Top Ten

June 18, 2013

McGill raises over $1 billion to support students and research

McGill University this week announced that it has raised over $1 billion over 9 years during “Campaign McGill: History in the Making.” The funding is designated for use for activities above and beyond McGill’s operating budget – 60% was pegged for increased scholarships and student aid as well as enhanced programs and new teaching and learning spaces. The remaining amount has gone to support special faculty opportunities and research. Half of the gifts that came from individuals ($320 million) came from donors in the rest of Canada and 114 other countries around the world. McGill News Release

World’s most powerful microscope ready for research at uVic

The most precise microscope in the world, which will be housed in a specially-designed room at the University of Victoria, is ready for use. uVic announced that they would be acquiring the 7-tonne, 4.5-metre tall Scanning Transmission Electron Holography Microscope (STEHM) in 2009, and it arrived in parts last year. The resolution of the microscope -- 35 picometres – is much better than the previous best image, according to uVic, with 49-picometre resolution taken at the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory in California, and is about 20 million times human sight. It will be used by researchers in a variety of science and engineering disciplines for projects requiring knowledge of small atomic scale structures (nanoscience) and nanotechnology. uVic News Release

$4.4-million investment in energy and environmental engineering research at uAlberta

A $4.4-million investment from Cenovus Energy, and the Canada and Alberta governments, has allowed the University of Alberta to establish a Chair in Energy and Environmental Systems Engineering. The research program will seek to strengthen the ability of industry and government to make evidence-based decisions about energy pathways and resources, while finding ways to conserve water and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Cenovus first established a $3-million endowment to support the Cenovus Energy Endowed Chair in Environmental Engineering, but wanted to seek further investment partnerships to expand the program. NSERC and Alberta Innovates offered funding of $925,000 and $500,000, respectively, to the program. uAlberta News Release

WLU launches new research centre for sustainable food systems

Wilfrid Laurier University this week has launched the Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems (CSFS), which will provide opportunities for research in sustainable community food initiatives. “The new centre is very timely and has the potential to contribute greatly to addressing the research and policy challenge of urban and rural food insecurity in Africa and elsewhere,” said Jonathan Crush, leader of the Hungry Cities Initiative, founder of the African Food Security Urban Network, and the incoming associate director of the new centre. WLU News Release

Brock registration causes issues for students, staff

Brock University implemented changes to their first-year student registration process this year with the goal of improving access and experience, and not all worked out for the better. Brock moved the registration date ahead to avoid high school exam week, and opened registration at 6 a.m. (instead of midnight) to allow for more staff to be available to answer questions. Shortly after the 6 a.m. start time, the system was overwhelmed by over 5,000 registration “sessions,” 3 times the amount of first-year students who logged on last year. Brock acknowledged the “glitch” and quickly got to work fixing the problem; by that afternoon, 2,745 students had registered in 28,000 courses. St. Catharines Standard | Brock News

UoGuelph program addresses childhood obesity

Researchers at the University of Guelph have unveiled a program that takes a family-based approach to childhood obesity. The program, Parents and Tots Together, focuses on “developing healthy behaviours instead of weight loss.” The program will begin with 60 families in the Hamilton-Cambridge area, and over a 9-week period will examine a variety of factors including sweetened-beverage intake, physical activity, TV watching, and body mass index. The program will be made available on a wider scale once the initial pilot program is concluded, and researchers will work on making the program available to the general public through other organizations. Guelph Mercury

Co-op programs add to knowledge, university experience

An article in the Globe and Mail offers some advice to students waiting to receive admissions letters from PSE institutions of their choice: choose a school/program with a co-op program. The author examines the many benefits of a co-op program, ranging from the development of a determined skill set and the accumulation of “meaningful” experience to the ability to determine that a particular job or career path is not, in fact, the path one wants to embark on. Another benefit is the interruption of a possibly mundane classroom experience, especially as students begin to exhibit shorter attention spans on average. The author suggests that the knowledge provided by a co-op program can not only aid in gaining employment upon graduation, but also that it can provide students with more satisfaction with their education. Globe and Mail

Do educators really know what employers want?

Recent surveys suggest that what employers want from graduates doesn’t necessarily align with what educators think employers want, muses Robert J. Sternberg, provost and senior VP at Oklahoma State University, in a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article. One trend in academia that Sternberg points out is that educators think employers are looking for students who have degrees that provide them with readily transferable job knowledge and skills. However, in a survey by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU), 93% of employers said that "a demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than [a candidate's] undergraduate major." Sternberg also says educators think employers want students who have had access to top-quality knowledge transfer, and that online courses will get them top-quality lecturers from home. However, the AACU survey found that more than 9 in 10 employers said it was important that job candidates "demonstrate ethical judgment and integrity; intercultural skills; and the capacity for continued new learning” – skills that cannot be learned in a passive learning environment. Finally, Sternberg debunks the idea that employers want to see evidence of high achievements – in the form of grades for example. He cites a Chronicle survey that shows that employers tend to place more emphasis on practical work and internships than on academic work. "Across many areas tested, employers strongly endorse educational practices that involve students in active, effortful work -- practices including collaborative problem-solving, internships, senior projects, and community engagements," says Sternberg. Chronicle of Higher Education | AACU Survey | Chronicle Survey

British MOOC provider brings in non-UK institutions

FutureLearn, the UK-based massive open online course (MOOC) platform created this year, has announced that it will be bringing 2 non-UK universities onboard. Monash University in Australia, and Irish Trinity College Dublin will both offer courses on the FutureLearn platform. The University of Edinburgh, which is already partnered with Coursera, has also announced it will be joining FutureLearn. Inside Higher Ed

US teacher education receives failing grade

Many teacher education programs in the US are not sufficiently preparing future teachers to run their own classrooms, according to a report from the National Council on Teacher Quality. The council’s “Teacher Prep Review” showed that only 4 out of 1,200 education programs that give training for elementary and secondary levels received 4 out of 4 stars, while 163 programs, or one in 7, received less than one star and were given a “warning” symbol, telling potential candidates not to bother applying, because they are “unlikely to obtain much return on their investment.” Inside Higher Ed | Full Report