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Centennial comic welcomes new Canadians


X-Men and The Hulk aren't the only comic books featuring strangely coloured characters. Centennial College has just published a comic starring Saucertop, a true blue hero who's helping international students and their families to understand life and education in Canada.

"When we asked our international students what was the most common questions their parents had for them, the responses were quite surprising," says Wayne MacPhail, co-author of the comic book Return From Centennial College and the college's Web development coordinator. "They wanted to know what Canadians eat, what the weather was like, what some of the societal norms were, such as whether students wear school uniforms."

The 12-page book, illustrated by freelance designer Steven Toth, borrows the style and palette used in Asian comic books. The story follows an extraterrestrial family picking up Saucertop at the spaceport after his return from a year of study at Centennial.

The character is peppered with questions about his experience, echoing the same queries international students often hear from their parents.

"We liked the idea of using an outer space setting, because the concept is universal, and the experience of moving to another continent, another society, can sometimes feel like an other-worldly adventure," MacPhail says.

He and Toth worked on the comic for three months to fine-tune the images and the messages.

"It's a unique, impactful (sic) way of conveying the international-student experience," says Judy Turner, director of international education at Centennial. "The book will be used as part of our overseas recruitment package to help students and their parents better appreciate some of the cultural differences international students may face."

Centennial has seen a boom in the number of international students who attend classes at Ontario's first community college.

Some 700 students have come from such regions as mainland China, India, Turkey, Pakistan, Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

International students feel right at home at Centennial, which already serves a diverse Canadian multicultural population in east Toronto.

Centennial is recognized as one of the most culturally diverse post-secondary institutions in Canada, with almost 100 ethno-cultural groups represented and 80 languages spoken on campus.

The college purchased a commercial hotel in 2001 and converted it into a ready-made residence for its Canadian and international students.

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The provincial government will invest $409,800 in an innovative e-learning initiative that will allow Cambrian College to deliver its training services via the Internet.

Government funding will be used to assist in the purchase of the state-of-the-art equipment necessary to bring this innovative e-learning environment online.

"Web-based learning is an important tool in the North," said Jim Wilson, Minister of Northern Development and Mines and Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation chair. "By investing in initiatives such as this, our government is making it easier for northern students to learn and ultimately work in the communities where they were raised."

The Cambrian College eDome is a circular, high-tech, multi-media facility that will provide global access to Cambrian's web-based programming. Providing a flexible environment for learning, the eDome will serve distance education partners through both same-time, same place and anytime, anyplace learning.

This multi-media facility will have circular seating, digital cameras, multiple video streams, large screens and surround sound.

The eDome will have the capacity to visually capture heavy-duty equipment or small calibration instruments like a micrometer and web-cast them to off-campus learners.

"The generous assistance from the Ontario government, and the commitment of our private-sector partners, will ensure a workforce that has every educational and technological advantage," said Cambrian president Sylvia Barnard.


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