Top Ten

November 6, 2012

McGill science, engineering faculties benefit from $15-million gift

Through his family foundation, high-tech entrepreneur Lorne Trottier has made a $15-million donation to McGill University, his alma mater, in support of its science and engineering faculties. The gift will create the Trottier Institute for Sustainability in Engineering and Design, which will serve as an independent, fact-based think-tank to better inform and educate decision-makers as well as the general public about sustainability issues. The gift will also enable the institute and uMontréal's École Polytechnique to jointly launch an annual public symposium that examines the impact of sustainable engineering on society. The donation will also endow the Trottier Institute for Science and Public Policy, which will continue to provide leadership in advancing science-driven policy, while boosting scientific literacy in the public at large. A McGill Governor Emeritus, Trottier has given generously to the university, supporting new research chairs, graduate fellowships, and the construction of the Lorne M. Trottier Building, which now houses the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the School of Computer Science. McGill News | Montreal Gazette

Report summarizes conference on mental health issues at Ontario PSE institutions

Colleges Ontario has released a report summarizing the Focus on Mental Health conference held in Toronto this past May. Organized by Colleges Ontario, the Council of Ontario Universities, the College Student Alliance, and the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance, the one-day event allowed delegates to discuss the issue of mental health in depth and share various perspectives on the challenges educational institutions face in facilitating effective mental health services for students. Breakout sessions included first-hand accounts from students who have struggled with mental illness, discussions on cultural barriers and strategies to confront stigma and encourage students to access services, and an examination of Carleton University's model and approach to creating a healthy campus. The report states that to keep PSE institutions focused on action, ongoing efforts should be expanded to educate students, faculty and staff and to "humanize" mental illness through hearing from individuals directly. Developing an online resource of best practices for use by institutions via a single portal would counter "issue fatigue" through publicizing concrete actions to foster a culture of healthy campuses. Report

uAlberta breaks ground for Physical Activity and Wellness Centre

On Monday, the University of Alberta kicked off construction of its new 111,000-square-foot Physical Activity and Wellness (PAW) Centre. When completed in fall 2014, the PAW Centre will be unique in Canada, featuring a 25,866-square-foot fitness centre, 7,503-square-foot climbing centre and 66-foot climbing wall, as well as a new and expanded Steadward Centre, student lounge, and gymnasium. uAlberta's physical education and recreation dean says the PAW Centre would not have been possible without the commitment from students, who are key partners in the $57-million project. The centre was approved through a 2010 referendum after students agreed to pledge $30 million through a non-instructional levy. An anonymous benefactor also donated $10 million to the project, and $4.5 million in provincial lottery grants will be dedicated to the PAW Centre, with additional funding coming from the institution, fundraising, and sponsorships. uAlberta News | Edmonton Journal

McMaster proposes Experiential Learning Centre

In its draft strategic mandate agreement sent to the Ontario government, McMaster University proposes partnering with the province to create the McMaster Experiential Learning Centre. The pilot project aims to expand student opportunities for hands-on experience and increase community engagement across all 6 faculties. As per its SMA, McMaster's plan to build on the success of its Bachelor of Health Sciences program, which already offers several unique hands-on opportunities to students, such as collaborations with public-sector agencies in Hamilton and abroad. While the pilot won't need funding for infrastructure investments per se, "there are ways in which the province can help make this work," says McMaster president Patrick Deane. He points to a commitment from the government to cover some of the costs for "preceptor" incentives or technological enhancements to help move the project along. The project model usually entails placing the student with an organization where someone serves in a supervisory, or preceptor, role. But even without provincial investment, McMaster is committed to making the Experiential Learning Centre a reality. Hamilton Spectator | McMaster SMA

uCalgary, Imperial Oil Foundation partner to enhance STEM education

The University of Calgary's educational faculty and the Imperial Oil Foundation announced yesterday a joint commitment to create and implement high-impact education experiences for youth who will become the scientists and engineers of the future. The foundation is contributing $2.5 million over 5 years to support research and development of programs that will enhance the learning and teaching of STEM subjects in early school years. The first phase of the Imperial Oil STEM Education Initiative entails creating a research chair in science education at uCalgary's education faculty and the development of innovative research STEM projects and programming for K-12 schools. A key element will be an annual week-long summer academy. Starting in July 2013, the academy will focus on STEM learning through hands-on spatial learning techniques. The academy of up to 50 participants will include students, researchers, teachers, and engineers. uCalgary/Imperial Oil Foundation News Release

York U president gives update on campus safety

Following up on an update issued in April, York University president Mamdouh Shoukri has informed the university community that safety continues to be a focus, especially with the series of safety-related incidents that occurred on York U's campuses this fall. Shoukri outlines some recent measures the institution has implemented as part of its ongoing response to a campus safety audit. The university's Security Services have been authorized to introduce a new Service Delivery Model on November 20. Security personnel will be issued personal protective equipment enabling them to engage more directly in a wider range of on-campus incidents. In response to concerns raised by university community members, York U has recently approved a new Security Bulletin protocol. Bulletins will be distributed when there is an ongoing risk following an incident on or adjacent to the institution. The bulletins will be e-mailed to the university community, posted on the university website and social media, and displayed on the LCD screens across campuses. Shoukri also notes that the Safety Initiatives Working Group is currently developing a comprehensive safety awareness campaign, with a goal of rolling out the campaign's initial phases in early 2013. Y-File

Financial incentives, career education increase PSE enrolment, study finds

Yesterday the Social Research and Demonstration Corporation released a report finding that offering career education and an early guarantee of financial assistance to secondary school students had significant impacts on their enrolment in PSE. Career education workshops provided to high school students from lower-income, lower-education families increased from 61% to 75% the proportion enrolling in PSE (as seen in New Brunswick francophone schools); from 80% to 89% the proportion of youth graduating from high school, and from 22% to 30% the proportion enrolling in university (NB anglophone schools); and from 17% to 29% the proportion enrolling in community college (Manitoba schools). The early promise of an $8,000 bursary for PSE when made to NB students from lower-income, lower-education families increased from 61% to 76% the proportion from francophone schools enrolling in PSE, and from 57% to 66% the proportion from anglophone schools enrolling in PSE. The interventions were tested in schools between 2004 and 2008 as part of the "Future to Discover" project, which was developed to see whether such approaches encourage more students to participate in PSE. SRDC News | Executive Summary | Full Report

Nipissing research finds Canadian boys not faring well

Since the advent of the new millennium, international interest has increased regarding the difficulties facing boys in school, particularly literacy. In Canada, efforts to address boys' difficulties in education continue to focus primarily on literacy, masking the myriad problems many boys encounter, observes new research from Nipissing University. The report compares Canadian boys and girls according to a number of indicators of school achievement and engagement: 49% of female students and 43% of male students indicate that their parents encouraged them to try their best at school; 63.7% of school leavers are male; and 38.8% of 19-year-old girls attend university, compared to 25.7% of boys. The report also compared boys and girls on physical and mental health, observing disturbing trends among boys, including risk-factor for premature death, gangs, and suicide. One of the researchers says that while Canada has a federal Status for Women ministry and millions of dollars of resulting research and programs, no parallel infrastructure exists for Canadian boys and men, and it needs to be created. Nipissing News | Report

Penn State enrolment, donations appear unaffected by Sandusky scandal

The Jerry Sandusky scandal has already cost Pennsylvania State University about $20 million (US), but several other important financial measures suggest the institution has made it this far into the crisis relatively unscathed. Last Friday -- a day after former Penn State president Graham B. Spanier and 2 other former top administrators were charged with multiple felonies related to the Sandusky case -- Rodney A. Erickson, Penn State's new president, described how the institution was trying to emerge from the crisis. He said Penn State had enrolled some 7,700 freshmen this fall at its University Park campus -- a number that was slightly above its target, with a yield rate consistent with that of recent years. Penn State brought in $208 million (US) in private gifts last year, its second-highest total ever, with record numbers of benefactors and donations, Erickson said. Those numbers have held up since July, when the NCAA imposed sanctions on Penn State in response to a report slamming top university officials for failing to stop Sandusky. The Chronicle of Higher Education (free access)

Money from Lucasfilm sale to Disney to support education

Star Wars creator George Lucas recently announced the sale of his production company, Lucasfilm, to Disney for $4.05 billion (US), and he reportedly plans to invest a portion of that money in a foundation that focuses on educational issues. It is not clear which organization will benefit from the money, but Lucas currently serves as chairman of Edutopia, which is speculated to likely be Lucas's choice. A website run by the George Lucas Educational Foundation, Edutopia aims to transform the learning process through innovation and new strategies in the classroom. It assists educators in implementing several core learning strategies -- such as project-based learning and technology integration -- and states that those who adhere to the strategies are "empowering students to think critically, access and analyze information, creatively problem solve, work collaboratively, and communicate with clarity and impact." Edutopia also produces a Schools That Work series, which showcases districts and programs that are improving the way students learn. Globe and Mail