Top Ten

November 11, 2013

uSask signs agreement to construct hotel on campus

The University of Saskatchewan last week announced an agreement with Saskatoon-based P.R. Hotels Ltd to build a 203-room, 10-storey hotel on campus. Two Intercontinental Hotels Group brands will share the development; a Holiday Inn Express wing will feature 117 rooms, and a Staybridge Suites wing will offer 86 larger rooms with kitchenettes, for longer-term guests. Other potential users include federal facilities located on campus, Innovation Place tenants and Royal University Hospital. The funds from the lease agreement will be re-invested in the next phase of uSask’s College Quarter northeast precinct, which includes plans for a new rink. “Those funds allow the university to leverage the value of its lands and improve the infrastructure that supports our students’ experience on campus,” says uSask Director of Corporate Administration Judy Yungwirth. Construction of the hotel project will begin in mid-2014, and is expected to be complete by spring 2016. uSask News Release | CTV Saskatoon

$1.2-million gift helps UBCO enhance educators’ teaching

The University of British Columbia Okanagan’s Faculty of Education has received $1.2 million in intellectual property from Colorado educator and philanthropist Ulco Visser, allowing the faculty to develop an 8-week “teacher-renewal program” for K-12 educators and administrators. Visser is the creator of SMARTinEducation (SMART), a program designed to optimize performance and increase well-being to make teachers more effective in the classroom. The program uses the concept of mindfulness – “the intentional cultivation of moment-by-moment focused attention and awareness” – and incorporates it into the program, which aims to develop the knowledge, skills, qualities, and “habits of mind” that define professional teachers and leaders in education. “Ensuring the well-being of an educator is the immediate effect of the program; the long-term effects are on students and ultimately society,” says Visser. UBCO News Release | SMART Website

uCalgary researchers receive part of $4.7 million for breast cancer studies

Researchers from the University of Calgary are among the 14 scholars to receive $4.7 million in funding from the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, Prairies and Northwest Territories Region. Dr. Randal Johnston, Dr. Elise Fear and Dr. Ki-Young Lee of uCalgary are 3 of the researchers awarded some of the funds, which will help the trio “develop the next generation of engineered virus that [they] think will be even more effective in cancer therapy,” says Johnston. Thursday’s announcement brings the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation’s 2013 research investments to $4.91 million — following fellowship dollars given to 3 PhD students earlier this year, including Dr. Jie Chen from uCalgary. Calgary Sun

Canada needs national coordination of ocean research

A new report released by the Council of Canadian Academies suggests that Canada is in need of a national organization and strategy to coordinate ocean research initiatives among the many institutions and organizations involved in such research. The report, Ocean Science in Canada: Meeting the Challenge, Seizing the Opportunity, recognizes Canada’s leadership role in ocean research, but suggests the lack of a national oversight body is “putting the country at risk of lagging behind other nations and preventing scientists from efficiently pooling resources.” The report indicates several key areas in need of financial and human resource investment, including the aging fleet of research vessels, and suggests that a national strategy and vision regarding ocean science in Canada is needed. Howard Brunt, VP Research at the University of Victoria, stated, “This would help Canada get a greater benefit out of our oceans and also better protect our oceans.” Victoria Times-Colonist | University Affairs | Maclean’s | Report

Canada meets with provinces, territories over Job Grant

Federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney and his provincial and territorial counterparts were scheduled to meet late last week about the proposed federal Job Grant program, which has been the topic of much debate since originally introduced in the 2013 budget. Kenney stated that he was willing to be flexible in order to win provincial support, but Ontario’s Training, Colleges and Universities Minister Brad Duguid said Ontario is “refusing to help fund the federal government’s new Canada Job Grant on ... the backs of vulnerable workers.” Duguid is concerned that changes to training programs under the current Labour Market Agreement (LMA) would leave vulnerable workers, including aboriginals, at-risk youth and people with poor literacy and basic skills “out in the cold,” while favouring job-ready recent graduates. Kenney commented that some programs under the existing LMA are working, but others are not, and the federal program would focus more on training for specific jobs, as opposed to basic skills. “The people who take the training benefiting from the grant would have a guaranteed job at the end of it,” according to Kenney. Globe and Mail | Ottawa Citizen

Engineers need to study arts, humanities

The Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board is currently revising its guidelines for teaching in engineering disciplines to include a list of 12 graduate attributes, or outcomes. The first 6 are directly related to engineering, and are easily measurable. The second half are much more vague, and relate to topics such as impact on society, life-long learning, and communication. Michael Ross, a recent graduate from uAlberta’s structural engineering Master’s program, suggests that institutions that currently require engineering students to take specific courses like “Sociology for Engineers” or “English for Engineers” should instead “scrap the rigid requirements on the optional courses available to them” and make engineering students take classes with students from other faculties in order to facilitate appreciation and understanding of those who study arts and humanities. Ross concludes: “Being good at calculus and physics isn’t any good unless we can communicate with others, and a methodological and mechanistic world isn’t any good unless we can all enjoy it.” Globe and Mail

Summit suggests need for national education strategy

The Conference Board of Canada’s newly established Centre for Skills and Post-Secondary Education held a 2-day summit last week to “explore the future of higher education and how to address the advanced skills, education and competitiveness challenges facing Canada today.” Michael Bloom, VP Organizational Effectiveness and Learning at the Conference Board, stated that Canada’s PSE system needs to be examined thoroughly, “to clarify needs, identify changes, and break down many of the existing barriers to implementing reforms.” The overall goal of the new centre is to establish a national PSE and Skill Strategy to connect the many disparate elements of the system, and to best compete on an international PSE stage. Conference Board of Canada News Release | Globe and Mail

uAlberta research helps Canadian soldiers live healthy lives

New research out of the University of Alberta could help Canada’s soldiers lead healthier lives, both during and after deployment. Canadian Military and Veterans' Chair in Clinical Rehabilitation Ibolja Cernak is leading research into soldier’s resiliency, stress, and coping mechanisms, as well as early indicators of operational stress injuries (OSI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Cernak found that the soldiers are extremely well trained in certain areas, including motor skills response to signals and multi-tasking. She has also discovered subtle signs of early mental health issues, which, if addressed early, could prevent later instances of severe OSI or PTSD. Cernak recently spent a month with soldiers in Afghanistan, and credits the support of the Canadian Armed Forces in being able to conduct field research. Tammy Wheeler with the Royal Canadian Legion noted the importance of work like Cernak’s, stating, “As people start to transition out [of Afghanistan] and we’re seeing more people returning, we’re going to see an influx of people that are going to need help.” Global News | uAlberta News 

US professors firm on “freedom to teach”

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has released a new statement on individual vs collective responsibility for course design, stating that “freedom to teach” includes all aspects of course design, and that it should be free from “veto of a department chair, dean, or other administrative officer.” The AAUP statement goes on to explain that “beyond the shared choice of textbook among professors teaching the same course, which may make logistical sense, other pedagogical freedoms remain undiluted." AAUP Director of Academic Freedom, Tenure and Governance Greg Scholtz says that the new statement wasn’t sparked by any particular incident or institution, but explains that the organization had been meaning to address “who decides who teaches what” for some time. On whether or not the statement will make an impact in PSE, Maria Maisto, President of the New Faculty Majority national adjunct advocacy group says, “the true test…will be whether deans, department chairs and tenure-line faculty truly appreciate and enforce its principles and recommendations.” Inside Higher Ed

edX partners with Jordan foundation to offer Arabic MOOCs

MOOC provider edX has partnered with Jordan’s Queen Rania Foundation for Education and Development (QRF) to create a new platform, Edraak, to bring MOOCs to Arabic speakers around the world. Powered by edX's open source platform, Edraak will offer Arabic translations of select courses from 29 edX partners to Arabic-speaking students. Edraak will also develop its own courses in Arabic with leading Arab faculty members, and Arab professionals working in a variety of fields. QRF News Release