By Richard Lam
Six years of conversations between former student Marco Barile and University of Calgary professor Ron Glasberg have been compiled and edited for a new audio series in the Communication and Culture department.
Recorded in Glasberg’s office, Conversations with the Captain tracks Barile’s journey through his undergraduate degree and master’s thesis, capturing his self-doubts, fears, excitement and gradual maturity and personal growth.
“I started taking his [General Studies] 300 class, I just liked it so much that I started going up to his office, and had a recorder . . . and said ‘lets talk about the class today,’ ” said Barile.
“I didn’t think much of it . . . Marco always had this sense of making a record of things,” said Glasberg. “I just would get lost in [the conversations], I would find them interesting.”
Each week, a number of streamlined 5-15 minute MP3 files will be released, relating to topics from lectures or personal issues the two were going through.
To date there have been far-ranging discussions on why most people never grow up, the extremes of humanity in the Taliban versus Playboy and the invisible influences of social structures and bureaucracies.
Barile recalled listening to the conversations at home and sharing them with his friends.
“[They would say], ‘This is excellent work. He’s touched on aspects that so many people in society can relate to. And he’s relating it to history . . . he’s making it funny and you can tell he’s animated.’ “
The hours of recordings with their broad subject matter was compiled and edited over the course of a year at the suggestion of Glasberg’s sister, Rhoda.
“If it weren’t for her, this whole thing wouldn’t have even happened,” said Glasberg. “She did with a sense that it had to be coherent or else nobody would listen to it.”
Glasberg feels the conversations can reveal to students the opportunities the university environment offers. Students are not seeking out their professors enough, and people today no longer have time for conversations, said Glasberg.
“It’s part of what I think university should be about. Having good conversations in which students bring forward issues pertaining to the most important things in their lives.”
“Enough people go through the university and if they have had the experiences I am talking about, then they can make a difference later on when they rise to power,” added Glasberg. “They won’t forget the value of what they had.”
Barile has drawn comparisons to characters in the films Dead Poets Society and The Shawshank Redemption to illustrate the sense of mentorship, close friendship and deep mutual respect the two share.
Barile believes these conversations have affected Glasberg as much as they have affected him.
“I know it’s changed him, because he’s told me. He said, ‘It’s changed me, and I thank you for it because you’ve pushed me places where I actually don’t want to go.’ And I said, ‘well, only a good teacher would do that to another good teacher.’ “
Taken from Walt Whitman’s poem “Oh Captain! My Captain!”, Conversations with the Captain will run for the duration of the winter semester, possibly continuing if it catches on.
“I hope [listeners will] be engaged, I hope they’ll think deeply about the issues that Marco and I have talked about, and I hope that they’ll have their own good conversations,” said Glasberg.
“Literally to extend the space of good conversation in the world, that’s what I hope it will do,” said Glasberg. “The world is created by the conversations we have. The more good ones we have, the better the world is.”