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Annual Report

Real-world learning takes centre stage

All the world’s a stage, and for students enrolled in English courses at UNB’s Saint John campus, the stage is the classroom.

The English department gives students the opportunity to work with the Saint John Theatre Company, where they learn the ropes of stage production and discover the magic of inhabiting an author’s work.

The partnership between the theatre company and the university is one of many hands on – or experiential – learning opportunities available on our campuses. These opportunities help students navigate real-world situations, apply newfound knowledge, engage learners in new ways and cement new skills.

Theatre becomes classroom

Students have two different opportunities to work with the theatre company: through practicums during productions and during a performance class, where students can use the company’s headquarters as a learning space.

The practicum, which focuses on drama production, allows up to three students per term to work on a theatre production with the Saint John Theatre Company. Those students work backstage, taking on various roles and making the theatre their classroom.

Script into Performance, the second course offered in conjunction with the theatre company, gives students the chance to bring plays to life. The class studies drama and performs Shakespearean scenes for local high school classes. The course ends its term with a public production.

Theatre a willing partner

The university and the Saint John Theatre Company became partners through Dr. Sandra Bell, an English professor who sits on the theatre’s board.

“They were quite willing to make that connection and have us in their performance space,” Dr. Bell says. “We’re lucky to host courses there.”

Students in these courses learn to see more than just the written word.

Nursing student Elizabeth Morrison enrolled in the performance course, which took classic Shakespeare works and turned them on their heads. She says that experience affected how she approached her other courses.

‘Not a place to hide’

“I started to see things are more than written words. I had to think about the characters as people. That carried over into other courses,” she says.

The hands-on experience also gives students the opportunity to bring the different elements of their education together: their communication, writing and technical abilities are sharpened when their problem-solving skills are called upon.

And above all, it requires an open mind.

“The theatre is not a place where you hide; it’s a place where you perform,” Dr. Bell says. “Our students get comfortable with that very quickly.”