Stellar faculty and staff
Marianopolis faculty are experts in their fields who enrich students through their teaching and their support outside the classroom. Marianopolis staff are available to students each school day.
Academic Advisor Patti McDonald ’79
English Prof. Barry Webster
English Prof. Monique Polak ’79
English Prof. Nicolas Carrier
English Prof. Zsolt Alapi
Historian and former Associate Academic Dean Claude Bélanger
Liberal and Creative Arts and Humanities Prof. Megan Spriggs
Liberal and Creative Arts and Humanities Prof. Selena Liss
Liberal and Creative Arts and Humanities Prof. Vanessa R. Sasson
Librarian Matthew Flanagan
Mathematics Prof. Jean-François Deslandes
Modern Languages Prof. Sylvain Pagé
Music Profs. Nancy Berman and Cory McKay
Physical Education Teacher Annie Jeannet
Science Prof. Stewart Daly
Social Science and Commerce faculty
Social Science and Commerce Prof. Bruno Delorme
Social Science and Commerce Prof. Grant Caverly
Social Science and Commerce Prof. Jean-Michel Cohalan
Social Science and Commerce Prof. Kareen Latour
Student Life Animator Trudy Ste. Croix
Writing Professional Suzanne Daningburg
As one of Marianopolis College’s Academic Advisors who help students make the transition from high school to university, Patti McDonald ’79 takes pride in being accessible to students without long wait times.
Barry Webster has been teaching at Marianopolis for over a decade. Hear him discuss his latest book, the novel The Lava in My Bones, on CBC Radio’s All in a Weekend.
Many Marianopolis faculty are recognized experts in their fields. For students who take Prof. Webster’s classes, that means learning from a widely published and critically acclaimed writer. His first book, The Sound of All Flesh, won the ReLit Award for best short-story collection in 2005. Stories from that collection were also shortlisted for the National Magazine Award and the Hugh MacLennan Award.
In addition to writing non-fiction for such newspapers as The Washington Post and The Globe and Mail, he spends his summers as a visiting writer in artists’ colonies in North America and Europe. Included in the Canadian Who’s Who and with a background in piano, he enjoys advising creative-writing students at the College and, obviously, writing (it “helps give shape to experience and makes you understand life better,” he says).
“Marianopolis students are internationally minded. They are often well-travelled and politically engaged. Usually they are open-minded about receiving new views and ideas,” says Prof. Webster, who holds an undergraduate degree in English from the University of Toronto and a Master’s from Concordia University, also in English.
“The most popular course I teach is Metamorphosis, an English 103 course about transformation and change (we do Jekyll and Hyde, The Fly, Siddhartha and other popular texts). It’s a General Education course and it mixes literature with some film and music. It’s relevant because our students are at an age where they themselves are in the process of changing, metamorphosing, into their adult selves.”
Prolific is one word used to describe longtime Marianopolis English and Humanities Prof. Monique Polak, who graduated from the College in 1979 and has been teaching since 1983. Prof. Polak is a widely published journalist (look for her writing in Maclean’s Magazine and the Montreal Gazette) as well as a recognized author in the highly competitive young-adult fiction market. The Canadian Children’s Book Centre named five of her books to its Our Choice list. The American Library Association named another a Popular Paperback. And yet another book of hers was nominated for an Arthur Ellis crime-writing prize.
Persistent is another word that fits Prof. Polak to a T. Just ask her mother.
“For years and years I didn’t want to talk about it,” says Celien Spier. The “it” has been called mankind’s darkest moment, the Holocaust. But intrepid writer and dedicated daughter that she is, Monique Polak didn’t shy away:
“I knew my mother, her two brothers and her parents were sent to a camp. I knew there was a story there. I just didn’t know all the details. Over time, I discovered that one of the reasons for my mother’s reluctance to share her story was that it was so complicated. She and her family survived largely because of the efforts of my grandfather, a prominent cartoonist at an Amsterdam newspaper, who was forced by the Nazis to make propaganda drawings. The Nazis sent my mum and her family to Theresienstadt, a camp in what was then Czechoslovakia, a place the Nazis set up to appear to the world as if it was a paradise. They filled it with artists like my grandfather so they could show the world that culture was thriving, instead of death.”
After years of prodding, and a trip to Thierenstadt, Prof. Polak slowly eased her mother into sharing her story. The result was her ninth novel, the historical work of fiction What World Is Left. Directed at young adults, the book is expected to cross over into the adult market.
Beautifully told, this is a story about the most difficult choices, the power of art and the human need to confront and understand the past.
As part of its Centennial celebration, Marianopolis hosted the launch of What World Is Left in 2009. Mother and daughter were on hand: one read from her book; the other addressed the audience. Refreshments and a book signing followed. A portion of sales proceeds went to the Marianopolis College Library fund.
“It was an amazing night,” Prof. Polak said. “I wanted to share this story, as did my mum.”
The book went on to win the 2009 Quebec Writers’ Federation Prize for Children’s and Young Adult Fiction.
Check out Prof. Polak’s blog.
It’s not your average book launch that takes place in a pub but then again Zsolt Alapi is not your average CEGEP teacher.
With his Pushcart Prize for editing the Best Literary Magazine and his McGill University Ph.D. in literature, Prof. Alapi is widely published in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.
He is but one of several Marianopolis College professors who are also contributors to the literary world, among them Philip Dann, Andrew McCambridge, Monique Polak ’79, Barry Webster and Sabine Walser. The work of these Marianopolis writer-profs is featured in “Writing in the CEGEPs: An Anthology of New Fiction,” Prof. Alapi’s latest book, which was launched at McKibbin’s Irish Pub.
The founder and publisher of the small press Siren Song Publishing, Prof. Alapi has edited three books and is a regular contributor to several online websites, writing both criticism and creative fiction.
For almost 30 years, he has taught introductory college English for students from French high schools, Modernism and Critical Theory, 20th Century poetry and his beloved Beats.
A self-avowed fan of “the more ‘edgy’ writers,” he puts Charles Bukowski and Henry Miller on his long list of favourite authors. So it’s no surprise to learn that when Zsolt Alapi is not in the classroom he likes to “organize and participate in poetry and prose readings featuring works by the ‘literary underground’.”
Thanks to her teaching career at Marianopolis College, Liberal and Creative Arts Prof. Megan Spriggs does as an adult what she did as a child: walk the world’s capitals gazing at the art and architecture.
Growing up, Prof. Spriggs lived and travelled throughout the world thanks to her engineer father’s work. She says, “I lived in Iran from ages 5 to 9, and traveled with my family a lot in those years.” She now shares with her Marianopolis students her lasting fascination with art history, architecture and travel.
In addition to teaching Art History (from the 12th Century to the present), two Humanities courses about architecture (around the world and in Montreal) and Perspectives in Arts and Letters, she helps organize the College’s annual arts trip, which takes students from all programs on a weekend visit to a North American arts mecca.
“I’m a walker and I’m thrilled by the energy of big cities,” she says. “If I’m visiting somewhere, you’ll find me wearing out the soles of my shoes to get a sense of the place.
“I love this stuff and I remember what it’s like to be a CEGEP student and just devour all the art I could,” she says. “Art and architecture are in the real world and need to be experienced in person and in context to be fully appreciated and understood. I try to get my students out of the classroom and into the city as often as possible. Once you’re inside a building or in front of a work of art, what you learned about it is no longer theoretical, it’s real and very cool.”
Art everywhere and for everyone: that’s the goal for Fine Arts teacher and ArtsFest organizer Selena Liss.
She is also a Research Fellow for the International Institute for Studies in Race, Reconciliation and Social Justice at the University of the Free State in South Africa, as well as Adjunct Professor at the Faculty of Religious Studies of McGill University.
Trained as a scholar of comparative religion, she increasingly focuses her energies in Buddhist studies with particular emphasis on hagiography, gender, and children and childhoods.
Teaching students how to conduct effective research is one of the many ways in which Marianopolis College prepares students for the world’s top universities. Matthew Flanagan is one of several librarians who offer students support beyond the classroom.
Longtime Marianopolis College Mathematics Prof. Jean-François Deslandes has been named one of the top instructors in colleges and universities across North America. Watch what he told CTV’s Mutsumi Takahashi.
With a doctorate in French Studies from Université de Montréal, Sylvain Pagé teaches in the Modern Languages and Liberal and Creative Arts departments. He has published Le mythe napoléonien De Las Cases à Victor Hugo (CNRS Éditions, 2013), L’Amérique du Nord et Napoléon (Nouveau Monde, 2003) and over a dozen articles on the War of 1812. In his spare time, he creates large-scale graphic art. Here, he explains the ongoing significance of this “unsexy” war.
Q: We just marked the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. Why does this war matter?
A: In a word, because it paved the way for the Industrial Revolution in North America. It spanned only two and a half years but it brought changes that impacted society and the economy for decades to come. For instance, it is this war that marked the rise of Canada as a major world timber exporter. It also marked the start of our shipbuilding industry and it determined the digging of major canal works along the St. Lawrence River that helped develop Lower Canada and Upper Canada. It also killed the fur industry, which was already in decline, and helped turn Canada into one of the world’s largest wheat producers. In the United States, its effects were even greater: it opened up the whole of the Midwest to colonization and it ushered in the creation of the great industrialized basin of the Atlantic Northeast.
Q: In a nutshell, what were the causes of this war?
A: This war is often called the Second American War of Independence but it would be more accurate to call it the North American phase of the Napoleonic Wars. During Napoleonic Times, the U.S. possessed the world’s second-largest commercial fleet, with over 10,000 ships and hundreds of thousands of Americans depending on this trade for their livelihood. The United States needed it because customs accounted for 90 per cent of the federal government’s budget. Starting with Napoleon’s 1804 rise to the throne, France and England used that trade against one another in their war over the possession of continental Europe. Because the Royal Navy dominated the seas, the result was that the British confiscated U.S. ships. Also, up to 5,000 U.S. seamen were forced onto British ships as “deserters” during the period of 1805-1812. In short, both French and British – but mostly the British – treated Americans has an inferior species that could be pushed around without consequences. After a few years, American patience ran out. In 1812, the United States became aware that Napoleon was about to invade Russia. James Madison, the American president at the time, thought the odds of a French success in Russia were good. If France won, Britain would become isolated in its war against Napoleon and the United States could benefit from the British not having the stomach to fight on two fronts, especially with North America being so distant. Basically, the Americans gambled that they could seize Canada while no one was looking and that the British would be forced to accept the fait accompli. Former President Thomas Jefferson even declared at the start of the war that taking Canada “would be a mere matter of military marching.” Needless to say, the gamble backfired on the Americans.
Q: How so?
A: Napoleon was defeated in Russia in less than six months and he lost his army in the process. From then on, his demise was only a question of time. Plus, if the British were indeed caught unprepared by the declaration of war in June of 1812, they soon reacted and they eventually – once Napoleon was defeated in 1814 – switched significant resources to North America. Plus, during most of the war, the Americans bungled almost all of their military operations on Canadian soil. If 1813 saw a few American successes in Upper Canada, by 1814, the die was cast: England could not lose this war. In the last months of the conflict, the British made that point abundantly clear by conquering a great part of Maine and by attacking Washington, D.C., itself. Let’s not forget that the British burned down the White House and the Capitol. It was the only time the American capital was attacked before 9/11.
Q: How do you explain the fact that our history books pay so little interest to the War of 1812?
A: It is a very unsexy war, so to speak. Its root causes cannot be summed up easily. It was fought by tiny armies in comparison to those fighting in Europe at the same time. Moreover, it had no clear winners and its consequences are not obvious. Both the British and the Americans claimed victory after it ended, which is even more confusing. Incidentally, both were right, as the peace treaty merely specified that things would go back to their original pre-war state. That said, if there are no clear winners in this contest, there are definitely losers. By aligning themselves with the British and Canadians, the Amerindian tribes of the Midwest and Great Lakes lost all chance of forming a recognized territory that could withstand American colonization.
Q: How did the Canadian population react to the war? Was it seen at the time as a defining moment in the forging of a nation?
A: At the time, it did not feel like the great moment that the bicentennial ceremonies and commemorations claim it was. At first, Canadians in Upper Canada and Lower Canada felt more like they had been cursed: survival in this tough land was no picnic, without adding the hardships of war. The main feeling in all Canadian colonies was one of being dragged in the middle of a fight between England and the U.S. It is also pure propaganda to state – as I’ve read in official Canadian documents on the war – that Canadians did most of the fighting alongside their Amerindian and British allies. In fact, if Canadian militia units fought well – as at the battle of Chateauguay in 1813 – it was mostly British troops who helped repel the Americans throughout the war. And let’s not forget their native allies, especially in the first year of the war.
Small class sizes, jazz and classical, a unique relationship with one of the world’s top conservatories: that’s Music at Marianopolis.Thanks to the unique partnership that Marianopolis and McGill University have enjoyed since 1969, Marianopolis Music students take their instrumental and ensemble courses at the Schulich School of Music.
Marianopolis Music Professors Nancy Berman and Cory McKay explain.
From leading moonlit nature hikes to climbing Andean peaks, Annie Jeannet will go to any length to support Marianopolis College students. The Physical Education teacher teamed up with alumna Dora Serbanescu to raise money in support of the one in five Marianopolis students who receive some type of financial aid. She has taught at the College since 1987 and says that her favourite thing about Marianopolis is inspiring young people to strive to do their personal best throughout their lives.
She is faculty advisor to the Marianopolis Global Brigades Club, which helps run medical clinics in rural communities in Panama and Ecuador. “Students also shadow doctors, dentists and pharmacists as well as provide public-health workshops to hundreds of patients,” she says. “During our most recent brigade, we also built sanitation stations and concrete floors, which helped reduce the risk of dengue fever and other diseases.”
Stewart Daly left an assistant professorship at McGill University’s Department of Medicine for Marianopolis College, where he has taught Biology and Organic Chemistry since 2001. With a PhD. in Biochemistry from the University of Western Ontario, he has published a number of papers on the regulation of enzymes that are critical to the functioning of the human nervous and renal systems.
Q: What made you leave McGill to teach at Marianopolis?
A: At McGill, I enjoyed research and being in the lab. However, I was not as fond of the outlook for grant prospects. At McGill and the Montreal General Hospital Research Institute I had the opportunity to interact with numerous students. The Marianopolis graduates always stood out in their enthusiasm, motivation and desire to learn. Interacting with them made me think of expanding my teaching career.
Q: And what are Marianopolis Science students like?
A: Driven, passionate, ambitious. Most of the students know why they are here and where they want to go. They can be tough on themselves, but year after year I see that they are very good with each other. They are can be very independent but at the same time they work well with each other. In the classroom they are very attentive and ask challenging questions, which at times goes beyond the material we are studying. They make the learning experience fun for both themselves and us as teachers.
Q: What makes teaching at Marianopolis unique?
A: Teaching at Marianopolis extends itself beyond the classroom. Here, if we choose to, we can have the unique experience of a teacher and a mentor. Our open-door policy means I have had the opportunity to spend numerous hours each semester talking to students about their academic path and their future careers. The students feel comfortable walking into our offices and discussing anything with us. I’ve had more than one student come back years after graduation and thank me for guidance I gave them. In one case, a student came back four years later and said, “Thank you, sir, for suggesting I go into Commerce. My parents didn’t like you at the time, but I thank you very much.”
Q: What is your favourite thing about being a Marianopolis professor?
A: There are a number of things I really enjoy about Marianopolis. The first is the students. I also enjoy the interactions I have with other faculty members. They are really good with the students and they are great colleagues. As well, the size of the College is very attractive. We’re a small college. I try to get to know my students by name by the second week of class, which drives some of them nuts. As well, they have the opportunity to get to know me.
“It’s one thing to read about business in a textbook, it’s another to place students in front of a workplace scenario and ask them to think like leaders,” says Prof. Bruno Delorme, who shares his business-world experience with students who are eager to become the industry leaders of tomorrow. Some Marianopolis students spent part of the summer in Holland as he led the course Global Perspectives on Trade and Society.
Most Social Science and Commerce students take the introductory course Individual and Society, taught by Prof. Grant Caverly, a Habs fan, sociologist and longtime faculty member at Marianopolis College.
You would think that with almost 100 student clubs to support, Trudy Ste. Croix would be exhausted. On the contrary, she remains enthusiastic and upbeat.
“I truly believe that I have the best job in the entire College,” says the Marianopolis alumna. “I have the pleasure of working with over 90 different clubs and that means I work directly with about 150 club executives. They are the ones who make student life at Marianopolis so special. I am also privileged to be the Executive Advisor of Student Congress and in that capacity I get to work with 18 amazing young leaders.
“Marianopolis students are motivated to do well and are very dedicated. They also love to get involved. Being part of a club is a great way to meet people. It allows you to get together with people with similar interests and maybe even try something you never thought you would do.
“We are known for our academic excellence here at the College but our student life is what really sets us apart.”
Ask Dr. Suzanne Daningburg to discuss her love of teaching and you will hear a lot – from her childhood fascination with writing to her palpable devotion to helping students succeed. But ask which subject she likes best and you won’t get much.
“I love everything related to learning more than I like one specific subject. I am fascinated with how people learn,” says Dr. Daningburg, the College’s Writing Professional.
Her doctorate from Concordia University is in learning strategies and her area of interest is individual learning strategies. “It’s a pleasure to sit with a student, one on one, and figure out which learning style works best for that one student in particular,” she says. “Some students learn best by reading, some by looking at visuals and some by expressing their ideas out loud.”
Students take free workshops on writing, vocabulary, reading comprehension and more. They may drop in on her and any of the English monitors to get advice and discuss literacy issues. “It’s important to keep individual student backgrounds in mind,” she explains. “Conceptualizing ideas may be different in French, Cantonese, Mandarin, Szechwan, German, Turkish or Italian; every language and culture has its own perspective. And it’s not necessarily about students who are struggling. It’s about students who want an edge, a little bit of help.”
“These are initiatives and services that we are implementing because we are committed to student success,” she says. “When we say ‘English literacy’ or ‘classroom literacy,’ what we’re talking about is student success.”
Below are the Marianopolis Social Science and Commerce Department for the 2016-2017 academic year. Rebecca Bird Sociology Background: B.A. Anthropology, McGill University; M.A. Sociology, University of Western Ontario; doctoral student in Sociology, McGill University. Expertise: Sociology of the …More ›