On Campus Component

A unique aspect of our program is the required "On Campus Component," or OCC. At the beginning of each Fall semester, students enrolled in coursework travel to Canisius for four full days of classes, workshops, discussions, and presentations by guest speakers. The OCC provides faculty and students an opportunity to meet face-to-face and develop a familiarity with each other that other online programs do not possess. Students often report that this is an extremely valuable opportunity that springboards them into success for the rest of the semester. The Spring OCC is conducted completely virtually, but still occurs over four days. The virtual OCC runs workshops and speakers on Thursday and Friday and holds longer class periods on Saturday and Sunday. 

Students must attend the entire OCC if they are enrolled in coursework in any given semester.


Each day of the OCC, students attend classes with professors and peers. These classes provide an opportunity for an overview of course syllabi and assignments, valuable introductions to core course concepts, and content-based learning and discussion.


Faculty and staff from Canisius often lead various workshops during the OCC. Past workshops have included sessions on library resources, research skills, orientations to online learning technologies, capstone advising, informational sessions on publishing in journals, navigating graduate school, compassion fatigue, and impromptu workshops on careers, presentation skills, and discussion strategies. We pick a community read every year in the Spring and discuss it at the Fall OCC. 

Guest Speakers:

At the beginning of each semester, the program hosts a distinguished guest as part of the OCC. Our students not only attend the speaker's formal lecture, but also have the unique opportunity to interact with them during dinners and informal question and answer periods. Some speakers have even attended classes. Recent topics include humane education, wildlife welfare and conservation, photography and animal advocacy, and urban ecology.

Some previous guest speakers include:

  • Michael Blackwell, DVM, Director of the Program for Pet Health Equity at University of Tennessee Knoxville
  • Kristen Lukas, conservationist at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and Board Member at Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund
  • Jonathan Balcombe, animal behaviorist and author of What a Fish Knows
  • J. Drew Lanham, MacArthur Foundation Fellow and author of The Home Place
  • Zoe Weil, co-founder and president of the Institute for Humane Education
  • Joanne MacArthur, photojournalist and author of We Animals
  • Frans de Waal, primatologist and author of The Age of Empathy 

After the OCC:

Following the OCC, students return to their hometowns and complete course readings, watch assigned videos, participate in online discussion forums, and work on assignments for the remainder of the semester. Most courses assign final papers or projects in lieu of final exams.

Synchronous Meetings:

Students will also participate in regular, synchronous meetings using the web conferencing platform, Zoom. These meetings provide a vital and unique opportunity to stay engaged with professors and classmates face-to-face in a classroom-style environment with short lectures, deeper discussions of course materials, and periodically, guest speakers. Each faculty member sets their own schedule for these meetings, which generally run 60-90 minutes. Most professors hold meetings every 2-3 weeks, and the meetings typically occur in the evenings. Faculty members make every effort to accommodate students' diverse lifestyles and work schedules, and as a result they may hold meetings on back-to-back nights so that students have multiple opportunities to attend.