Thriving Beyond Campuses: Cognitive Bandwidth – Keynote Commentary

How do you understand cognitive bandwidth in the context of your learning environment? As a follow-up to Cia Verschelden’s November 10 keynote presentation on bandwidth scarcity and recovery, we will explore the complexities of cognitive bandwidth as it relates to well-being in learning environments. A panel of commentators will respond to the keynote presentation and share their reflections in relation to their experiences teaching and learning at two of B.C.’s post-secondary institutions.


Patty Hambler provides leadership within the post-secondary education sector as a student affairs professional. For over 20 years, she has contributed to systemic change that supports and enhances student health and well-being in higher education. This work has included collaborating with diverse stakeholders to explore the importance of post-secondary learning environments in supporting and enhancing student mental well-being. Currently, Patty is the director of Student Affairs & Services at Douglas College. She has a Master of Education from the University of British Columbia.

Commentator Panelists

Hussein Elhagehassan is a fifth-year health sciences student at Simon Fraser University and a health promotions special project assistant with SFU’s Health and Counselling team. In his role, he supports institution-wide initiatives that include SFU’s Healthy Campus Community Initiative and the Well-being in Learning Environments Newsletters, as well as hosting workshops on stress management, resilience, and adapting to online learning. Hussein leverages his identity as a second-generation immigrant to drive work in health equity, culturally competent health services, and community-based care.

Hussein has experience in BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour) Dialogue and public participation and is also a research assistant on the COVID-19 Health Literacy Study. This study is looking to better understand how post-secondary students are accessing health information during the pandemic and the perceived impact of COVID- 19 on their stress level and overall well-being.

Sheri Fabian is a lecturer in the School of Criminology and director of the Institute for the Study of Teaching and Learning in the Disciplines (ISTLD) at Simon Fraser University, where she also earned her PhD in criminology. Sheri’s teaching and research focus on minorities and justice, qualitative research methods, decolonizing curricula, and the scholarship of teaching and learning. Sheri aims to empower students to create healthy classroom communities while motivating students to engage with controversial and sensitive topics and respectfully respond to reactions to difficult materials. She also works with her colleagues to develop experiential learning opportunities that promote building student resiliency to victimization and trauma.

Sheri has nearly 15 years of experience doing research to validate claims for residential school survivors, and she brings this unique perspective and understanding into her teaching practice. She is also a facilitator for ISTLD’s Exploring Well-being in Learning Environments Seminar and Grants Program in partnership with SFU’s Health Promotion Team.

In 2019, Sheri was the recipient of a 3M National Teaching Fellowship awarded by the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education.

Melisa M. Kimwere is a fourth-year undergraduate student at the University of British Columbia. She is pursuing a major in psychology and a minor in gender, race, sexuality, and social justice. She is a Mastercard Foundation Scholar from Kenya who is not only passionate about the conversation on mental health, but her “give back” goal also centres around the creation of autism awareness, especially in African countries. She has worked as a research assistant with the Autism Spectrum Interdisciplinary Research (ASPIRE) Program at BC Children’s Hospital, and she did an internship back home in Kenya at Kaizora Neurodevelopmental Therapies, where she worked with autistic children. Her passion for mental health has been influenced by her personal journey. She helped organize a workshop for her fellow Mastercard Scholars, where she invited a keynote mindfulness artist to guide the conversation on “how to deal with uncertainty.”

Chris Lee is an associate professor of English and director of the Asian Canadian and Asian Migration Studies (ACAM) program at the University of British Columbia. Since becoming director of ACAM in 2014, he has worked with a team of faculty, staff, and students to build an academic program that engages with the history, culture, and social development of Asian Canadian communities in an anti-racist context. Chris received his undergraduate degree in English from UBC and returned as a faculty member in 2006. His teaching focuses on Asian diasporic literature and culture, American studies, and critical race theory. He is the author of The Semblance of Identity: Aesthetic Mediation in Asian American Literature (2012) and currently serves as an associate editor of the journal American Quarterly. His research focuses on the writing of members of the Chinese diaspora during the Cold War and the cultural politics of Chinese Canadian fiction. In 2015, he received a Killam Research Prize.


Cia Verschelden provided our keynote session on November 10 and will return to respond to questions from our commentators and audience. Cia recently retired as vice president, academic and student affairs at Malcolm X College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago. Before moving to Chicago, she was at different times the executive director of institutional assessment at the University of Central Oklahoma, where she taught first-year sociology, as well as the vice president of academic affairs at Highland Community College in rural Kansas. At Kansas State University, where she was on the faculty for 21 years, she taught social welfare and social policy, women’s studies, and nonviolence studies. Cia has a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Kansas State University, a Master of Social Work from the University of Connecticut, and a Doctor of Education from Harvard University. Her first book, Bandwidth Recovery: Helping Students Reclaim Cognitive Resources Lost to Poverty, Racism, and Social Marginalization, was published in 2017. Her newest book, Bandwidth Recovery for Schools: Helping Pre-K-12 Students Regain Cognitive Resources Lost to Poverty, Trauma, Racism, and Social Marginalization, is expected in October 2020.

This event is free. To ensure we have an inclusive and welcoming environment for all, we’ve added registration to our online office sessions.

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