Print Edition: July 15, 2015
In his 20 years at UFV, Yvon Dandurand has served as professor of criminology, department chair, dean of research and industry liaison, and associate vice-president of research and graduate studies. He approaches research in a method that links it closely to teaching and learning. Dandurand’s research areas include counter-terrorism, organized crime, youth justice, children’s rights, violence against children, violence against women, crime prevention, and justice institutions in post-conflict society.
What brought you to UFV?
I received a phone call from someone I had never heard of, and he mentioned that there was a competition for a position and that I should apply. At that point I had never heard of UCFV. I did not know even know where Abbotsford was on a map. So I got the phone call, I came for the interview, and before I got home someone had called and left a message on my answering machine saying I had the job. So that’s what brought me here.
You mentioned you didn’t know where Abbotsford was, so where were you living before that?
Before that, I was mostly in central and eastern Canada. I was teaching at other universities like Queen’s, the University of Ottawa, and other places. At that time, I was already in British Columbia working for United Nations Research Institute.
I had been away from teaching for several years and when I was thinking about possibly coming back to teaching, I thought I’d like to teach in a place that had a stand-alone criminology program. I also wanted to work with young, dynamic faculty members. I was hoping for a institution that was primarily focused on teaching. Although I do a lot of research, I knew I wanted to be at a place that was committed to teaching. So when I came for the interview, I saw it was a small university not in a big city, with energetic faculty and a dedicated criminology program, and I thought, “This is a perfect fit.” And look: I’ve stayed 20 years.
How would you describe the culture, the feeling you got from when you first started at UFV?
Well, it was very collegial, so that was one thing. Also, the university was prepared to experiment, be innovative, and to try different things. In my field of criminology, UFV was one of the best programs in the province. It was geared towards helping students find their place in the criminal justice system. It was an applied program with lots of opportunities for students to acquire skills and practical experience.
What kind of courses did you start out teaching?
Whatever they needed at the time. I taught research methods, youth justice, methods of professional intervention, psychological explanations of crime, comparative criminal justice, and probably some introductory courses. These were the first few, I think, but again, it was 20 years ago.
Does that differ from the courses you teach mostly now?
They are basically the same. However, I did change maybe a little bit of the way I teach. Like everyone else, I made it to the 21st century. Things have changed in term of student expectations. Also, when I started teaching, which is more than 40 years ago, there were more students who were studying full-time. Therefore, the students had more time for their studies. Of course, when I started teaching it was just chalk and a blackboard. When I arrived at UFV, people were just discovering the internet and many faculty had no idea how to use the internet. Now that has changed obviously — more electronic facilitation. Nowadays, students have great access through electronics to libraries, to hundreds of journals, and to all kinds of things online that bring more interesting material to the course. I encourage students to make use of these throughout the classes.
Aside from your 20 years at UFV, how long have you been teaching?
Well, my career’s been partly teaching and partly working [and] researching in the field and even outside of the field. I have been teaching, with some interruptions, since 1974 in various criminology and sociology programs. I also produce and write a lot of practical how-to books for professionals and practitioners like how to socially reintegrate offenders, how to combat terrorism, how to develop a restorative justice program. In a way, that is also a part of teaching.
What kind of changes have you made in your teaching approaches or methods over time?
Well, I make use of the online resources. I haven’t made great changes. I’ve always been the same kind of teacher, but things have become more available. I’ve always insisted on the courses being interactive and research-based. I’ve always insisted on making the course fun and emphasizing relevance. Relevance is key so that students know why they’re learning something — not because I like it but because they need it in one way or the other.
Most of my courses now are hybrid, which means partly in class and partly online. If you’ve taken one of those courses you know that it can be ongoing all week. So, it’s not just, “Oh, we meet for three hours and we forget and do something else for the rest of the week, then five minutes before [class] you try to cram in the chapter.” The learning is based on a more continuous interaction with the instructor and with other students and learning projects. That’s possible in a way it wasn’t before.
Have there been any students or colleagues who have been particularly helpful or influential in what you do as a professor?
Hundreds of students. Most students who really participate in a course I teach give me some-thing. Sometimes it’s a small thing, sometimes it’s more. Sometimes you don’t even realize what you have just received and vice-versa. It takes time to appreciate that gift. Decades later I sometimes get calls from students who are now retired and they tell me what they remember learning from me. There are also so many students who sometimes force me to look at things differently. Also, they encourage me to think differently about the profession, or about teaching. I am always welcoming feedback and I always try to get as much as I can.
At UFV, I would say the colleague that has influenced me the most, at least at the beginning, was Daryl Plecas, a formidable teacher. Of course, UFV is a collegial school so everyday we influence each other in different ways. But Daryl has an amazing commitment to student learning. I’ve rarely met a faculty [member] who has that kind of commitment. He did lots of things that got me to reflect on how I could improve. I have learned quite a few things from him.
What kind of projects, like course development or research, have you worked on here at UFV?
Too many. I was part of the team that completely developed the master’s program that we now have. That was the first master’s program at UFV. It was not just the program, but the whole graduate studies enterprise, because UFV had never done that. I’ve also developed and redeveloped individual courses. Every year we do something new, something different. It’s not always one person; most often it is a collegial process.
I could mention two other experiences that were a little out of the ordinary. The first one was with Dr. Rosetta Khalideen, the former dean of professional studies. We conducted a study for the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada on how international cooperation be-tween Canada and universities abroad helped introduce new methods of teaching and a more student-centred approach to teaching. The second one is the work I am currently conducting, with colleagues at the Hanoi Law University, in redeveloping a new curriculum on children and the law, based on modern methods of teaching.
While we often talk of UFV as a single entity, each student or teacher will take something different out of UFV — how would you describe what you’ve taken out of UFV, and how you’re still changing it?
UFV for me is a place where I can exercise my talents. UFV has always been very supportive. UFV has always provided me with the environment and the support that I need to excel in what I do. So I feel very loyal to UFV. Twenty years ago, when I first came to UFV, I was proud to be part of the dynamic team of faculty members deeply committed to teaching. Since then, we all got old of course, but now there is a new young faculty team. I’m extremely lucky because I get the chance to work with them. This is all a part of my UFV experience.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.