesn’t. In other words, they receive training for critical thinking – to summarize the content, balance, bias and tone of articles and programs, and to determine why these are discussed at a given time in a given way.

In this first year of the new course in Communication, Health and the Environment, the fifty spaces were all taken by early July; the class size has already been expanded to seventy-five for next year. What is it like to come back to Glendon as an instructor? “I am happy to return where I was so fortunate to study”, says Rouyer. “Glendon and the Faculty of Environmental Studies are very special places for learning and I am glad to be able to integrate what I learnt in both faculties and pass it on to-first year students.”

“In my role of journalist or broadcaster, I see myself as a content or information manager. But working in these fields is like putting a message in a bottle. You send it out, but you have no idea who opens the bottle and reads the message,” adds Rouyer. “When I teach, I can ‘pop the cork’ myself, give the message directly and get the feedback right away - it’s a two-way communication. It gives me the opportunity to get to know the upcoming generation and contribute to raising the awareness of future decision-makers.”

* Links to the websites of organizations working on urban health and healthy cities:

Published on February 21, 2005