Tête-à-tête with King and Malcolm X

Malcolm X tells Martin Luther King Jr. that he had a dream, then smirks and says “Oh, I’m sorry. That’s your line.”

Though they only met fleetingly in real life, The Meeting imagines heated debates and passionate dialogues between Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Photo by Andrée Lanthier

Racial prejudice and the struggle for human rights brought about bloodshed, angst and struggle. The leaders who fought against racism, held onto the hope that there would be better days. Blending frustration with comedy, The Meeting gives the audience a unique interpretation of the famous leaders.

Black Theatre Workshop presents a new twist to the stories of Malcolm X and King in The Meeting, which tells the tale of a fictional encounter between the two activists.

Directed by Quincy Armorer, the plot centers on the imagined dynamic between Malcolm X (Lindsay Owen Pierre) and King (Christian Paul) who, in reality, only met briefly. Written by Jeff Stetson, it also stars Kareem Tristan Alleyne as Rashad, Malcolm’s bodyguard.

The play situates this meeting by having King go to Malcolm X’s hotel room on the night his house was firebombed.

They vibe with one another from the start, frequently joking about the other’s views. The conversation soon gets heated and a debate on violence and non-violence erupts. Each character becomes defensive as they try to prove the legitimacy of their stance to the other.

This script is filled with comedy, impassioned speeches, witticisms and metaphors. It succeeds in presenting a completely different picture of the two activists — far from the one found in schoolbooks and historical footage. The characters appear as ordinary every-men, who sing, get angry and even arm wrestle. Though they despair over their differences, they end up respecting one another.

At times, however, the writing misses in achieving this interpretation. The metaphors become too frequent and the frustration is not always believable.

Paul’s portrayal of King’s spoken voice is flawed in many ways. His accent sounds forced and continuously speech-like. Dialogue that should have sounded like an unpolished, off-the-cuff conversation ends up resembling a prepared address.

Pierre provides a more realistic portrait and succeeds in highlighting Malcolm X’s emotions and mannerisms.

Another interesting element are the scenes between Pierre and his bodyguard Rashad. Alleyne, whose role is his acting debut, delivers a good repertoire with Pierre and depicts a fiercely protective and friendly bodyguard.

The stage setting is modest and includes a couch, a chessboard, a few small tables and a makeshift window and balcony. The stage is also in close proximity to the audience, which serves to include the viewer in the intimacy of the scenes.

The play highlights some of the main difficulties these activists faced in their plight and some of the main themes of their agendas. A non-violence stance emphasizes love, peace and unity. The violence view brings up the white man, injustice and self-defense. The debates were peppered with some dramatic pauses that were included for effect, to echo sentiments of frustration, anger or sadness. There are times and places where this tension worked, and didn’t in others. King and Malcolm X come together, however, during discussions of power and the pursuit of it.

The Meeting runs until March 1 at The Segal Centre’s Le Studio as part of Black History Month.


Online: This review belongs with the rest of Black History Month articles.



Confessions of a 20-something #10

Identity is a complicated notion. Who are you? Which part of the world are you from? What is your ethnicity? What religion do you adhere to? What is your political stance? What is your personality like? What do you want to do with your life? What are you doing now?

Add these to a hundred more annoying questions that the world throws at you everyday and then comes the idea of pride.

As a kid, I had always known who I was. I was a Muslim girl  born in  Bahrain who liked to read and watch television. It was that simple, really.

I fought with and loved my siblings. School was an unpleasant but necessary thing to get through. Truth is, there’s more to the story, and there always is.

Growing up, my parents quoted and told us stories about famous Arab poets and writers. Thanks to them, the words of Nizar Qabbani, Mahmoud Darwish and Aboul-Qacem Echebbi are still etched in my mind. I knew where Palestine was from a very young age, and can still recall talking about it with a friend in the fifth grade while eating vanilla ice cream at the mall.

At school, I was the girl who was best in English, but at home I would fall asleep reading detective books written by Egyptian author Mahmoud Salim.

Years passed, and my English improved. My love of reading, and the fact that I was a teenager meant that my head was in Harry Potter books, Twilight books (guilty) and glued to shows like One Tree Hill, The O.C. and Gilmore Girls.  Attempting to be cool, I shamelessly copied my sister’s taste in music, and yelled out the lyrics to songs by Linkin Park and Busted.  I loved English, reading it, writing it and watching it. Still do, actually.

The idea of pride brewed in my head a couple of years ago. Living away from home, in a country thousands of miles away, I had plenty of time to think. I found myself drawn to watching documentaries about the poets I grew up hearing about. I looked up with interest whenever I heard someone speak Arabic, and started to talk about my views to my friends. Politics and life issues became a real deal. Arabic songs, books, and newspapers are still important to me.

Even though I was immersed in my new surroundings, I brought with me pieces from my old surroundings as well. The black and white image I had in my head when I was little now became more complex and confusing.

Having to determine what you want to do with your life, where you stand on something and what change you will bring to the table is not easy. Hundreds of mixed thoughts float around in my head everyday. I also developed an awareness of issues facing my community, while I was thousands of miles away. It seemed I was in the middle of two realities, for the time being.

That is when one thing became very clear: the part of the world I belonged to was one I truly loved. The more difficult my region got, the more I clung to it. I am a product of my history, culture, politics and language.

You want to see Arab pride? Look no further.


Life, love and Sarajevo

A Bosnian refugee brings with him his habits, thoughts and ideologies and struggles to make them fit into the western world. Aleksandar Hemon wanders two cities with his memories, filled with questions.

A non-fiction account of his life, Aleksandar Hemon considers the psychology of refugees, and the balance one has to make in order to start anew.

Hemon grew up in Sarajevo, hanging out with his “raja” group, living with his parents and sister, and loving the city with all its complexity. Hemon writes about his life in a stunning new memoir titled The Book of My Lives, his first attempt at non-fiction.

Published earlier this year, the book consists of a collection of essays, most of which were previously published in The New Yorker. Hemon infuses these essays with emotional insight and sharp observations, combined with diverse memories.

Hemon doesn’t stick to a specific timeline. Instead, he moves backwards and forwards in time; in one instance he highlights the structure of Sarajevo’s neighborhoods, in another he relates childhood memories. He speaks about his family life, about war, immigration and political rebellion. These diverse essays fit together to complete the puzzle on how he views his life.

He recalls innocently calling a boy “Turk” at a birthday party, not knowing what it means. To his shock, the boy, a Bosnian Muslim, burst into tears. This experience introduced him to the racial tensions that plagued his hometown.

Hemon was in Chicago when the war broke out, and became stranded in the United States as a result. He uses this background to describe feelings of loneliness in a new town and his slow process of adapting. He is a wanderer and makes Chicago his home by familiarizing himself with every nook and cranny of the neighbourhood. He never lost touch with his Bosnian roots and went back to visit, describing the difficulty of seeing a city that is not yours anymore.

His writing is elegant, seamless and mixes humor with raw emotions. The tales jump from a family dog Hemon acquired, to Bosnian food and culture, to his writing endeavors. His descriptions make you smell the cuisine and empathize with a population who endured a traumatic war.

The saddest essay is about the death of his young daughter from cancer. It is a tearful recollection of an unexpected tragedy and a family dealing with a void in their hearts.

Although his previous books, such as The Lazarus Project and The Question of Bruno, were fiction, Hemon establishes himself as a strong contender in the non-fiction genre.

His memoir is an honest account of his upbringing and his current life. Hemon’s memories that shaped his identity as a Bosnian-American are raw, insightful, funny, and sad at the same time. His hometown of Sarajevo becomes intriguing as a city, and the image of its people transcends the war horrors flashing on the television screen.

He has penned a total of five books and written many stories for The New Yorker making it hard to believe that Hemon learned most of his English as an adult.


A hologram of success amidst desert sands

In the heat of a desert country, an American businessman is desperately trying to succeed in a new venture, or risk going home empty handed.

Set in the Saudi Arabian desert, the novel explores the theme of the need to succeed. Press photo.

Dave Eggers sketches a portrait of a character struggling with the economic effects of globalization and the emotional roller coaster of a mid-life crisis in his novel, A Hologram for the King.

Alan Clay is lost, his confidence is shaken and he is slightly paranoid. He has to pitch an IT project to Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah or he will be unable to pay off his debts and his daughter’s tuition.

Clay is hired by an IT company, called Reliant, to pitch its services to the King, in an attempt to provide technology to the new developing “King Abdullah Economic City.” Clay arrives in Jeddah to find that his team was designated a tent to prepare for their pitch and are seemingly isolated from the other business employees.

The air is hot and the people around him don’t seem to fit the images in his guidebook. He expects the natives to be conservative and reserved, however he finds a few that are liberal and go against cultural norms.

He tries to prove himself to the three young people working with him by pushing for better air conditioning and Wi-Fi reception. Meanwhile they shuffle back and forth between the tent and the hotel, lazily waiting for the King to arrive. The plot centers around the time spent on the preparation of the hologram, where he befriends his driver, his colleagues and his doctor.

We learn through short, thoughtful prose the emotional difficulties of Clay’s failed career and failed marriage. Clay is divorced from his wife Ruby and feels close to his daughter Kit. However, he only communicates with Kit in the form of email drafts he never sends.

Clay had tried to start his own bike manufacturing business in the United States, but was unsuccessful because most production projects were overseas. Reliant is a possible remedy to that failure.

A Hologram for the King delves into Clay’s head with short, rich details. He floats back and forth between his memories and his observations of Jeddah. Clay doesn’t plan on staying in Saudi Arabia forever, yet he feels a pull to it. The complexity of wanting to succeed, to prove that you are worthy is an echoing sentiment in this story.

When he has a cyst removed from his neck in Jeddah, Clay is sorry it is not cancerous. At least then, he would not have had to worry about paying Kit’s tuition fees.

The writing style is simple, yet aims to be provocative throughout most of the novel.

“They were married in a breathless hurry,” writes Eggers on Clay’s former marriage, “but Alan felt early on that she was looking through him. Who was he? He sold bicycles. They were mismatched. He was limited. He tried to rise to her level, to broaden his mind and see things as she did, but he was working with crude tools.” Eggers writes in short sentences, sometimes repeating his pronouns to highlight emotions.

Life is a complex web of people, who carry their past and their present with them. A Hologram for the King takes us on a journey, wandering in a middle eastern country, trying to find a way to mold the flawed past into a new beginning, or to simply survive.



Confessions of a 20 something #6

Cancer messes with your head a little bit.

Forget the roller coaster of emotions you go through. Forget the overwhelming number of doctor’s appointments, needles in your arm and information to absorb. It also changes you. Like it or not.

Last summer when I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, I went through my own roller coaster ride, from shock, to worry, to acceptance, to moving on. One thing that struck me recently was my new compulsive need for control.

Ever since I was a little girl, I have been impatient. I asked a lot of questions, always wanted to know the ending of a show, couldn’t wait for vacations, birthdays or books. If I saved up for a camera, I couldn’t wait till my parents drove me to the store to get it.

My mom often tried to teach me patience, and exclaimed, “patience is a beautiful thing honey,” whenever I would start to complain. My dad would tell me to let my faith fuel my patience.

It didn’t always work.

After that, I grew up and found a way to use that impatience to do something I love. I became a journalist.

When you’ve been told you have a lump, you start the process that I call “waiting, waiting, waiting.” It is not enough that your nerves are frazzled at the sound of the word “tumor,” but the long and tedious process that follows is sure to knock the impatience out of you.

You wait for the biopsy, you wait for the results, you wait for the surgery, wait for the treatment, wait for the scan. You wait, and wait, and then wait some more. It’s enough to force even the most impatient person to be patient.

I sit in hospital waiting rooms for way too many hours. The smell of the place makes me feel nauseated. The air around me reeks of disinfectant. My neck gets strained from staring at my phone to pass the time. When tests are delayed, or the staff is too busy, or there are more forms to fill, I feel so tired of it all that I want to kick someone or something. The call waiting songs ring in my ear again and again and again. Other times I take a deep breath, and try to remember how blessed I am. I remember that it could have been a lot worse.

That is when I started to have to know exact dates. I needed to know when something was happening, what time someone was coming over, when I could expect something, how I could plan, when I could schedule, when I could relax. If I had to wait to know, sometimes that was OK, other times I would get frustrated.

OK, most times I would get frustrated.

While I pride myself in being an easygoing person, I recognize that something has changed. The need for control is not something that appears out of thin air. To some extent it has always been there. However, it takes struggle to heighten it. It takes struggle to make it stronger.

It takes struggle to need it more than ever. The more we cannot control our fate, the more we want to.


Malala Yousafzai goes from victim to victor, and to Nobel Peace Prize nominee

Last year the Taliban shot a 15-year-old girl in the head and neck while she was on a school bus with her friends and headed home. They shot her because of her strong campaign efforts for girls’ education. Malala Yousafzai survived the attack and lived to tell her story.

Her life is narrated in her memoir, entitled I Am Malala, which was released earlier this month.  The gripping book recounts her upbringing in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, her family history and the environment around them.

Her father, Ziauddin, influenced her love of education, declaring when she was a child that “Malala will be free as a bird.” Moreover he was a strong supporter of girls’ rights and started a school in the valley. Yousafzai writes about him in an idolizing tone, making it clear that they were a duo, fighting for education together.

She paints a thorough picture of Pakistan by describing its history and the chronological events that shaped it. Yousafzai also writes about the horrors of the Taliban’s tactics, from beheadings to burning buildings, which led to school closings and girls staying at home. While the Taliban feared education, Malala knew the pen was the best way to achieve peace and understanding.

Supported by her parents, she wrote an anonymous blog for BBC Urdu about life under the Taliban regime. She went on to appear in many interviews and a New York Times documentary.

Yousafzai highlights her competitive nature, her hopes and her love of her valley. The picturesque mountains, breathtaking scenery and the hospitable people are what she holds dear to her heart. One of the photos in the book is a painting she made when she was twelve, depicting different religious symbols and above them a handshake. This is her vision of interfaith harmony.

Yousafzai loves her books and is proud of them. That is why she hated leaving them behind when the family was evacuated during an earthquake.

The vibe of this five-part story shifts from positive to melancholic to resilient. At some parts it is a historical narrative and in others it’s made up of personal experiences and views. She quotes Pakistani folk tales, poems and sayings, blending both the histories of family and country.

Yousafzai now lives in Birmingham, England, the same place where she was treated after her shooting, yet describes feelings of homesickness and loneliness in her new home, made up as it is of a new environment and a different culture.

Her recovery was considered miraculous. Her must-read memoir contains her championed message, that education is the way to combat terrorism and intolerance, a message for which she’s become the youngest person ever to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
Reading the book increases one’s admiration for this girl who’s endured so much, yet continues to believe in the power of communication. She is a part of a foundation, called the Malala Fund, that works to provide accessible and quality education for other children world-wide, stating that it “believes that each girl and boy, has the ability to change the world and that all she needs is a chance.”

Her world, the halls of her school, the faces of her friends and family, and the air around her come alive on page. It is a testament to an ongoing fight against extremism and the liberation of those struggling under its ruthless grip.


Recognizing the value and strength in diversity

 Two years ago, I sat on the Concordia shuttle bus next to my younger sister, who was a first year student. She was new to Montreal and to the big city life. At one point during our conversation, I told her to pause and count how many different languages she was able to hear. Together we counted four: Persian, French, English and Chinese. As two Muslim girls, from a small Middle Eastern country, we couldn’t help but admire the diversity around us and how beautiful it was.

Concordia’s Sikh Student Association members Amritpal Kaur, Navjot Kaur, Amrit Kaur, Tanvir Kaur are pictured at the CSU 2013 Club’s Fair. Photo by Casandra De Masi.

On Friday, Sept. 6, Quebec Premier Pauline Marois was quoted in the Globe and Mail criticizing multiculturalism and suggesting it as a possible cause of terrorism. “In England, they get into fights and throw bombs at one another because of multiculturalism and people get lost in that type of a society,” she said, disregarding Canada’s longstanding history of diversity and Quebec’s vibrant immigrant population.

Terrorism, as defined by the Merriam Webster Online dictionary, is “ the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal.”  Its causes can vary from human rights abuse, to poverty and religious extremism. However multiculturalism has not been a proven cause. On the contrary, minority oppression can lead to violence. In the case of Sri-Lanka, the Tamil Tigers, who fought for an independent land, were classified as a terrorist organization. However, the Tamils were also a minority facing discrimination by the government.

This past week, the controversial proposed Charter of Values was unveiled, along with a photo of suggested rules by the Quebec government.

The charter calls for a ban on religious clothing by public employees. The picture that was released shows earrings with a crescent moon, a small cross and a Star of David ring as acceptable wear. On the other hand, the hijab, kippah, turban, niqab and the big cross, are all things to be banned.

This proposal, coupled with Premier Marois’ comment, sends a message that there is some target set of values we are not adhering to. Therefore, we should leave the symbols that represent our beliefs at home, even though they harm no one.

Attempting to squash different beliefs and stifle the fundamental human right to express them pulls us all back into a dark age ideology that led to massacres of thousands of people from different cultural backgrounds. The more we stifle people’s individuality, the more racial tensions can emerge.

Racism also led to countless wars from Rwanda, to Sarajevo and current day Iraq. This is why it is important to stop the government from spreading the message that to wear religious symbols in the workplace is harmful.

The late Palestinian theorist and founder of post colonial thought, Edward Said, argued  in his 1978 book, Orientalism, that orientalism is to examine other cultures with an inferior eye when comparing them to the Western way of life. This is clearly a practice that still exists.

A modern example is believing that a multicultural society causes trouble. Suggesting that wearing a hijab or a kippah can affect our work environment pours oil into the fire of racism that is still reeling from the effects of 9/11, 12 years later.

Rather than ignore the effects of globalization and the changing face of our society, we should embrace the change. The positive effects of this is a widespread sharing of ideas and knowledge.

Studying in Montreal, I am able to interact with people from around the world. My friends, who have different backgrounds, such as French, Vietnamese, American and Canadian, taught me a lot about their beliefs, history, life and opinions. My identity is the same, but I am better off having known them.

Exposure to diversity helped me grow as a journalist, student and human. If only people who were more keen on turning it into an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ world would stop trying to shove that mentality down our throats, because that mentality is the root cause of true harm.


Survey finds Concordia isn’t challenging students academically

Concordia University is lagging behind other universities in terms of the level of academic challenge, according to the 2011 National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) released at last Friday’s Senate meeting.

The recent survey compares Concordia to over 700 universities by examining responses from 3,454 random Concordia students. It looked primarily at first- and last-year students in Canada and the United States.

“There’s not much improvement there…not a significant change in slope,” said John Molson School of Business faculty senator Gordon Leonard at the meeting. “My interpretation is that we have to do a lot more than just say we did a good job,” he added.

Bradley Tucker, director of the Office of institutional planning, noted at Senate that Concordia’s results in categories other than academic challenge, such as “student faculty interaction” and “supportive campus environment” showed some level of improvement.

The NSSE survey, which was first piloted in 1999, gives insight into undergraduate students’ learning activities. The purpose then “was to try and give information to universities drawn from their student population that let them know whether they were engaging in practices that have been shown to have impacts on students’ post-university experiences,” said Tucker. He also said the NSSE began in a period of “ranking mania.”

Opposing the survey results, President Frederick Lowy said that “despite the turmoil last winter” regarding the ousting of his predecessor Judith Woodsworth, “academic activities continue unabated.”

Smile for the camera

No conclusion was reached on the issue of whether or not journalists should be allowed to broadcast Senate meetings live.

“It’s already in the public domain, we don’t need to go any further than that,” said Leonard.

Concerns were expressed that cameras in front of the senators’ faces while they are talking could be both intimidating and distracting, and that anyone could attend the meetings instead.

“I was indeed one of those who raised concerns, after the November meeting,” said Rae Staseson, an arts and science senator. “I found the presence of roving cameras disturbing and not following journalistic ethical guidelines.”

Staseson said that allowing cameras into Senate could “inhibit very frank discussions and debates” and “enhance a kind of overly exuberant senatorial performance.”

However some senators, mostly student representatives, spoke strongly on behalf of allowing cameras in, as long as those behind the cameras were following proper guidelines.

“My opinion is that these meetings ought to be both recorded and broadcast,” said student senator Gene Morrow. “I think that it’s fairly clear that with everything that’s happening here is in the public interest.”

The issue was unresolved and sent to Senate’s steering committee for further review. A similar plea for live broadcasts of Board of Governors meetings was recently voted down by a majority of governors.


What I did on my summer break

Graphic by Alessandra McGovern

The newest group of students accepted into the Concordia Volunteer Abroad Program (CVAP) begin their pre-departure training sessions this January for their summer volunteer trip to Gulu, Uganda.

CVAP, a fee-levy, non-profit organization at Concordia, sends staff and volunteers to work on supporting community development projects in Uganda for four months in the summer, alternating for two months at a time.

They also collaborate year-round with groups such as St. Jude Children’s Home, SOS Children’s Villages, Sports Outreach Ministry and The AIDS Support Organization (TASO).

Although some students face challenges such as homesickness and adapting to the slower pace of Ugandan life, CVAP’s executive director Jamie Robinson said the pre-departure sessions have undergone improvements in preparing volunteers.

“The feedback from our partners is that volunteers are ready to work with them and volunteers have more to contribute, and probably in some respect have more humility in their approach as well, which is really essential,” she added.

Jeevan Sidhu volunteered with CVAP in the summer of 2011. “It was amazing,” she said, “the time goes by faster than you think.”

According to Sidhu, the program takes you out of the classroom and gives you crucial experiential learning.

“It’s about really just being completely immersed in a situation and learning in a different way than you would in a textbook,”she added.

The four-month-long training sessions, which can be taken as a four-credit course, cover topics such as environmental impact assessment, radical approaches to community development, and critical race and gender theory.

“We really want people to make the most out of their experience,” Robinson said. “If students are well prepared then I think our community partners benefit from that preparation.”

The sessions, said Sidhu, also help deal with any anxieties the student may have. She noted how enthusiastic this year’s group is.

“I’m so excited for them because I know I had the same experience as them just a year ago.”

CVAP volunteers work on agriculture projects, health care projects, help with surveys and more.

A recent example of the work students did at St. Jude’s, said Robinson, includes a health and hygiene workshop that the students ran for the children. They “made some visuals to go up in their washrooms and other places for children to learn about hand washing,” she explained.

Robinson said volunteering helps people understand the value of their lives and their time. She cited examples such as helping a community receive health care and contributing to economic progress as being worth that time.

She believes that volunteering, no matter where it takes place, “is an expression that is worth more than money.”


To strike or not to strike

March 7 will be the day that undergraduate students decide on Concordia’s role in the province-wide battle against tuition fee hikes in Quebec.

The Concordia Student Union has passed a motion setting March 7 as a date for a general assembly for a strike mandate expected to last from March 26 to 29.

“This is pretty much, the only card left that the students have in their hands in Quebec,” said CSU president Lex Gill at at last Wednesday’s council meeting. While Gill admitted that a strike will not be easy, she described it as a necessary step against tuition fee increases in the province.

This week, the CSU will renew their campaign against the hikes, launching an information campaign leading up to the assembly in March about the pros and cons of going forth with a strike, including flyers, posters, booklets and speeches.

“It’s really important to us that moving towards March 7, each student is fully aware of what they are going to be voting on and what impacts it will have on them,” said VP external Chad Walcott at the meeting.

Other events in the campaign include a one week sleep-in at the library to raise awareness about the tuition increases, fax and phone jams and F#ck Tuition Tuesdays at Reggie’s Bar in the Hall Building.

“To talk about a strike at this point, frankly if we weren’t I would be really worried,” said Gill, who reminded council that there are other student unions in Quebec planning strikes as early as February.

Walcott said strikes are proven to be effective in putting pressure on the government.

“We’re in a position to have a serious impact on our province,” he added in an interview.

During the meeting, some concerns were raised with regards to international students, and the potential consequences of their participation in long-term demonstrations. The CSU, however, insisted that international students who choose to strike will not run risk of being deported.

Concordia’s Mob Squad is also planning for future demonstrations, and teamed up with McGill to hold a winter training camp for interested activists last weekend.

Concordia students first protested the hikes on Nov.10, joining tens of thousands of students marching against the extra $1625 worth of tuition fees proposed by the Jean Charest government. The province currently plans to increase the cost of university tuition $325 yearly over the next five years.

The next province-wide demonstration is set for March 22.


Battle of the briefcases

Future MBAs mingling and making connections. Photo by Camille Nerant

After six days of debating and deliberating, Université Laval has come out on top in the 31st annual John Molson School of Business MBA International Case Competition, winning $10,000 in cash and the Concordia Cup.

The winning teams were announced at a banquet on Sunday at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth hotel, second place going to New Zealand’s University of Otago while the University of Calgary took home bronze.

The competition ran from Jan. 3 to Jan. 8 and included 36 teams from universities in North America and overseas. The diverse group of students fit with this year’s theme: “How does diversity stimulate innovation?”

“I think the thing about this competition that’s exciting is to be able to meet and network with people from all over the world and share ideas… at one location over the week,” said Tim Field, management professor at Concordia and the coach for the JMSB team. “I can’t tell you how many times in a lifetime you are going to have that,” he added.

In teams of four, students are given complex business cases to analyze and then have three hours to work on them before presenting their recommendations to a panel. According to Field, the type cases given vary from financial to marketing to international to general strategy. With six divisions, the top teams advance to the semi-finals.

An anticipated part of the competition was the live case on Jan. 6 in which real-life business company CGI presented the students with challenges that the company is facing. The teams then present ideas and solutions to the company in the next couple of hours.

“It becomes very intense,” said Jason Lau, one of the executive assistants who worked with the organizing team. Lau describes the atmosphere this year as “very competitive.”

“They absolutely want to win,” he said, referring to the 36 teams who come to Montreal from across the globe to participate in the competition. “From their school they sent people who want it the most and are the best.”

The competition takes about six months to organize. A team of four organizers and five executive assistants, all MBA students at JMSB, put together the event. The students receive academic credit for their work.

“The contribution, time and effort is enormous,” said Lau.

Along with networking and training, students also learn how to think under stress. “They get that pressure cooker environment,”  said Field. “They are exposed to a lot of industries and problems and it’s really the one step away from living and breathing the actual issues the company is facing.”



The Collective for Syria in Montreal protests human rights abuses

The Collective for Syria in Montreal held a march on Saturday to protest continued human rights violations in Syria. Starting at Norman Bethune Square on the corner of Guy St. and de Maisonneuve Blvd., organizers distributed Syrian flags, flowers, and red umbrellas with the words ‘Free Syria’ written on them. They also gave away masks with pictures of those who died in Syria. The masks, they said, were for anyone who did not want their faces to be seen. A small crowd of men, women and children held signs with pictures of victims and different messages. The protesters then marched towards Phillips Square chanting in French, Arabic and English and calling for the removal of President Bashar al-Assad and for the liberation of Syria. Some of the organizers expressed their hopes that the march would raise awareness. They also said that they were saddened and obsessed with news from Syria. Students present said they could not focus on their schoolwork anymore, holding up signs with statements like “Assad leave, I need to study.” In his first interview with Western media since unrest began stirring up in Syria seven months ago, Assad told The Daily Telegraph that he expected Western countries to “ratchet up pressure” on Syria, but that intervention in his country could lead to “another Afghanistan.” Syria “is the fault line, and if you play with the ground you will cause an earthquake,” said Assad in the interview, which was published on the weekend. While saying that “mistakes” had been made by his forces early on during the protests, he said that they are now only targeting terrorists. According to the United Nations, more than 3,000 people have died in Syria since the Arab Spring hit the country in mid-March. Photo by Irina Gaber
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