Talks with My Teacher: Dileep Athaide

By Nicholas Rose

The Colleges are blessed to have faculty who champion learning and teaching excellence. In this interview series, students take the lead to sit down with their teachers for a one-on-one talks to explore life inside and outside the classroom. Beyond the robust CVs, extensive conference experience and research publications, these exciting faculty members also dabble in music, travel the world, advocate for social justice causes and much more. 
Dileep Athaide's Courses
GEOL 114 Earth's Natural Disasters
SOCI 110 Homelessness & Downtown Eastside

Where did you first hear about St. Mark’s College and Corpus Christi College?

I have a long history with this place, two doors down here was my bedroom in the 1970’s!  
I have a very long association with St. Mark's College going back to when I was a graduate student at UBC from 1971 to 1974, and then the summer of 1975 I started my teaching at Capilano College. The Basilian Fathers of the time invited me to come and stay at St. Mark’s College for about a month, until I found a place presumably on the North Shore so I could move close to Capilano. The one month they invited me for turned out to be close to 4 years. The Basilian priests were very influential, not only the ones who were stationed here, but we also used to get a lot of visitors from Toronto where their order was based. So I had a long relationship with St Mark’s College and then Corpus Christi College.

When you were in university, what did you study?

I changed a couple of times, but I graduated from McGill University in Geology and then I did my graduate studies in Marine Geology at UBC. It was incidentally as a graduate student that I realized I enjoyed teaching. I recognized that it was my vocation was to teach, in preference to working in industries of mining, petroleum, or research in university. I found teaching to be my calling. 

Do you have a favourite course to teach?

I taught a course at Corpus last year called Sociology 110 exploring homelessness, poverty and addictions in the Downtown Eastside. It is a service learning course that’s very popular. In addition to all the normal academic requirements, students have to put in 10 hours of volunteer time within at least 2 agencies. The course itself is good class because it covers very important issues and the whole Downtown Eastside is a huge concern. In a relatively rich country like Canada and a city like Vancouver, we have such as a large proportion of homeless which doesn’t make sense in a way. That instantly became a favourite course of mine and I am scheduled to teach it again this fall. 

I love teaching geology and the Natural Disasters course is a particularly good one for Liberal Arts students that are here at Corpus. We discuss the geology around disasters such as earthquakes and volcanoes and then we also look at the human impact including socio-economic and even political aspects of these disasters. You can make connections to psychology, politics and economics with these disasters.

Do you have any advice for incoming and current post-secondary students?

Make sure you do what you enjoy doing, don’t go into a field because you think that's where the money is or that's where the jobs are going to be. There are many fields that are quite cyclical. For example, we have a real shortage of teachers but 5 years ago we had an abundance of teachers and five years from now we might have an abundance again. 
The last thing you want to do is go into a field that is not your natural vocation. If you like something, no matter how odd or how rare your interest might be, you will be good at it and even if there are only a few jobs you’ll get one. If that’s your natural vocation, it will never feel like just work.
Learn for the sake of learning and not for exams. That is something that unfortunately has become so entrenched among students. It is so hard to get students to do any learning they are not going to be tested on, this really limits the nature of their learning.

Do you have any other fields that interest you?

In the last 10-15 years of my teaching I became very engaged in organized labour and ended up becoming a union leader. I was elected president of my faculty association at Capilano College and I was re-elected for four terms. Then I was elected to a provincial body and I ended up being president of the National Union of the Canadian Association of University Teachers. I was also a Vice President at the BC Federation of Labour and the Canadian Labour Congress. I was very much involved with not only workers issues, rights, health and safety, but also on issues of social justice. As an offshoot of that, I ran for public office in 2005 and 2009 in our provincial elections. I lost both times because I was running on an NDP ticket, as a political lefty, but in South Delta they have never had an NDP member represent them in government.

You mentioned you moved to Canada, where was where was your home originally?

Home was a suburb of Bombay/Mumbai in India. I grew up in a very westernized life – English was our mother tongue, we were Catholic Christians for generations and were very privileged under the British until Indian independence in 1947. Our more western lifestyle relative to most other Indians gave us that privilege. That has now obviously changed, but the anticipation of this was likely one of the reasons our family emigrated from India. However I still like it there when I go back, although it is so very crowded.

Do you have any hobbies?

I have very many hobbies and I’m very eclectic in my interests. I'm a musician - I play the violin. I love sports - I'm struggling with a bad left ankle now, but still play racquet sports. 
This is something that very, very few people know about me, and many are shocked when they do find out: For over 30 years I owned and raced thoroughbred horses. Raced not meaning I was a jockey but I was involved with their breeding and training.

Now an ordained Permanent Deacon, in addition to his part time teaching at Corpus, Dileep is the Apostleship of the Sea Chaplain for the port of Vancouver and an active Deacon serving his parish of Sacred Heart in South Delta.

About Nicholas Rose, Student interviewer
Nicholas Rose is a second year student at Corpus Christi College. He is studying business and hopes to transfer into business school. In his free time, Nicholas enjoys fishing in PEI, water sports at the beach and spending time with his dog, Meika.