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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

*This course package is canceled for July 2023. Students who have applied for this package are encouraged to consider switching to other ARTS course packages.

Climate Justice and Climate Action

On UBC campus the phrase Climate Justice has become somewhat commonplace, used within the institution’s climate emergency declaration, and heard within climate strike protests. But what does it mean? In the most general sense a “climate justice approach” acknowledges that climate change has disproportionate drivers and impacts for different groups. It aims to ensure that the strategies to address climate change are equitable. What, for example, is the relationship between climate change and histories and geographies of colonialism, racism, gendered violence, and speciesism? What would such an understanding suggest about the needed social and political transformations to address climate change and how does that relate to the urgency of climate action? In this class we will work through these questions on a variety of scales and sites, through examinations of concrete movements, organizations, policies, solutions and strategies.

Climate Justice and Ancestral Lands: Language, Landscape, and Stories

Indigenous peoples have often been the first populations to witness the devastation caused by climate related events and are often forced to relocate due to transformations and destabilization of ancestral lands. These seem like recent events but climate change related displacement and devastation of Indigenous communities and their ancestral lands have a five -hundred-year history. This course will explore this long history through Indigenous stories, traditional knowledges, and contemporary world-making strategies. A look “back” may provide a path “forward” as we all grapple with the dangers of looming climate emergencies.

*This course package is canceled for July 2023. Students who have applied for this package are encouraged to consider switching to other ARTS course packages.

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. Policies will be analyzed from the perspective of efficiency, effectiveness, political feasibility and fairness, and examples will be drawn from different countries.

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 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 principle challenges and opportunities, together with an understanding of their own place in the world.

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, Place-making, 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 prior experience in digital media production is required.

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.

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.

For VSP Arts-specific questions, email Maria Morales, 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