Top Ten

February 10, 2017

Canadian academics commit to boycott of US conferences

Hundreds of professors at universities across Canada have pledged to boycott academic conferences hosted in the United States, reports the Canadian Press. Other professors and groups have reportedly gone even further, cancelling previously booked conferences or disavowing academics in the US who discourage such boycotts. The vast majority of those boycotting the US events reportedly say that their decisions were spurred by US President Donald Trump’s executive order banning travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US. “If policy in the US proceeds in this divisive and exclusionary direction, then these sorts of decisions will become increasingly significant in terms of whether we (academics) decide to challenge the practice of privilege or enable it through our silence,” wrote University of Alberta Political Science Professor Nicole Marshall in an email to the CP. iPolitics (CP)

Men not adapting to changing job market in increasingly automated world

“Work that was traditionally considered male, such as mining, oil and gas production, wheat farming and auto manufacturing has been on a downward slide for the past decade,” while “opportunities in female-dominated industries have continued to expand,” reports CBC. Despite this shift, Ryerson University business Professor Gerald Swartz notes that men have not been moving into female-dominated industries. Swartz adds that some of the contributing factors include a lack of effort to attract men to these positions, the gender-based wage gap, and the way that boys are educated in their earlier years. Swartz explains that men and boys must be encouraged to think about alternative career options, or else “this will continue to be a problem for an entire gender.” CBC

Students moving from “voluntourism” to more ethically engaged volunteering

A growing number of Canada’s university students are looking to pursue more ethically engaged volunteer opportunities in developing countries, reports Moira MacDonald for University Affairs. The author notes that historically, many students have pursued “voluntourism” by using volunteer opportunities to visit desirable destinations. Now, universities and their partners are reporting students’ increasing emphasis on doing good and having a meaningful exchange with their hosts. These experiences come with challenges, MacDonald notes, as many students may overestimate their abilities to solve the problems of people living in unfamiliar cultures. Further, these opportunities can propose a number of ethical challenges, which MacDonald addresses with a list of “What to look out for” when pursuing a volunteer opportunity abroad. University Affairs

Canada’s “dark age of science” should be cautionary tale for US

Citizens and scientists in the United States should learn from Canada’s time under Prime Minister Stephen Harper in order to lead the fight against ideology over science, write Alana Westwood, Kathleen Walsh, and Katie Gibbs for Nature. The authors recount how Canadians spoke out against previous governmental attempts to reduce research capacity and muzzle scientists. Further, the authors offer tips on how researchers can protect data from government interference and maintain open lines of communication between experts and the public. “Evidence has no ulterior political motives,” the authors conclude. “That is the strength of our movement.” Nature

Innovative program provides welding training for Aboriginal learners

Red Deer College has launched a program designed to offer Aboriginal learners the opportunity to develop the practical skills, knowledge, and experience needed for fulfilling careers in welding. The Virtual Reality and Co-operative Trades – The Next Generation program will benefit from partnerships with Montana First Nation and WorleyParsonsCord, as well as federal funding that will support students with both in-class and on-the-job training. “This program really is innovative in so many ways, as it’s being offered in a unique, flexible format that allows the students to start training in their home communities,” said RDC President Joel Ward. “The programming infuses cultural teachings and learnings from the students’ elders with technical and hands-on training, offered through virtual reality welding simulators.” RDC

NBSA applauds changes to provincial SEED program

The New Brunswick Student Alliance has issued a statement voicing its support for recent changes made to NB’s Student Employment Experience Development. The organization says that it worked directly with the team responsible for SEED and that nearly all of its recommendations were included in the new changes, which included a draw for student vouchers. “Changes, particularly to the marketing and communication of the voucher program, were necessary and we are delighted that the Department was willing to take student and stakeholder concerns on board and make welcomed improvements,” said NBSA Executive Director Robert Burroughs. “The [NB] Minister’s commitment to keeping SEED a student-focused employment program is also greatly appreciated.” NBSA

BC postsecondary partnerships connect Aboriginal students to jobs

British Columbia’s Ministry of Advanced Education has announced that it is funding partnerships to connect Aboriginal students with education and training programs in their communities. These initiatives include partnerships between the University of Northern British Columbia and the Tsilhqot’in National Government, College of New Caledonia and the Saik’uz First Nation, and the Justice Institute of British Columbia and the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre and Metro Vancouver Aboriginal Executive Council. These programs provide Aboriginal learners with both general workplace skills and job-specific skills for sectors such as construction, tourism, and education. Overall, the program is providing $9.6M to support a total of 28 partnerships between 29 Aboriginal communities and 14 public post-secondary institutions in 2016-17. BC

How to address the "listening gap" between PSE, public

Many PSE institutions might think that pursuing more academic prestige should be a priority moving forward, writes Michael Stoner for Inside Higher Ed, but these same institutions need to realize that the public might not care about such prestige as much as they do. The author cites recently released research to suggest that there is a “listening gap” between what the public wants and what higher ed thinks is important. In a survey, 71% of academics thought it was more important to provide a well-rounded education compared to tools for a successful career. In contrast, only 44% of the public thought that a well-rounded education was more important than providing students with tools and resources needed for specific careers. The author concludes that institutions need to be mindful of this gap and seek to address it if they wish to convince the public of PSE’s enduring value. Inside Higher Ed

YorkU addresses big data talent shortage with continuing studies certificates

York University has announced that it will help address a significant shortage in big data experts and predictive analysts by offering two new certificates through its School of Continuing Studies. A university release states that the Certificate in Big Data Analytics and the Certificate in Advanced Data Science and Predictive Analytics will prepare graduates to enter the growing job market of big data in just six months. “Employers tell us that there is, and will continue to be, a significant shortage of qualified data analytics professionals. Our Certificates will quickly produce graduates with comprehensive expertise in the field without requiring working students to be out of the office,” says Tracey Taylor-O'Reilly, YorkU's assistant vice-president, continuing studies. YorkU

$2K rent at newest UAlberta residence raises questions from students

The $2K cost of room and board at the University of Alberta’s Peter Lougheed Hall is raising questions from some students, reports Metro. “Of course there is some of that mark-up you’re going to get with [the residence] being new and unscuffed, but it’s just disproportionate,” says Cody Bondarchuk, a former member of UAlberta's Student Union executive and current member of the university senate. By comparison, a room in the university's Shaffer Hall building reportedly costs roughly $1.3K per month. But Geoff Rode, the university's active associate vice president of ancillary services, says that the price of the new building needs to factor in the additional expense associated with paying off the building’s construction. “We strive to provide a variety of choices,” he adds, “and within that context we’re trying to provide the best value for students.” Metro