Café Scientifique 

By Russ Cooper

A grant from the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) is allowing Concordia to bring science to the community in a brand new way.

William Bukowski leads a discussion on teen friendships under the auspices of CIHR. Magnifying glass

William Bukowski leads a discussion on teen friendships under the auspices of CIHR.

Concordia's Office of Research was more than pleased to receive support from the CIHR to hold a series of Café Scientifique events – events providing insight into health-related issues of popular interest by way of invited experts.

The Office of Research thought this grant and concept perfect for the ongoing University of the Streets Café initiative (now in its sixth year). Though University of the Streets often collaborates within the university and the community, this is the first time in its history it has participated in a co-sponsorship with the CIHR.

Acting Director of the Office of Research Carole Brabant believes in encouraging the exchange of ideas in such a free-flowing manner. "This is an amazing blend of knowledge transfer and public discussion," she says. The collaboration will produce two more discussions during the winter semester, covering issues concerning life at retirement age and human sexuality.

On Oct. 29, the initiative posed the question, 'do we underestimate the importance of teen friendship?' to a packed house at Arts Café on Fairmount Ave. On this rainy night, the discussion was guided by William Bukowski of Concordia's Centre for Research in Human Development (CRDH), who shared his insight and thoughts on more than 20 years of research focusing on the impact of friendships.

The discussion began by Bukowski providing a brief explanation of his findings about teen friendships. "Friendship serves certain functions: companionship, validation, authenticity, and it helps set standards for teenagers," Bukowski noted as one key point. After exploring the role of friendship and sharing anecdotes about adolescence, the discussion began to evolve into deeper, more reflective questions, such as 'how do we discover ourselves through our friendships?'

"Friendship is a collective project," said Bukowski. "Experiences made there are based on common ground. Through that, [we] discover components of themselves."

The dynamic of the discussion branched out towards questions such as, 'how do you teach friendship or encourage the right kind of friendships?' and the nearly inevitable topic of social networking sites and their effect on the very definition of friendship. Bukowski states he hasn't looked at the online issue in depth as of yet, but admits the influence of Facebook and other networking sites is undeniable. "Sites like Facebook have taken private friendships and made them public," he said. "That change can be positive or negative. I'll be interested to see where this phenomenon goes."

The University of the Streets Cafés continue until April 2009. On Mon. Nov. 10, eco-activist Mitchell Leckner and CBC environmental columnist Geeta Nadkarni will put forth the question, 'Building a culture of sustainability: Can we teach (and not preach) new ways of sustainable living?' at the 11th floor lounge of the EV building.

On Tues. Nov 11, agro-economist Bernadette Ouattara from Burkina Faso, and sociologist René Segbenou from Bénin will ponder the question, 'Food Security: GMOs in Canada, is it a done deal?'

Most University of the Streets Café events take place from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. For a complete list of upcoming events and discussions, visit


Concordia University