Top Ten

August 22, 2014

UBC prepares new orientation program for incoming frosh

The University of British Columbia and its Sauder School of Business have redesigned orientation week activities for this year’s incoming students in order to avoid insensitive and offensive behaviour such as last year’s infamous chants. After the existence of those chants surfaced last year, Sauder cancelled the organization of frosh activities by the undergraduate society and developed a new orientation program involving students, faculty, staff, and alumni that is based on guidelines developed by UBC’s new campus-wide orientation steering committee. The new program, called Spark, will include activities designed to make new students feel welcome and included while having fun. Close to 2,000 student leaders from faculties across campus have taken part in online training and in-person sessions on respectful and engaging orientations. Student leaders must also sign a commitment statement to “respect others, embrace diversity and create a community that is welcoming to all.” Committee Co-Chair Janet Teasdale said, “it doesn’t mean there won’t be any more problems ... But our approach is to focus on education. Through the process of learning about other people, and their histories, and the impact that words have on others, we hope to build a better community, and society.” UBC News | Vancouver Sun

UPEI honours founding institution by renaming building

The University of Prince Edward Island has honoured the long-standing support and commitment of St Dunstan’s University and the SDU board of governors by renaming the UPEI Main Building the SDU Main Building. SDU and the Prince of Wales College were founding institutions of UPEI and the main building was the hub for SDU’s campus as it is for UPEI’s. “UPEI prides itself on the heritage passed down from St Dunstan’s University and Prince of Wales College, and welcomes opportunities like today to increase our understanding of that history,” said UPEI President Alaa Abd-El-Aziz. SDU still operates under the mandate to foster and promote Catholic education for the area, providing scholarships and bursaries for students. SDU board Chair George MacDonald said, “in 1969, the SDU Board chose to support UPEI and continues to this day. In scholarships alone, the SDU Board has contributed over $3 million.” UPEI News

SFU evaluates accepting Bitcoin for some services

Simon Fraser University is exploring the feasibility of accepting payments made in Bitcoin, says Executive Director of Ancillary Services Mark McLaughlin. McLaughlin said that the institution is currently weighing the feasibility of installing a Bitcoin ATM in its bookstores as well as allowing Bitcoin payments for some of its dining services. “It would be about creating somewhat of an ecosystem on our campus. It’s one thing to accept Bitcoin. If there were some ATMs around the campuses, at least it’d make it easier for students to obtain Bitcoin,” he told the Georgia Straight. SFU is also considering hosting a Bitcoin expo. “Digital currencies are definitely here to stay,” McLaughlin said. “Other institutions maybe aren’t up to speed yet on digital currencies.” However, SFU will not accept Bitcoin for tuition payments. The British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) already has a Bitcoin ATM; however, institutions may be hesitant to embrace the cryptocurrency for commercial transactions due to its volatile value. Georgia Straight

CAFCE urges government to create federal tax credit for co-op employers

The Canadian Association for Co-operative Education (CAFCE) has submitted a brief to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance in advance of the federal budget. CAFCE recommends the government create a Federal Co-operative Education Hiring Tax Credit. CAFCE in the brief argues that co-op programs are underutilized in Canada because many employers find them to be prohibitively expensive to implement. CAFCE says that a federal initiative to match existing provincial programs would help offset the cost of hiring co-op students for employers who would otherwise be unable to hire co-op students and would encourage employers who already employ co-op students to hire more. CAFCE recommends a tax credit of $3,000 per student; assuming a 50% uptake rate from participating employees, this initiative would cost approximately $79 M per year. The credit, CAFCE says, should stack on top of existing provincial tax credits. CAFCE Brief

Ryerson social media expert offers advice to PSE institutions

Hamza Khan, Coordinator of Ryerson University’s student affairs creative team, offers advice on how PSE institutions can implement an effective digital strategy to better reach students. Khan says that Ryerson took a unique approach by launching a digital community position within student affairs rather than within advancement, alumni relations, or recruitment. He describes Ryerson’s RU Student Life platform, which draws on the talents of social media and multimedia work-study students to create a voice that is perceived as students engaging other students. “The voice,” Khan says, “is authentic, genuine and relatable.” He says that a key piece of the program’s value is the 2-way channel it provides, which allows the university to gather valuable information that can inform strategic initiatives. Khan notes that in spite of the success of Ryerson’s initiatives, he recognizes that not all initiatives—like their Facebook strategy—have worked out as he had hoped. He also points out the importance of keeping an eye on up and coming apps like Whisper and Yo, which he says are not mainstream yet but are heavily used by 13–17-year-olds. University Affairs

Fanshawe SMA highlights college’s flexible learning opportunities and community partnerships

Ontario has released the strategic mandate agreement (SMA) it has signed with Fanshawe College. The SMA emphasizes Fanshawe’s flexible learning arrangements and focus on experiential learning, as well as its important role in providing skill upgrade opportunities for mature learners in southwestern Ontario. Among Fanshawe’s institutional strengths are its partnerships with the City of London and the London Economic Development Corporation, its training of foreign nationals, and the entrepreneurial resources provided by the college to students. Fanshawe is also recognized for the variety of learning opportunities it makes available to students, including experiential learning, technology-enabled learning, and flexible learning models. The SMA cites Fanshawe’s leadership in its work with the Ontario Council on Articulation and Transfer (ONCAT) and ONTransfer. 5 programs are identified as proposed areas of growth: public safety; business, management, leadership, and entrepreneurship; information security; aerospace; and renewable energies, environment, and sustainable technologies. Fanshawe SMA

Queen’s SMA emphasizes research excellence, community and student engagement

The strategic mandate agreement (SMA) signed between Ontario and Queen’s University recognizes the institution's high levels of student engagement and research intensity, as well as its integral role in the development of the Kingston and eastern Ontario region. The SMA cites multiple examples of ways in which Queen’s supports economic and community development, including its shared Town-Gown Strategic Plan with the city of Kingston and its support for start-up companies through the Queen’s Summer Innovation Institute and the Queen’s Innovation Park, which is a valuable hub of research and development. The SMA further highlights Queen’s support for technology-enabled learning, its systematic approach to incorporating learning outcomes, and its implementation of experiential learning opportunities such as internships and community projects. Queen’s track record of research success is also highlighted in the SMA. The SMA identifies 3 areas of proposed program growth: health and society, science and technology, and business administration and education. Queen’s SMA

Huffington Post profiles Canada’s most beautiful university campuses

The Huffington Post Canada has published a list with photographs of what it says are the most beautiful university campuses in Canada. More than 25 universities from coast to coast are profiled. The Huffington Post says that “most Canadian students at these institutions get to experience all four seasons, historic buildings and all of the country’s natural beauty. Or urban atmosphere, depending on your location.” Among the universities highlighted in the article are Mount Royal University, Quest University, Lakehead University, Nipissing University, University of King’s College, Royal Roads University, St Thomas University, Bishop’s University, Acadia University, and Saint Mary’s University. Huffington Post

New book offers instructive analysis of PSE writing assignments

For a new book, California State University at Sacramento’s Reading and Writing Coordinator Dan Melzer evaluated more than 2,100 writing assignments from 100 US PSE institutions. Melzer’s analysis suggests that writing assignments tend to be limited in purpose, with two-thirds asking about details from a lecture or reading. 13% of assignments in his sample asked for exploratory writing, but poetic or expressive writing assignments were “almost nonexistent” across institution types and course levels. Melzer also says that grammatical correctness often takes precedence over critical thinking. The study further points to the influence of the Internet on classroom writing: a significant number of exploratory assignments were to be posted on online discussion boards or shared via email. Melzer also found that a growing number of professors are experimenting with non-traditional forms of research, which he attributes to the growth of “writing across the curriculum” programs. Inside Higher Ed

CIC creates cartoons to correct misconceptions about liberal arts colleges

Twitter users who denigrate the liberal arts may be in for a debate from a couple of cartoon characters. The US-based Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) has created 2 characters, named Libby and Art, to respond to what they describe as “really negative, incorrect, factless stories” about liberal-arts colleges’ affordability and outcomes. Libby was created to share student insights, while Art, who in his tweed jacket and glasses resembles a stereotypical college professor, “tweets the facts.” The CIC has hired a Baltimore-based social-media expert to manage the characters’ account. Each day, the social media manager sifts through a long list of social media posts and identifies opportunities to correct misperceptions. He’s found that images, including infographics and photographs, tend to be the most popular posts. The Chronicle of Higher Education | @SmartColleges Twitter Feed