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.

Is Asia in Vancouver? – Understanding Asian Migrations in a Global Context

“Is Asia in Vancouver?” This apparently strange question invites students to reconsider what “Asia” means from the perspective of global migrations. This course introduces students to histories of migration from Asia to the Canadian West Coast in relation to issues such as gender, race, sexuality, immigration, and community organizing. Through assigned readings and seminar-style discussions, students will gain important skills, including how to read across disciplines, how to decipher and critique scholarly research, how to synthesize research across different academic disciplines, and how to formulate and present strong arguments in written and oral forms. Through guest lectures and field trips students will learn how to conduct research through community collaboration and the public impact of scholarship. Students will be encouraged to connect academic concepts to local contexts in their group projects.

Is Vancouver in Asia? – Storytelling and Creative Production

Vancouver has one of the largest Asian populations outside Asia. These vibrant communities have created a cosmopolitan and diverse city even though Asians continue to face discrimination and marginalization. In this course, students will learn to discover and retell stories about Asians Canadian experiences in Vancouver through film, photography, audio recording, and other media of creative expression. Students will consider the complexities involved in researching and narrating these stories, including the importance of relationship building, the ethics and protocols of community collaboration, and how to ensure that the research results give back to local communities. Students will gain valuable first-hand experience working with local Asian Canadian communities through visits to local organizations and historic sites, and guest lectures by local experts. This course will include multimedia workshops that introduce students to basic skills in film, video, and audio production.

No pre-requisites, no prior experience in digital media production is required.

Culture and Communication

Anthropology is the study of what makes us human. One of the most fundamental aspects of human society is communication through language. In this course, we ask if human language is unique and different from communication systems of other animals. We also examine the relationship between language and culture and explore how language is linked to how we see the world and how we relate to each other. By reading about a variety of cultures and languages across the globe, we will try to answer questions, such as: Do we see the world differently because we speak different languages? Do we identify the social characteristics of an individual based on their dialect and accent? How do people use language to form or change identities? Why are women criticized more frequently than men for how they communicate? You will gain experience in meeting writing standards for UBC Arts/Anthropology courses and will receive individual feedback on writing assignments.

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.

No prerequisites.

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 languages work, examining the structures that underlie all languages, with special focus on the deep structure of English. The course asks what universal properties are shared by all languages, and how languages as divergent as English and Chinese can be different (or similar!) in terms of their sound systems, word­building, 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.

No prerequisites.

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.

No prerequisites. 

Environmental Economics

This course provides an introduction to economic aspects of environmental problems and
sustainability. It will begin 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. Trends and indicators of environmental sustainability, both within and across countries, will be reviewed. The course will focus on 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 are sustainable.

Geographies of the Global Economy

This course will explore the fast-changing geographies of the global economy from the uniquely grounded perspective of economic geography. The course will examine a range of contemporary issues and debates in the field, including: the development of transnational production and logistics 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 principle challenges and opportunities, together with an understanding of their own place in the world.

No prerequisites. 

Linguistics for Natural Language Processing

An introduction to the general linguistic principles and concepts that are relevant for computational linguistics, including: (i) an introduction to phonetics and phonology; (ii) an understanding of syntactic and morphological structure; (iii) descriptive approaches
to grammar; and (iv) language typology and linguistic universals (comparisons across different languages, cultures, and modes of communication). In each case, special reference will be made to computational applications, and by the end of the course,
students will understand how knowledge of the universal properties of languages both contributes to and benefits from computational research applications.

Computation for Natural Language Processing

This course will take students with little or no background in computing and teach them
programming basics and the practical uses of computational linguistics and machine learning. Students will learn how to use command line interface, creating simple programs using Python and NLTK. The course will then take them step-by-step through how programs perform such tasks as tagging speech and analyzing sentence structure or meaning. Students will see how these steps can be applied in such useful and ubiquitous applications as error correction, spam filters, and author identification, among others. Finally, they will see concrete examples of how computation is contributing back to traditional areas of linguistic enquiry.

No prerequisites.

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 & 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 filmmaking, 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.

No prerequisites. 

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 think about the organizational structure of multicultural societies. The course will begin with an overview of the demographic and socioeconomic position of various groups. The course will 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.

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.

No prerequisites.

Society, Inequality and the Global Pandemic – COVID-19 in Perspective

Life as we knew it changed drastically in 2020. This component aims to draw on pioneering research and recent evidence to look at these changes from a sociological perspective. You’ll engage with experts on topics like family change, gender dynamics, labour market inequalities, healthcare, social infrastructure and demography. We will explore society’s reactions to COVID-19, as well as how people worldwide cope with this and other global pandemics. Together, we will consider 1) how individual experiences in the pandemic vary by gender, sex, age, race and ethnicity and residential patterns; 2) how the pandemic is both affected by and impacts social inequalities within and across various groups in both Canadian society as well globally. Final projects will be developing infographics to support public knowledge sharing. You will also be given opportunities for discussion, learning from the diverse experiences of your global peers.

The COVID-19 Infodemic: Social Media, Misinformation and Human Experiences of the Pandemic

The World Health Organization used the term “Infodemic” in February 2020 to refer to the flood of information and misinformation that spread through the Internet and social media as the COVID-19 pandemic progressed. In this half of the course, with the help of information and communication experts, we will examine, how and why misinformation is produced during crises; the impact it has on decision-making and crisis response, and how it is controlled and managed in different parts of the world. Students will have the opportunity to draw upon their own experiences of making sense of the COVID-19 pandemic and to share these with their peers. They will develop skills in effective communication and misinformation detection, and will have the opportunity to use some of the tools that researchers use to collect and analyze social media content. In their course projects, students will engage with different social media platforms to create effective information campaigns.

No prerequisites.

For VSP Arts-specific questions, email Frankie Zhong, Program Coordinator Vancouver Summer Program 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