Humanities courses helped Dawson grad find his way and his why

What’s the point? was the theme of the Humanities and Public Life Conference the week of Sept. 18 at Dawson and a graduate returned to answer this question in a most convincing way.

Andreas Nicolaidis-Gagnon (Class of 2022, Social Service) only met teacher Daniel Goldsmith after he took his Humanities course online during the pandemic. They continue to enjoy a lively discussion on What’s App about the themes in the Enlightened Consciousness course. It was through this ongoing conversation that Daniel had the idea to invite Andreas back to Dawson to speak to students about the value of Humanities courses.

“(Daniel’s) course had a big impact on me,” Andreas said at the beginning of his talk on Sept. 20. “My first three semesters, I dropped the Humanities course each time. 50 pages to read in the first week? Hell no! These classes, which I eventually took, ended up being the classes I loved the most!”

What Humanities classes taught Andreas

Dawson Humanities classes “helped sharpen my critical thinking, helped me to see the value of ethical conduct, developed my compassion and helped me find my way,” he said. All Dawson students in all programs must take three Humanities courses under three themes: Knowledge, World Views, and Applied Ethics in Humanities.

An exercise Daniel gave the class really stayed with Andreas. For two days, the students were to indulge themselves without considering ethics at all and for three days afterwards, they were to live life upholding ethical precepts. Andreas said he remembers feeling empty and unsatisfied after the indulgence days and called it being “a hungry ghost,” who is constantly dissatisfied.

The ethical days inspired Andreas to implement ethical habits in his life: being mindful about habits and taking ethical actions. “I saw the truth of moral law,” he said and compared it to gravity. “If you jump off a building, you will fall. Even if it seems like you will get away with unethical behaviour, there are always consequences.”

Andreas credits his Humanities courses with helping him find his why, orient his career and develop his compassion. While at Dawson, he decided to switch into the Social Service Program and is now at McGill in the Social Work Program.

Value of compassion

“With compassion, we can see people who are hurting. Hurt people hurt people. There is pain underneath actions and behaviour. We don’t have to take it personally,” he said. “Before casting judgement, imagine how hard it would be for someone to understand you. Sometimes lashing out is all a person can do.”

A person who lashes out can spread those feelings of pain to others. “If we can be present to the pain of others, they might be inspired to help others. Healed people heal people,” Andreas said.


Andreas’ advice: we need to be constantly reminding ourselves of our whys, critical of our own worldview, mindful of our own experience and cultivating compassion and applying it personally and professionally.

Andreas concluded his talk by saying: “There are those who seek certainty and those who seek truth. Those who seek certainty go through life looking through a small keyhole. Those who seek truth are courageous and go through life with open arms, letting go of what is limiting and being open to growth. Humanities classes help us be seekers of truth. They are challenging but worth it!”


Q & A with Andreas

Q: What did you like best about your program at Dawson?What I liked best about the Social Service program was the fact that it not only gave me plenty of theoretical knowledge and skills, but also gave me plenty of opportunities to practice my skills in class and out in the field. The program really did a good job at integrating theory into practice as it had three stages and plenty of role plays in class, which ensured I was well prepared when I graduated.

I also very much liked that in this program, I felt like I was not only becoming a better social service worker, but also a better human. We learnt interpersonal skills that could serve us in any area of our lives, and which made us more able to be of comfort and support to those going through the most challenging of times.

Lastly, I really loved the people in the program, staff and students. There is a warm vibe to the social service program, maybe it’s because we are empaths by nature!

Q: What did you learn at Dawson that made a lasting impression on you?

One of the ways in which Dawson impacted me the most is that I found my life’s purpose in my time in this school. When I entered Dawson, I didn’t have a clear goal and was sort of just drifting along, taking courses but not knowing what I wanted to do with my life. The courses I took gave me tools to sharpen my critical thinking and reflect on my purpose. I eventually decided I wanted to apply to the Social Service program and felt a calling for that line of work.

Q: What are your best memories of Dawson?

My best memories at Dawson are the days spent in good company and filled with laughter. My time at Dawson will always have a special place in my heart. Arriving at school excited to see my friends and excited to learn. On breaks, going to Alexis Nihon Mall or walking the halls catching up with good people. Enjoy it while it lasts! There aren’t many times in life that we are surrounded by peers all day and get to have fun all the while learning and pursuing our goals.

Last Modified: October 4, 2023