The freezing rain had turned the downtown campus into a perilous skating
rink, but inside the big, warm meeting room of the Applied Human Sciences
annex on Bishop St., 21 mature people lounged comfortably, their drenched
coats and boots hanging in the corner.
This was not a conventional classroom, not only because of the near-perfect
attendance despite the weather, but also because these students would
remain in their learning environment for much of the weekend, something
they do every month. They are students in Concordias MA in Human
Systems Intervention program, the only one of its kind in Canada.
Human system, explained Acting Graduate Program Director Dorothy
Markiewicz, describes the relationships among people who may be in the
same group, but who have different intentions and goals. Working groups,
organizations, even neighbourhoods are all human systems.
Professor Markiewicz said that while the program itself is not offered
elsewhere, what students learn from it is gaining importance in working
We know that organizations are always changing living, growing,
evolving, degenerating. Theyre not static. With the program, were
recognizing these changes and learn to anticipate, initiate and deal with
them in a constructive way.
The students, change agents in training, as Dr. Markiewicz
described them, are taught to be aware of change and to ensure that it
is as positive as possible. You cant just know the words,
she said. You have to know the music and how to dance to it.
The two-year program was developed in 1995 to allow students to study
while working full-time (having at least two years in the workforce is
a prerequisite of the program). That way, students can apply what they
learn to their careers immediately.
To accommodate the busy lifestyles of these professionals, who range widely
in age, courses are taught in an intensive weekend every month. Much of
the second year is reserved for their individual MA project, which may
concentrate on such subjects as organizational vision and facilitating
While many of the 21 first-year students enrolled in the program are from
the Montreal area, others travel to Concordia every month from Ottawa
and central Ontario, and some are from as far away as Vancouver and the
United States. They typically work full-time, some as internal consultants,
others as private consultants, and some work in community programs.
First-year student Suzanne OBrien, 48, is the coordinator of the
Hope & Cope cancer support program at the Jewish General Hospital.
She enrolled in Human Systems Intervention to learn how to deal with the
changes in Quebecs hospitals. People are burning out and are
leaving the health care system, she said. I asked myself,
How can I do what I already do better?
[The graduate program] certainly opened my eyes and has let me see
things through a different lens, she added. Its an eclectic
program that combines psychology, sociology, and anthropology. I wish
the program was available 20 years ago.
OBrien said she has already applied in her palliative care unit
what she has learned in her courses, and especially in her discussions
with her classmates.
Organizations arent just products, but people, she said.
I want to know how spirit and soulfulness are brought to groups,
and how employees feel valued in what they do.
Markiewicz agreed that involving all employees is a vital part of the
program. Change agents are not Supermen. They dont fly in,
change what they want, and whisk out. They are more involved in finding
a change process that is good for everyone concerned.
For more information on Concordias
MA in Human Systems Intervention, visit the Applied Human Sciences department
at 2085 Bishop, or go to their Web site: