CASTLEGAR – It’s not surprising that former Selkirk College English instructor Myler Wilkinson’s definition of retirement is a little unorthodox. Rather than withdrawing from the working world, the energetic scholar is using his retirement to simply redefine what it means to work.
Later this month, Wilkinson will head to Costa Rica where he will teach a one-week course in transformative justice at the University for Peace. It’s the first step in a new relationship with the international university that highlights the work being done in the Selkirk College peace studies program.
“I’m very glad to do something for the college as I move into retirement,” says Wilkinson, who wrapped up a 25-year teaching career at Selkirk College at the end of last semester. “It feels good and right to keep on and not just say that’s it. I always said that I wanted to stay engaged and vital, it’s nice to still be working with the college and taking the MIR Centre [for Peace] to Costa Rica.”
The University for Peace was established by the United Nations in 1980 with the goal of providing an international institution for higher education for peace “and with the aim of promoting among all human beings the spirit of understanding, tolerance and peaceful coexistence.” It offers master’s degree and doctoral degree programs which have attracted students from more than 100 countries since it opened its doors.
Wilkinson helped spur the partnership which was formalized with a memorandum of understanding late last year. Selkirk College math instructor Justin Ryan mentioned to Wilkinson that his brother Ross Ryan works in the University for Peace’s communications department. Wilkinson contacted Ross and subsequently submitted an article for one of the university’s journals. Soon the correspondence turned to Wilkinson heading down to Costa Rica to teach and the partnership grew.
“By having Myler go to the University for Peace, it’s not just a piece of paper,” says Shana Rablah, the department head for Selkirk International. “Until we have people going, many international teaching and learning opportunities don’t seem to be a real possibility.”
Rablah helped put the MOU the spirit of with University for Peace together. The hope for the future is that other Selkirk College instructors can have the opportunity to teach in Costa Rica. Another area of future growth is for Selkirk College to send students to study at the Central American university.
Wilkinson’s peace studies course on transformative justice has been one of the more popular program offerings at Selkirk College. Transformative justice is a general philosophical strategy that goes beyond punishment and strives to see conflict as a more systemic issue. Rather than revenge and creating more trauma, transformative justice looks for those who commit acts to take responsibility and
moves towards harm reduction.
“Transformative justice has become a larger philosophical reality in that you are looking at systemic or structural inequities and injustices in the world,” says Wilkinson, who will have five days to teach his course. “Like, why are such a high percentage of prisoners in the United States black? Why are prisons growing at such an exponential rate? One of the answers is that they are privatized. There are structural reasons for these things to be happening.”
Wilkinson will be joined on his journey by his wife Linda, a former Selkirk College instructor and Selkirk international department head who retired in 2010 after 25 years. The couple were the main push behind starting the Mir Centre for Peace and over the years have taught elsewhere in the world (Russia, Japan, China and Austria).
Upon his return from Costa Rica, Wilkinson will debrief with Rablah and Selkirk International about his experience.
“The real benefit is to go down there and share some information, but also learn something in the process,” says Wilkinson.
Find out more about the Selkirk College peace studies program at selkirk.ca/program/peace-studies.