Graduates of the VIU Master in Sustainable Leisure Management conducted their research remotely this year due to the pandemic.
The final three international participants of the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship (QES) program at the University of Vancouver Island (VIU) will graduate this summer, marking the start of the final year of the program.
After graduating from the College of African Wildlife Management in Mweka, Tanzania, Brighton Mbilinyi, Patricia Kayaga and Whitney Lyimo heard from their mentors about an opportunity to study abroad at VIU. This marked the start of their journey to becoming QES recipients in 2019, and eventually to becoming VIU graduates. Master of Arts in Sustainable Leisure Management program in 2021.
After arriving at VIU in 2019, each researcher decided on their own research topic as part of the larger theme of the VIU QES project of Strengthen the resilience of coastal communities. Just months after starting their studies, COVID-19 forced students into distance learning and challenged them to reframe their research topics and methodology to complete their research entirely online. This was no small task for the students, who were trying to conduct research in their home communities in Tanzania from a distance.
Mbilinyi explored the role of safari tour guides in Tanzania; Lyimo explored the factors that helped women take up tourism positions typically held by men; and Kayaga explored the destination stories created and shared by Kenyan and Tanzanian tourism authorities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was important that every student focused on Tanzania and something that has an impact on the tourism industry and tourism sustainability in Tanzania.” – Dr. Aggie Weighill, academic supervisor and professor of recreation and tourism at UIV.
Mbilinyi, who plans to work on a doctorate next, has found that safari guides are an important part of advocating for sustainability in the tourism industry.
“My research explored the main roles and responsibilities of safari guides, but also explored the challenges that prevent safari guides from acting responsibly and sustainably,” he says.
Mbilinyi appreciated the welcoming and interactive learning approach and the many supportive resources at VIU, including a comprehensive library and field trips to the learning labs.
“My two years at VIU have not only been an opportunity to learn, but they have also contributed to my overall life experience, which will never be forgotten,” he says.
Kayaga compared how Kenyan and Tanzanian tourism authorities created and shared their story on social media during the pandemic. She enjoyed the multicultural and supportive learning environment at VIU. After completing her thesis, Kayaga hopes to explore some tourism opportunities in Kamloops, where she currently resides, before returning home to Tanzania to share the knowledge she gained while earning her masters degree.
“It’s about giving back to communities,” she says.
Lyimo also completed a thesis within the framework of the MASLM program.
“My thesis aims to reveal different facilitators of women’s careers, which fit into the social context,” she says. “I have conducted research that I believe honors the women of Tanzania and influences radical changes in gender equality. I was able to share my knowledge on sustainable tourism and support women’s initiatives in tourism in Tanzania.
During her studies, Lyimo says she enjoyed the small classes at VIU.
“They allowed more direct contact with teachers and classmates and gave me a very interactive learning environment,” she says.
Upon her return to Tanzania, Lyimo will continue to share her knowledge about sustainability with women from different organizations.
“I look forward to sharing my research with important tourism stakeholders in Tanzania who could impact the demands within the tourism industry,” she said.
Weighill believes that the research that QES Fellows have conducted here in Canada has the potential to impact academic teachings, tourism policy, and the way tourism works in Tanzania.
“One of the most important contributions Brighton, Patricia and Whitney could make in the future is to bring new information and learning methods back to Tanzania. These three are critical thinkers who wish to be agents of change and I am sure that when they return to Tanzania they will have a huge impact on their communities.
While graduation is on the horizon, the path to success for Tanzanian academics has been far from easy. In addition to the ups and downs and anticipated stressors of any graduate program, COVID-19 has had a particularly profound impact on researchers.
“Their success is quite remarkable considering the challenges they have overcome over the past year,” says Jennifer Sills, overseas education and QES program manager at VIU. “They truly embodied our theme of building resilience. They have been challenged to reframe their research due to COVID-19, to adapt to distance learning, and have been separated from their families and loved ones for much longer than expected due to the complexity of the global pandemic. Their success is a beautiful testament to their dedication and passion in their academic endeavors, but also to their home communities in Tanzania. ”
With Mbilinyi, Kayaga and Lyimo preparing to graduate this summer, the QES opportunities for international students at VIU are now over. However, QE scholarship opportunities for Canadian VIU students have been extended until 2022. Funding is available for outgoing students to complete three-month international internships in Commonwealth countries pending the relaxation of restrictions on current trip. Details of the request will be available in fall 2021. Visit https://qes.viu.ca/ for information on eligibility and application packages.
Eric Zimmer, Communications Officer, University of Vancouver Island
C: 250.618.7296 | E: Eric.Zimmer@viu.ca T: @VIUNews
The Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Program (SEQ) was originally developed to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee to enhance the global exchange of talent between Canada and other countries. The program aims to develop the next generation of innovative leaders and community builders by providing enriched academic, professional and intercultural experiences and facilitating sustainable local and global community engagement. It is administered by Universities Canada, the Rideau Hall Foundation and the Community Foundations of Canada. Other partners who have made significant contributions to the VIU QES program include the Parksville-Qualicum Community Foundation, the Nanaimo Community Foundation, the K’omoks First Nation, the University of Belize, the World Leisure Center of Excellence (VIU) and many community organizations in Belize and Tanzania.
The Master of Arts in Sustainable Leisure Management (MASLM) enables leaders to explore and apply innovative solutions to sustainability challenges in the global context. Students are instructed by professors from VIU, international academics from the World Leisure Organization, and recognized leaders in sustainability. In today’s climate, all industries need to review and improve their sustainability practices. It takes innovative thinking and leadership to bring about change. This two-year program begins with an eight-month residency for courses in Nanaimo. Students then participate in an applied field experience and complete a research thesis.
VIU’s Building Resilience in Coastal Communities (BRiCC) project provides QES scholarships and supports experiential learning opportunities for VIU students to collaborate on innovative solutions to pressing issues facing coastal communities in Canada and around the world. The objectives of the project are to improve the capacity to foster sustainable economic activity, in particular tourism; improve water management in coastal areas, including drinking water; develop and manage parks and protected areas in or near coastal communities; improve the response of coastal communities to climate change; and develop sustainable aquatic foods and local agricultural production. Since the start of the BRiCC program in 2015, VIU has facilitated QES funding for 10 international academics from Belize and Tanzania to earn masters in community planning, GIS applications and education. To date, 10 Canadian graduate scholars and 19 Canadian undergraduate interns have traveled abroad to Belize, Tanzania, South Africa and Vietnam with funding from the QES program.