Top Ten

February 20, 2015

MRU asks AB for permission to install chancellor and senate, grant honorary doctorates

Administrators at Mount Royal University are preparing to pitch the province on changes to its governance model. While MRU has had university status for 5 years, its governance model has not yet been updated. Now, the institution is asking the province for permission to establish a senate, elect a chancellor, and be given the power to bestow honorary doctoral degrees. "There's a level of prestige. It builds profile, it builds potential fundraising," said President David Docherty. Docherty believes that the ability to grant honorary doctorates could potentially increase the appeal of the university to students. "It builds potential attractiveness for students ... when you've got someone come in and give a barn-buster of an honorary degree speech. There's a whole lot of things that go along with that and it comes, quite frankly, at no cost to the government or ourselves." Metro News

Study shows vast majority of Indspire recipients receive PSE credential

A new report released by Indspire shows that 93% of the Indigenous recipients of Indspire's Building Better Futures (BBF) awards program graduated with a PSE credential, and 82% of those graduates are employed. The report, Creating Positive Outcomes: Graduation and Employment Rates of Indspire’s Financial Award Recipients, gathered data from 1,248 BBF recipients who received funding between 2000–01 and 2012–13. The data further shows that of those graduates that are employed, 84% reported that they now serve Indigenous people in their jobs. The highest level of education completed for 50% of respondents was an undergraduate degree, 22% completed a graduate degree, while 15% graduated from a college program, 8% obtained a professional designation, and 5% obtained an institutional certificate or high school diploma. “This report reinforces the effectiveness of financial aid in closing Canada’s education gap for Aboriginal students,” said Paul Davidson, President of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC). “Along with culturally relevant curriculum, programs, and outreach, financial support is key to improving both access and success for Indigenous students in post-secondary education.” Indspire News | Full Report

uCalgary to launch master's degree in landscape architecture

The University of Calgary's Faculty of Environmental Design is preparing to launch a new Master of Landscape Architecture program. The 3-year program will reportedly be the first of its kind to be offered in Alberta, and the first to be started in Canada since 1980. Associate Dean Beverly Sandalack said that the program will respond to a number of pressing social issues involving landscape, place-making, and sustainability; Dean Nancy Pollock-Ellwand added that graduates of the program will be in a strong position to improve the quality of neighbourhoods in rapidly urbanizing communities like Calgary. The interdisciplinary program will involve elements of architecture and planning, and will provide students with the opportunity to work on real-world projects. The program received its approval from the Alberta Ministry of Innovation and Advanced Education 2 weeks ago and its first cohort of 15 students will begin studies this fall. uCalgary News | Metro News

uWindsor launches sexual violence resource page

The University of Windsor has launched a new website offering information on dealing with sexual assault and misconduct. The website offers lists of on-campus and off-campus resources, information for students seeking help, advice for students looking to help a peer, and information on uWindsor's empowered bystander initiative, as well as clearly outlining institutional policies. "No one should be a victim of any forms of harassment, or be subjected to any unwanted actions, including illegal actions, that compromise safety, dignity, or human rights," said uWindsor President Alan Wildeman. "It is the responsibility of everyone to contribute to the University of Windsor being a place where harassment of any form is unequivocally discouraged. We will continue to engage students, faculty, and staff in collective efforts to have a safe campus." uWindsor News Release | uWindsor Website

Universities must do more to develop their leaders

Carleton University Professor Emerita Katherine A H Graham has contributed a piece to the Ottawa Citizen that contemplates the state of  PSE leadership in a time when universities' roles in our society are changing dramatically. Graham says that as universities are increasingly expected to deal with behaviour that is offensive, dangerous, or illegal, and to support students whose needs are more and more complex, it can be challenging to define an institutional culture. PSE leaders today must also contend with increased government scrutiny as well as a "student as customer" attitude. But as leadership roles have become more complex, Graham argues, institutions have not sufficiently invested in the development of their leaders. "Academic leadership," she writes, "could be described as gifted amateurs. No preparation required." Graham points to the Carleton Leader initiative, a program she helped lead, as providing a model for developing institutional leaders by bringing together administrators, faculty, and services staff to think collaboratively about leadership and the challenges faced by the institution. Ottawa Citizen

Universities should make better use of campus radio

An article in University Affairs suggests that some Canadian universities may not be taking full advantage of their campus radio stations. Benjamin Miller argues that radio can offer universities strategic and pedagogic benefits, being an especially useful tool for appealing to new immigrants and international students. Many campus stations broadcast content that is in neither French nor English, quickly reaching a diverse audience. Universities can also use their radio stations to develop their campus identity, interacting with their communities and providing a platform to share the work of different departments. Professors, for instance, might broadcast course-related podcasts or develop class projects that incorporate radio as a multimedia element. "Campus radio is a strategic asset for reaching out to thousands of potential students across Canada. It is a wonderful part of university life, and universities can only benefit by using it better," writes Miller. University Affairs

Programs support Somali-Canadian students

Edmonton Public Schools intercultural liaison Abdalla Kulmiye says that Somali Canadians need support to ensure their successful transitions into the Canadian school system and eventually to postsecondary education. In 2009, Kulmiye organized a graduation ceremony for Somali families in an effort to bring the community together following a series of murders. This year, more than 100 students will attend. Kulmiye says that the event helps the community "show that we have potential students who can graduate from high school and advance to postsecondary education." He works with Somali families to help teach them about the Canadian education system and to encourage them to get involved in their children's education. Kulmiye also volunteers with the Somali Canadian Cultural Society, which offers a school resource kit and runs a drop-in homework club to help students new to Canada get up to speed with their peers. Kulmiye says that his work has helped foster cultural sensitivity as well as prepared students to get the most from their educational opportunities. Edmonton Journal

Chemistry prof calls for more STEM majors with liberal arts training

In a recent article for the Washington Post, Rhodes College chemistry professor Loretta Jackson-Hayes argues that the US doesn't need more STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) majors; rather, it needs more STEM majors with training in the liberal arts. Jackson-Hayes focuses on the benefits of the mentor-mentee relationship that she uses with students, an approach she calls a "centrepiece of a college experience within the liberal arts environment." Further, she highlights the value of a liberal arts background to the writing and communication skills of scientists, who must publish and present research findings. "To innovate is to introduce change. While STEM workers can certainly drive innovation through science alone, imagine how much more innovative students and employees could be if the pool of knowledge from which they draw is wider and deeper. That occurs as the result of a liberal arts education," writes Jackson-Hayes. Washington Post

US college makes budget cuts a collaborative exercise

The Chronicle of Higher Education has published a feature on the approach taken at the College of Wooster (Ohio) to trimming its budget. Administrators set up a wiki that made available to staff, faculty, and students all of the institution's financial information and staffing data going back 20 years. They then met with a variety of campus constituencies to solicit suggestions on how to save money, and opened up an online suggestion box. The suggestions ranged from setting all printers to print on both sides of the page to adopting more efficient ways to spread road salt and fertilizer. Campus groups were then given a chance to respond to the ideas that were deemed to be the most promising. While some ideas were not practical, in the end the college was able to reduce its budget by 3% primarily through what Wooster President Grant Cornwell calls "micro-efficiencies." Moreover, the exercise prompted groups across the campus community to take a critical look at what they were doing and identify ways to do things better. The Chronicle of Higher Education

Study finds correlation between navigation complexity, engagement in online courses

Learning management software (LMS) company Instructure has shared an infographic that offers summary data on how students at 387 US colleges and universities interact with online course materials. The data show that new courses imported into Instructure's LMS frequently began with a high level of navigational complexity, but became much simpler after about 9 months of use. This suggests that there is a long period of "clean up" required when transitioning to a new system, as well as a period of adjustment for faculty members getting used to new software. The analysts rated courses on complexity and depth, finding that simpler designs had a significant impact on student participation in course discussion forums. In addition, a high level of navigational complexity correlated with a lower number of student submissions as well as worse grades. The correlation was described as "very, very small" but "still significant," suggesting that user experience design should be taken into account when designing online courses. Campus Technology Instructure Infographic