Arts VSP is ideal for students interested in gaining international experience, meeting students from other universities and experiencing Canadian culture, while enhancing their learning experiences in one of the world’s top ranked universities. Students will enjoy university residence life and will have the opportunity to take part in events and field trips organized specifically for Arts VSP students.

What you might expect/course format

A typical course includes an interactive lecture and discussion component and will have a mix of in-class and take-home assignments. Assignments can also include individual or group projects, quizzes, and exams.

Some courses will offer academic field trips that take place on or off campus. These field trips complement classroom learning, and may include community engagement or fieldwork.

The Arts Vancouver Summer Program’s instructors and teaching assistants are committed to providing a supportive learning environment for students. During the program, instructors provide support in class and by email.

July 2024 Course Packages

From Drama to Theatre: How does a Play Mean?

This course will explore the languages of theatre within Vancouver’s rich and lively performance culture. How do individual artists–directors, actors, designers–transform a playwright’s ideas into unique and original art? In what ways, for example, will a Shakespeare play produced in Vancouver become a Canadian play? These questions and more will be explored in relation to two plays a week in production in Vancouver during the term. We will examine and discuss the play scripts, attend the plays, and meet “backstage” with some of the artists themselves. Plays chosen will span a variety of genres, including Shakespeare (in production at Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival), musicals (in production at Theatre Under the Stars and the Arts Club Theatre Company), plus additional dramas and comedies in production.

Documentary and the City

For the first time in human history a majority of the world live in cities. While there are multiple threats posed by the growth of cities, such as poverty, migration, and social divisions, there are also surprising and innovative practices that emerge. The city of Vancouver is brimming with stories that can tell us many things about the world we live in. Focusing on documentary films and film making, this course introduces students to these often hidden stories of the city through key writings, films, and direct engagement with life in Vancouver. Students will use creative methods to connect critical analysis with their everyday experiences, while authoring basic documentary projects in neighbourhoods throughout the city.

Prerequisites: No prerequisites

Minors (students aged under 19 at the start of the program)Accepted on a case-by-case basis

Culture and Communication

This introductory course provides an anthropological perspective on how language, as a common human condition, shapes social life. In exploring the intertwined relationship between language and culture, the class will introduce the foundational concepts and methods used in anthropology to study patterns of communication and socio-cultural practices. Language is a substantial force in formulating cultural beliefs, ideologies, categories of social identity, community memberships, and power relations. After taking this course, students will be well-equipped to answer questions such as: What is language and how does it shape our social worlds? How can linguistic theories help us grasp cultural phenomena? How do people use language to form their identities? And how do various societal factors influence intercultural communication? Students will gain an understanding of the relationship of language to their own and other cultural contexts.

Global Journalism

This course will examine the development of media technologies, their applications, and their cultural, political and social impacts. Students will also gain hands-on experience in learning how to think and operate like a professional journalist in a simulated multimedia environment. It is designed to introduce students to the grammar and syntax of media across platforms, based on a core journalistic skill set of interviewing, reporting, news writing, and research methods in tandem with the most current technical tools and technologies in digital media.

Prerequisites: No prerequisites

Minors (students aged under 19 at the start of the program)Not Accepted

International Trade and Financial Markets

The modern global economy is intricately tied together through networks of trade and financial interconnections. This course will give students an understanding of the structure and functions of international trade and international financial markets. The course will give a basic introduction to the forces driving international trade in goods and financial assets among nations of the world. The major theories of international trade and financial markets will be reviewed. Topics covered will include the determinants of a country’s trading patterns, recent trends in international trade such as offshoring and global supply chains, the role of financial markets in international development, the future of the Renminbi as an international currency, the understanding of international financial crises, and sovereign debt crises.

Dynamics of Democracy and Global Uprisings

This course deals with some of the key concepts of Political Science, matching them with developments around the globe. We begin by considering some of the concepts and controversies in defining democratic and non-democratic systems. How do we tell democratic systems from non-democratic ones? Are all democracies the same, or at least similar? Is citizen satisfaction a distinctive quality of those regimes? We then link these discussions to the rising wave of global discontent around the globe. The seemingly-universal quality of these uprisings gives a strong indication that struggles we are witnessing are no longer over democracy versus other systems; instead, what seems to be at issue are the meanings and practices largely associated with democratic regimes, the expectations of peoples, and what regimes provide. Finally, we focus on specific uprisings, chosen by the students, in an attempt to contextualize discussions and make sense of recent global developments in an informed and thoughtful manner.

Prerequisites: No prerequisites

The Ethics of Big Data

Data is everywhere, and we are getting ever more sophisticated in collecting it, analyzing it, and using it. This creates massive opportunities for both financial gain and social good. It also creates dangers such as privacy violations, discrimination, and threats to self-determination and collective, democratic determination. This course introduces students to the legal, policy, and ethical dimensions of big data, predictive analytics, the use of algorithms to make decisions, the use of algorithms to present information and opportunities for choice, and related techniques. Topics discussed include the correlation vs causation distinction in data analysis, online identity, privacy, big data use in social institutions, and mass surveillance. Ethical principles and problems discussed include the doctrine of double effect, doing vs. allowing harm, theories of personal identity, and aspects of liberal morality. Through class discussions, case studies and exercises, students will learn the basics of ethical thinking in data science, understand the history of ethical issues in scientific work, and study the distinct ethical challenges raised by the increasing role of big data in our lives.

Working with Big Data

Data is becoming increasingly available and information is becoming increasingly valuable. This course introduces students to the methods and tools needed to effectively collect, process, and analyze big data. Through class lessons, hands-on computer-lab exercises, and practical case studies, students will learn the basics of computer programming, data wrangling and manipulation, data visualization, statistical analysis, and machine-learning. At the end of this class, students will understand the basics of how to use the Python programming language and key data science tools such as Jupyter and Pandas. Students will develop the knowledge and experience to apply them to important questions in economics, political science, finance, public health, demographics, and public policy. No previous computer programming experience is required, and only a laptop computer with a web-browser is required for assignments and classwork.

Prerequisites: No prerequisites

Fascism and Propaganda

This course explores two complex and dynamic modern phenomena we still struggle to come to terms with in 2024. Where do fascism, as a political logic, and propaganda, as a technology of communication, come from? What circumstances make them emerge, flourish, and lose their power? Propaganda sprang out of the 17th century tradition of the Roman Catholic “propagation of the faith”, and fascism out of the late 19th-century workers’ movements of rural Italy. But they both quickly morphed into unforeseen formats and proportions. Taking as foundational texts Viktor Klemperer’s Language of the Third Reich and Robert O. Paxton’s Anatomy of Fascism, this course gives you all the tools you need to understand and critically dissect even the most recent forms of fascist movements and propaganda efforts, both large-scale and small, around the world.

Misinformation and Conspiracy Theories

This course is about how to decide what to believe, and the complex and powerful social forces that make it easy for people to go wrong. We’ll look at the role of misinformation, fake news, and conspiracy theories in spreading false beliefs, and in preventing true ones. Specific topics to be considered include: philosophical perspectives on conspiracy theories; the relationship between skepticism and status quo bias; the epistemology and ethics of disagreement; the epistemic challenges arising from “deepfake” technology; the role of echo chambers; the degree to which people are responsible or blameworthy for what they believe. Our discussion will be grounded primarily in contemporary and historical philosophical analyses.

Prerequisites: No prerequisites

Asian Canadian Experiences in Metro Vancouver

As a gateway for the Pacific Rim and arguably the most Asian city in North America, Vancouver is known as a highly-desirable destination for migrants from Asia. But what has this actually meant for Asian Canadian people? This course provides students with an overview of the historic and contemporary experiences of Asian Canadians in Metro Vancouver. We will investigate migration patterns of different Asian groups and characteristics of diasporic settlements in Metro Vancouver. Drawing on disciplines such as sociology, ethnic studies, cultural studies, policy studies, history, community development, and media studies, we will focus on how Asian migration and lives have been shaped by Canadian, provincial, and local laws, and the region itself. In addition to lectures, group discussions, and guest speaker visits, we will go to Vancouver’s historic Chinatown, the Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre,
the Punjabi Market, Steveston, Richmond Night Market, and the Museum of Vancouver.

Metro Vancouver as Asian Canadian History

While Metro Vancouver has shaped the experiences of Asian Canadians, Asian Canadian people have also shaped and made the city itself. This course explores the role of Asian Canadian histories in Vancouver, what they reveal about the city, and why it matters. We will explore diverse stories from a number of Asian communities in Metro Vancouver, considering what they tell us about Canadian multiculturalism, colonialism on unceded Indigenous lands, and the extraordinary diversity within the categories of “Asian” or “Asian Canadian.” We will also focus on how these histories are told in public today, immersing ourselves in local museums, walking tours, podcasts, archives, film, and media. As we will learn, history is so much more than just facts about what happened; it is a way of exploring the city and understanding the importance of Asian Canadian people here, past and present.

Prerequisites: No prerequisites

Minors (students aged under 19 at the start of the program)Not Accepted

The History and Future of the English Language

In order to contextualize present-day changes in English, the course will begin with a brief history of the English language. It will then examine issues such as the national dialects of English (e.g. Canadian English, British English, Singapore English), regional and social dialects, the effects of gender on language forms and use, language in computer-mediated discourse (in texts, emails, social media), and ongoing changes in contemporary English. The course will provide students with a better understanding of how English is used in different contexts, and the directions in which the language is heading in the 21st century.

How Human Language Works

An introduction to how human language works, examining structures that underlie all languages, with special focus on the deep structures of English. The course asks what universal properties are shared by all languages, and how languages such as English and Chinese can be different (or similar!) in terms of their sound systems, word-building, grammar, meaning, written form, and acquisition by children and adult learners. By the end of the course, students from varied language backgrounds should understand how knowledge of the universal properties of languages can deepen their understanding of English, of their own language(s), and of the amazing capacity of the human mind.

Prerequisites: No prerequisites

Graduate (Master/PhD) Students: Accepted on a case-by-case basis

Inequality and Diversity in Modern Societies

This course explores the concepts and theories surrounding social diversity across a range of modern societies. The aim is to highlight how societies are stratified along different social categories, and engage students to think critically about the organizational structure of multicultural societies. We begin with an overview of the demographic and socioeconomic position of various groups. We then analyze the social inequalities that exist among these groups and the social mechanisms and policies that generate these differences. Drawing from real life examples and research findings, the course will teach students how to think sociologically about specific issues (e.g. labour market participation, health outcomes, civic participation) that are relevant across the globe but also pay attention to those pertinent to multicultural societies such as Canada. Lastly, the course will use assignments to enable students to analyze these issues and think about practical solutions to address them.

Practice with Marginalized Diverse Populations

Based on a framework that recognizes that inequality is rooted in historical forms of stratification that are often embedded in modern institutions, this course will explore the application of the concepts of diversity in policy and practice with diverse populations. This course will then examine how different forms of diversity individually and intersectionally cause predicaments to and marginalization of individuals, groups and communities. Using Canadian policies as an example, students will learn and critique the strengths and limitations of the human rights and multicultural discourse prevalently embraced by many western countries. Through agency visits and small group discussions, students will examine different ways and approaches of how health and social service practitioners apply the concepts of social diversity in serving and advocating for individuals, groups and communities to overcome these predicaments and marginalization.

Prerequisites: No prerequisites

Graduate (Master/PhD) Students: Accepted on a case-by-case basis

Graduating Students: Accepted on a case-by-case basis

Minors (students aged under 19 at the start of the program): Accepted on a case-by-case basis

Writing and Creativity for Social Justice

Artists and cultural workers have always played a central role in supporting, galvanizing, documenting, and making interventions to support social movements for justice. Recent events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement, movements for #LandBack and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, movements against Anti-Asian racism (amongst many other organizing initiatives), have brought forward the ever pressing need to address inequality in our communities.

This course examines how art and culture can be a vehicle for social change: whether it be producing artwork that addresses systemic racism, to grassroots community building initiatives, to film festivals that celebrate marginalized identities. This course will look at how themes of social justice are explored through creative-critical writing, research and public engagement to support social justice agendas. It will provide students opportunities to examine, analyze and undertake critical engagement with creative processes of marginalized peoples and the intersection of creative writing, social justice, and anti-racist feminism, with strong emphasis on how socio-historical contexts are crucial to acts of creative writing, teaching, research, and engagement with multiple publics.

Writing for Video Games

In the past 40 years, video games have evolved in scope, depth and sophistication. Modern games feature motion capture by Hollywood actors, thousands of lines of recorded dialogue, and complex storylines that often branch and have multiple outcomes. In this course, students will discover what it means to be a narrative designer in this highly collaborative, constantly changing field. Through a combination of lectures, video presentations from leading game writers, reading assignments, in-class writing exercises, and assigned projects, students will learn how to create a compelling video game story through cutscenes, voiceover dialogue, in-game text, found narrative, and other techniques. No previous experience with games or game-writing is necessary.

Prerequisites: No prerequisites

May 2, 2024: This course package has been canceled for VSP 2024. If you have applied to this course package, you should have received an email with the instructions to proceed with your application. If you have any questions about the cancellation, please email

Environmental Economics

This course introduces students to economic analysis of environmental problems and sustainability. It begins with an overview of selected environmental problems, such as the effects of air and water pollution on human health, threats to biodiversity from habitat destruction, and climate change. The course reviews trends and indicators of environmental sustainability, both within and across countries. These environmental problems are then analyzed using economic concepts such as externalities, social and private costs, and pricing. The economic analysis is applied to questions such as why environmental problems occur, whether or not globalization is increasing the severity of such problems, what types of policies have been successful in improving environmental quality, and whether or not current consumption levels can be sustained.

Geographies of the Global Economy

How do global flows of capital shape the affordability of housing in Vancouver? Where are your clothes made and how are they tied into a global system of production (including some challenging labour relations)? What can a consumer in Vancouver do about factory conditions in the global South? Who picks the fruit that you eat and where has this person migrated from? This course will examine a range of contemporary issues and debates in the field, including: the development of transnational production and logistic networks: changing patterns of migration and labour mobility; the growth and influence of world cities and financial centres; new models of economic growth and varieties of capitalism; and contrasting perspectives on economic and cultural globalization. Students will acquire an up-to-date understanding of the changing global economy and its principal challenges and opportunities, together with an understanding of their own place in the world.

Prerequisites: No prerequisites

Graduate (Master/PhD) Students: Accepted on a case-by-case basis

Graduating Students: Accepted on a case-by-case basis

Minors (students aged under 19 at the start of the program): Accepted on a case-by-case basis

May 2, 2024: This course package has been canceled for VSP 2024. If you have applied to this course package, you should have received an email with the instructions to proceed with your application. If you have any questions about the cancellation, please email

The Politics of Climate Change

In a 2021 UN survey of 1.2 million people in 50 countries, 64% of respondents identified climate change as a global emergency. Yet robust national and international policy responses have faced political obstacles, leading UN Secretary-General António Guterres to warn, “We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator.” This course analyzes the politics of climate and global environmental sustainability, surveying key initiatives and tools developed to address climate change and analyzing their successes and failures. The focus is on the political discourses, institutions, and power struggles shaping global, national and local climate politics, and how these are impacted by evolving communication technologies that enable both climate activism and climate denial.

Climate, Technology, and Fake News

The record-breaking heat, floods and wildfires of 2023 were all symptoms of a changing global climate. However a surprising number of unfounded claims, misinformation, and conspiracy theories have gained traction in social media that explain these extreme events as due to anything but Climate. This course explores the roots of (dis)information, fake news, and ideological polarization when it comes to environmental issues. We will begin by examining how surveillance, personalization, and algorithmic curation within social media have given rise information landscapes that generate and circulate particular ideological worldviews. The implications of these technologies for environmental politics and management will then be explored and applied considerations of how to address these emerging issues in environmental policy will be discussed. We will ground our exploration of these themes with the help of case studies of climate denialism and recent climate events, such as the 2023 Canada wildfire season.

Prerequisites: No prerequisites

For more information

For VSP Arts-specific questions, email Emily Chou, International Summer Program Coordinator, at

Student testimonials

“The courses provided a refreshing learning experience to us. The faculty organized lots of field trips, allowing us to do fun stuff and meet new people. I am glad that I participated in the VSP, while I am upset by the fact that the program only lasted for a month.”

– Ethan, VSP Arts Student

“UBC summer program is a sophisticated program. I feel comfortable on campus and seldom have trouble using school facilities. Everything was arranged very well including transportation, residence, food and study. Our teachers were professional and friendly, they help me solve my problems in our studies patiently. We had a field trip in class, which allowed me to have more understanding about the city and Canada.”

– Tongfong, VSP Arts Student, 2018