Top Ten

September 4, 2014

Universities adopting video technology for admissions interviews

A Toronto-based firm is providing technology for PSE institutions who want a better look at candidates for admission. Kira Talent started out by focusing on company recruitment programs, but has found a market among college and university recruiters who want to reduce the number of essays they have to review. “By forcing [applicants] to do a video interview right on the spot, where their communication skills and English skills are put to the test, it’s a great way to get a real and authentic glimpse of who the student is and what their skills are like,” said founder and University of Waterloo graduate Konrad Listwan-Ciesielski. Applicants submit short videos in response to questions. The videos are then embedded into an application package alongside traditional materials. “This helps us very quickly to see this individual under a pressure situation and how they react so we can see their poise or lack thereof,” said Shai Dubey, Director of the MBA program at Queen’s University, a Kira Talent client. Listwan-Ciesielski says his firm is also developing a tool to evaluate writing abilities on the spot. Globe and Mail

MoveU initiative at Sheridan and uToronto promotes student wellness

The University of Toronto and Sheridan College have implemented a program designed to help students realize the physical and mental health benefits of exercise. The MoveU program is a peer health initiative that urges students to incorporate exercise into their daily routine. “The whole thrust of MoveU is to create a culture that says physical activity needs to be a core piece of your school experience because you’ll like it better and it can help you,” said uToronto Director of Physical Activity and Equity Michelle Brownrigg. Program organizers hope especially to reach students who are intimidated by campus gyms or who feel they don’t have time for exercise. “We’ve adapted to their needs and bring physical activities to their spaces,” said program leader Ayana Webb. The pilot program is already spreading: this year the program will be offered at Sheridan and 3 uToronto campuses, and 8 other PSE institutions in Canada and the US have expressed interest in the initiative. Toronto Star

New partnership provides additional mental health services to UPEI students

The University of Prince Edward Island has announced a partnership with private mental health services provider Shepell-FGI that it says will significantly enhance the mental health and other support services available to its students. The partnership will allow students to access mental health supports after-hours and on weekends, 365 days a year. A variety of professionals, including counsellors, nutritionists, lawyers, and financial experts will be able to provide advice to students on a range of issues such as relationships, childcare, landlord/tenant issues, and health and financial issues. UPEI’s Student Affairs office will continue to provide student supports during regular business hours. “Our innovative and unique service will be able to give students support anytime, anywhere, and anyhow as we offer support solutions around the clock using our digital platforms through our EAP app, online, or by telephone,” said Barb Veder, VP Clinical Services and Research Lead. The additional services are available to all students free of charge as of September 1, 2014. UPEI News | CBC

University-based legal aid services get funding boost from Legal Aid Ontario

Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) has committed more than $2 M over 3 years to fund family law services at university-based legal clinics for low-income Ontarians. The University of Toronto, York University, Queen’s University, Western University, the University of Windsor, and the University of Ottawa will all benefit from the funding. These clinics allow law students to work under the supervision of lawyers to provide legal advice and representation in several areas, including minor crimes, tenant and landlord disputes, immigration, tribunals, and now family law services. “Family law is one of the greatest areas of need when it comes to accessing justice,” says John McCamus, Chair of LAO. “We believe that law students can help to bridge the growing gaps in legal services—and we are pleased to support these student-run legal clinics to ensure that this happens.” LAO News Release

UNBC receives funding for sustainable bioenergy system

The University of Northern British Columbia has received $1.1 M from the provincial government to support the expansion of its bioenergy heating system. The funding was announced as part of UNBC’s 25th-anniversary celebration, which began on Tuesday. The contribution will enable the institution to connect its student residences, Enhanced Forestry Lab, and daycare facility to a new district energy system, reducing the campus’s reliance on fossil fuel for heating. Currently, close to 75% of heating on UNBC’s Prince George campus is drawn from locally sourced biomass. The Omineca Beetle Action Coalition and the TransCanada Corporation have also partnered in supporting the project. “UNBC is seen as an innovative leader in the clean energy field and as a driver of economic development to create jobs and opportunities for British Columbians. Extending the bioenergy system is great for students, future generations of British Columbians, the community and our province,” said BC Minister of Advanced Education Amrik Virk. BC News Release

Debate over reliability of StatsCan in wake of budget cuts

The Ottawa Citizen has published an overview of the current state of Statistics Canada, surveying the agency's recent history. The report cites several recent instances in which errors were discovered in reported figuresand implies that budget cutbacks, along with changes to the census, have had a significant impact on the efficacy of the organization. The article identifies several small- and large-scale surveys that have been eliminated or cut back in recent years, including the Workplace and Employee Survey and the Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics. uOttawa economics professor Miles Corak, a former Senior Manager at StatsCan, says the cuts are reflective of a shift at the agency from serving as a “statistics agency for the nation” to “a service provider for the federal government.” Another former employee, however, says that the cuts have made StatsCan leaner, more focused, and more efficient. In an interview with the Citizen, StatsCan’s Chief Statistician Wayne Smith says that budget cuts have been exaggerated. Smith says that while StatsCan's program has been reduced, “our systems, our processes, are far more robust and solid than they’ve been in the past.” Ottawa Citizen (Changes) | Ottawa Citizen (Interview)

COU releases data on employment rates of university graduates

The Council of Ontario Universities has released results of a recent survey conducted for the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities that reveals 93% of 2011 university graduates are employed 2 years after graduating. Earlier studies found that 6 months after graduating, 87.4% of 2011 graduates were working. The average salary of 2011 graduates working full-time was $49,398, and 88.6% of these graduates consider their work closely or somewhat related to the skills developed at university. Employment rates for university graduates have increased since the last time the survey was conducted in 2012-13. “University graduates are succeeding in the workplace more than graduates with any other level of education because they have the versatile skills employers are looking for,” says Max Blouw, COU Chair and President of Wilfrid Laurier University. COU News Release | Survey Infographic

Niagara College SMA highlights contributions to unique regional economy

The strategic mandate agreement (SMA) signed between Ontario and Niagara College identifies as the institution’s key areas of differentiation its support for the Niagara region’s unique economy, including the culinary, viticulture, and agri-business sectors; advanced manufacturing; and tourism. The SMA identifies as strengths Niagara’s applied research, delivered through its Centres of Excellence in Food and Beverage Innovation, Advanced Manufacturing, and Agriculture and Environment; it further notes Niagara’s close ties to Innovate Niagara, the Regional Innovation Centre, and various industry associations. According to the SMA, Niagara has demonstrated strength in co-operative and experiential learning programs, its Learning Enterprises program, and its Be World Ready program, which integrates global perspectives into its curriculum. Niagara is also cited for its support for mature and non-traditional learners through a revamped academic schedule, online course offerings, and vocational programs. The SMA identifies 5 proposed program areas for growth: Canadian food and wine industry, hospitality management, business management, advanced manufacturing, and health and wellness. Niagara SMA

uWaterloo SMA emphasizes high-impact research, entrepreneurial education, economic impact

Ontario has released the strategic mandate agreement (SMA) it signed with the University of Waterloo. The SMA recognizes as uWaterloo’s key areas of differentiation its focus on cultivating innovation through experiential learning, entrepreneurial education, and high-impact research, especially in programs including mathematics, computer sciences, quantum science/nanotechnology, and engineering and architecture. The SMA highlights uWaterloo’s strong support for economic development through its business accelerator centres and entrepreneurship programs and the Waterloo Commercialization Office. The SMA notes that uWaterloo generates $8.80 in total economic impact for every dollar invested by the province. uWaterloo is cited for its support for experiential and technology-enabled learning, as well as its high rate of student satisfaction. The SMA notes uWaterloo’s commitment to accessible education, including its programs for Aboriginal youth. uWaterloo is also recognized for its research achievements, as evinced by national and international rankings. The SMA identifies 5 proposed program areas for growth: engineering, science, and architecture; social innovation, entrepreneurship, and sustainability; security and risk management; technology, culture, and communications; and health and aging. uWaterloo SMA

US colleges learning from student-developed apps

Many universities and colleges have released apps to help students navigate available resources and services. But in some places, students are identifying unmet needs and creating their own apps to fill the gap. The New York Times profiles a number of students who created apps that perform tasks such as query their university’s registration system for open spots in courses or help students identify good electives. Other programs help students sort through course catalogues to find classes that meet scheduling needs, or identify when friends have free periods. Colleges and universities are learning from these unofficial tools. Student-created apps not only help demonstrate what students really want, but expose inefficiencies and weaknesses in school systems. Some schools are working to collaborate with enterprising students by giving them jobs rather than punishing them for crashing IT systems. “It turns out if you give students the power they’ll do some pretty great things with it,” said Alexey Komissarouk, who founded a student group called PennApps at the University of Pennsylvania. New York Times