November 21st, 2012

The leadership Canadian universities need now

Over the next year, Canada’s postsecondary leadership will undergo dramatic change. Four university presidents, with 50 years of combined experience, are preparing to turn the job over to a new generation who will be charged with steering the sector through an era of sharp change.

Earlier this month, Dalhousie announced its new president, who will start in June: He is Richard Florizone, a 44-year-old with a PhD in nuclear physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and experience at the World Bank. The University of Toronto and McGill, the leading institutions in the country, and the University of Victoria, which has established itself as an international player, are also now searching for new leaders.

The current presidents have had to deal with this era’s financial constraints by becoming fluent in the language of money, from fundraising with alumni and private donors to defending the sector against competing public priorities. Their successors must continue those efforts – while strengthening Canada’s global brand against ambitious new competitors. Winning the international race requires strong personalities, and some observers argue that famously secretive search committees should take this moment to look outside the walls of the ivory tower.

“The job is bigger than it ever was, and it’s way more visible. It’s not the ivory tower any more. There’s all these rankings, and institutional profile is critical,” said Ross Paul, the former head of two Canadian universities and author of Leadership Under Fire, a book about the role of the university president.Read more.

November 21st, 2012

Q&A with four university leaders on their way out

Heather Munroe-Blum
Appointed in 2003 at McGill University

What is the biggest challenge your successor faces?


No matter what the challenges are, the job is an exhilarating one, the people remarkable, the mission simply the best. But a primary issue facing today’s university leaders is that of making the case for effective public policy in a focused, evidence-based, yet politically and publicly compelling manner. Notwithstanding considerable progress, we are not yet where we need to be in Canada, or in our largest provinces, in realizing a public-policy framework that supports successes garnered to date by Canada’s most successful research and graduate-student intensive universities.

McGill is one of few Canadian schools that consistently lands in the top 40 of world university rankings. What is its biggest challenge to staying near the top of the tables?

We have extraordinary people and over the last decade, we’ve recruited over half of our tenure-stream professoriate from all over the world and from top-flight institutions. We show we don’t need dollar-for-dollar parity with south of the border, and certainly I don’t want to see American tuition levels in Canada. But we sure need fair, effective tuition frameworks with a commitment to growing student aid so that we don’t have those who can pay more benefiting from those who can’t.Read more.

November 21st, 2012

BCIT and VCC classes cancelled by union strike


Classes at all BCIT and VCC campuses have been cancelled on Monday because of a one-day strikes by unionized staff and instructors.

BCIT’s Faculty and Staff Association says its 1,400 members have worked without a contract for more than two years and haven’t had a wage increase for the last four years.

CUPE staff at VCC say talks broke down two months ago and they are holding out for a two year deal with increases of two per cent in each year, although the government has offered half that.

Both unions have been staging ongoing job action in recent weeks. All BCIT and VCC campuses are expected to resume classes tomorrow.

Meanwhile, staff at SFU are also planning job action this week,but classes have not been cancelled.

The Teaching Support Staff Union at Simon Fraser University says more than two years of negotiating is long enough and it’s launching job action to pressure for a new contract.Read more. 

November 21st, 2012

SAIT names new president


SAIT Polytechnic has chosen a new president to head the institution when its current retires next year.

Dr. David Ross, who is currently president of Langara College in Vancouver, will take over as SAIT’s president in March, 2013.

SAIT’s board of governors unanimously picked Ross at the end of search that began last December when current president Irene Lewis announced her intention to retire.

“There was an extraordinary selection of candidates, which speaks highly to SAIT’s reputation worldwide,” said SAIT board chair and selection committee leader Bill Lingard.

“Numerous candidates spoke to how Alberta is Canada’s economic engine and how SAIT is providing the skilled people needed to drive that engine.” … Read more.

November 21st, 2012

SAIT Students’ Association representatives look to deal with mental health

Discovering ways of combatting stress, anxiety and even depression was deemed a chief priority for student councils across the province this past month.

The Alberta Student Executive Council (ASEC) held a progress conference Nov. 1 at SAIT where it was determined that the mental health of students needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.
Mount Royal University VP of Student External Affairs Julia Broome said although the group isn’t capable of diagnosing students or determining the severity of the issue, they want to acknowledge that there is an issue at bay.

“The root cause of mental health is beyond students. That goes into economic problems and social problems. As students, what we say is that this is a problem,” she said.

SAIT’s own VP of External Affairs and ASEC chair Matthew Armstrong sat down with Alberta Health Minster Fred Horne earlier this semester to discuss exactly what could be done to ensure students have the proper resources available.

Armstrong suggested a model similar to that of Ontario, where a recent mental health innovation fund has been created that sees $15-million provided for the next three years. Armstrong said Horne was hesitant at first, but the SAIT VP is confident that something will eventually be drawn up by the provincial government based on the progression of the conversation.

What Broome and Armstrong wish to see while they wait for potential funding are creative ways of contending with mental health issues that extend beyond traditional avenues. … Read more. 

November 21st, 2012

Post-secondary students carry heavy financial load

Living the life of a college or university student these days can mean spending as much time on the job as in the classroom while racking up thousands of dollars in debt.
Like some 53,000 full-time students in Alberta, Julia Adolf had to take out student loans to finance her education. Her parents’ savings and working as a lifeguard and residence assistance covered the costs of the first two years at the University of Lethbridge.
To pay for her third year, Adolf applied for a student loan and took on more shifts as a lifeguard and swimming instructor to the point where she was working 25 to 30 hours a week. She’d roll out of bed to be at work by 4:30 a.m. and work until her classes started at 10 a.m. After classes, she went back to work at the pool until it closed at 10 p.m. Her social life was on a shelf and the wee hours of the morning were often reserved for homework and studying.
"I have just under $30,000 in student loans now and I’m going to be pursuing graduate school," said Adolf, who’s also vice-president academic at the U of L Students’ Union.
On average, Alberta students with government loans graduate $23,000 in debt. That means they may have to wait years to be able to buy a new vehicle or a home or start a family. While some people won’t go to college or university if it means going into debt, others like Adolf figure it’s a way to a more lucrative career.
"It’s definitely worth it to have my education," she said. "I don’t know what I would be doing without it - actually I’d be lifeguarding because that’s what I’ve been doing while I’ve been in school."Read more. 

November 21st, 2012

York University students with Asperger’s thrive in mentorship program

Going to college or university is a big step for any young adult, let alone someone with autism.

Last year, more than 800 students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) registered for support at Ontario colleges and universities — a number expected to grow as more children are diagnosed and treated earlier.

Most campuses are ill-prepared to serve this new population of often bright, but socially impaired students.

York University has taken an innovative approach with its Asperger mentorship program, which is winning praise from both students and experts.

The program is the brainchild of psychology professor James Bebko, who came up with the idea five years ago while helping the university’s disability office set up peer support for students with Asperger syndrome, a relatively mild form of autism.

Bebko, who has worked with children, adolescents and families affected by autism for 25 years, knows these students need more than just academic support to be successful at university. He thought his graduate students could help.

The program, which pairs psychology students with “Aspie” undergrads, is a win-win proposition. It gives his students practical experience in their field, while helping students with Asperger’s successfully navigate university life.Read more. 

November 21st, 2012

Copenhagen makes plans for international student city”


Plans are afoot to build a massive international student city in Copenhagen that could propel the city into becoming one of the world’s top ten student destinations.

Inspired by the Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris (CIUP), the international student city in the French capital, which was established in 1925 and today hosts around 12,000 students annually from nearly 140 nations in its 40 residential buildings, the International Student City of Copenhagen (ISCC) project vision is to provide housing for upwards of 5,000 students.

If all goes according to plan, ISCC will be situated on a 150,000 square metre plot of land next to Sundby Metro station in the developing Ørestad area of Amager. The location is attractive to the ISCC group due to its proximity to the city, universities, the Metro. There is also available space for possible future expansion.Read more. 

November 21st, 2012

Supporters of uSask Kenderdine campus petition against closure

The arts community is mourning the closure of an experimental satellite campus at Emma Lake.

The University of Saskatchewan has suspended classes at its Emma Lake Kenderdine campus north of Prince Albert until 2016 and many fear it could be the end of one of the province’s most beloved arts institutions.

"This is not only a blow to Saskatchewan artists but to the rest of the world," said Michael Hosaluk, a world-renowned wood sculpture who founded the annual Emma International Collaboration conference at the campus in 1996.

"Places like this feed the arts. It’s a place for artists to go to rejuvenate yourself, to come up with new ideas, to refresh. That’s what feeds all our art galleries around the world, places like this."

University officials say the campus needs expensive repairs and there’s no money to keep it running.

The campus hosts experimental learning opportunities in art and art history, biology, soil sciences, drama, art and art history, land use and environmental studies.

The university says the suspension will save about $500,000 in operating costs during the next three years. Officials are giving no assurances it will reopen.Read more.

November 21st, 2012

U of A to boost ratio of international students

The University of Alberta is working to increase its proportion of foreign students to 15 per cent, up from the current 10 per cent of enrolment, but that increase won’t crowd out domestic students, president Indira Samarasekera told her annual town hall meeting with faculty and staff Friday.

She also added that Alberta parents could help push the provincial government for more funding to increase local enrolment numbers. “The public is important in terms of advocacy,” she said.

Concerns were raised at the meeting about accommodating local students, especially in the science faculty, where the admission requirement for high school students was raised to 80 per cent to reduce the enrolment this fall.

"We have limited resources and limited number of seats and yet we are bringing in foreign students, while opportunities for Canadians are reduced," said computer science professor Jia You. He suggested the university "revise its strategy in times of budget restraint," and slow down recruitment of foreign students.

Samarasekera said she has discussed the new 80-percent admission requirement in science with the government. “They are well aware the 80 per cent is a big concern and our best advocacy is to continue the pressure to increase the number of students.”

Foreign students are a separate stream; they pay the full cost of their tuition and do not take seats from Canadian students, said Samarasekera.

They are an important part of the university’s effort to build an international reputation, and to enhance the quality of education on campus. It’s also important to bring them in to help meet shortage of skilled labour in Alberta , she said. ... Read more. 

November 21st, 2012

Consortium of top-tier US universities to offer online, credit-bearing courses

A consortium of 10 top-tier universities will soon offer fully online, credit-bearing undergraduate courses through a partnership with 2U, a company that facilitates online learning.

Any students enrolled at an “undergraduate experience anywhere in the world” will be eligible to take the courses, according to Chip Paucek, the CEO of 2U, which until recently was called 2tor. The first courses are slated to make their debut in the fall.

After a year in which the top universities in the world have clambered to offer massive open online courses (MOOCs) for no credit, this new project marks yet another turning point in online education. It is the first known example of top universities offering fully online, credit-bearing courses to undergraduates who are not actually enrolled at the institutions that are offering them.

“We want to be part of the experiment, and we feel that the time is right,” says J. Lynn Zimmerman, senior vice provost for undergraduate and continuing education at Emory University, which will be part of the consortium.

“I don’t think the idea of offering credit online is, anymore at least, such a strange one,” says Ed Macias, the provost at Washington University in St. Louis, another member. “I think the issue everybody is facing is how to do it.”

The elite-branded, massive courses now being rolled out through Coursera and edX have set the stage for the 2U consortium, but the online courses from the consortium will not be MOOCs. The idea is to replicate not only the content and assessment mechanisms of traditional courses, but also the social intimacy.Read more. 

November 21st, 2012

Dalhousie hosts forum on undergraduate education

“Before we take off down the road, we need to make sure we know what road we’re going down.”

That’s how Carolyn Watters, vice-president academic and provost, introduced DALVision 2020, a forum hosted by the Dalhousie Senate focusing on undergraduate education. The event, open to students, faculty and staff, was the first step in a year-long process to develop a vision for the future of undergraduate education at Dal.

Between the daytime event in Halifax and an evening session in Truro, more than 300 people showed up to take part in World Café-style discussions about learning, teaching and undergrad programs — not to mention many more who watched the event’s keynote speeches and panel discussions via the live webcast.Read more. 

November 21st, 2012

More business schools making ethics a focus

As any bricklayer knows, constructing a stable wall takes bricks and mortar. The same holds true for business schools building a curriculum that combines hard-core skills, such as finance and accounting – the bricks, so to speak – and the mortar-like soft skills of leadership, ethics and other values.

Putting together the right mix of both elements is of growing concern to business education leaders since the 2008 global financial crisis, a string of high-profile corporate crimes and the lingering sting of the Occupy Movement.

“Business schools took a hard rap” after the 2008 meltdown, says Sherry Weaver, assistant dean for leadership development at the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business and academic head of its new Canadian Centre for Advanced Leadership in Business that officially opens later this month . The corporate misdeeds, she adds, serve as an object lesson in “what happens when you try to build a wall without mortar: It falls down.”

In response, Haskayne and other B-schools are adding weight to the soft skills graduates will need as future leaders in an uncertain world.

Haskayne’s new centre, set up earlier this year with $9.5-million from private-sector donors , aims to embed ethical leadership in the curriculum for fall, 2013, with some programs being piloted this year.Read more. 

November 21st, 2012

Grades and tests may miss measuring what matters most in learning


As pressure mounts on colleges to document what their students learn, it remains tough to judge from outside the classroom how much knowledge they gain from their academic experience.

The traditional measure of learning is the course grade. Nothing says academic success more succinctly than an A.

But an A is subjective. Skeptics note that course requirements vary depending on the professor, the department, and the institution. Grades are often inflated.

Alternative methods to document learning have arisen in the form of standardized tests of critical thinking, which are meant to assess students’ ability to analyze material at a collegiate level. The strength of such tests is in their ability to provide results that can be compared across institutions.

But what if neither of those methods says much about the teaching, expectations, and assignments that students encounter in their courses?Read more. 

November 21st, 2012

MRU makes the grade

The report card is in and Mount Royal University earned a grade of A-, meaning we should probably take it out for ice cream to celebrate.

Maclean’s and the Globe and Mail have released their 2013 university rankings, assigning MRU an overall score of A-.

Both publications use different methodologies to compile their rankings, but use a blend of publicly available information and independent student response surveys.

MRU does well in the rankings overall, leading in areas such as class sizes, access to faculty, student services, infrastructure, technology, most satisfied student and the all-important student employability.Read more. 


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