Top Ten

August 14, 2019

Canada invests $61M through CFI to provide researchers with state-of-the-art facilities, tools

“Researchers across the country need the best labs and tools to spark discoveries that lead to healthy communities, clean air and water, new job opportunities and a prosperous future,” states a release from the Government of Canada announcing $61M in funding for state-of-the-art research labs and equipment. The investment, made through the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s John R Evans Leaders Fund, will support 261 projects at 40 universities across Canada. “Researchers in Canada know that cutting-edge tools and labs are necessary to make discoveries and innovate. Their ground-breaking contributions to science and research have an enormous impact on the breakthroughs that help make our visions for a better future a reality,” said Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport. CFI (National)

Students, professors hold differing views on technology, off-task distractions in class

Technology in the classroom is here to stay, but work is currently being done to mitigate the negative effects that off-task technology use can have on learning, write Elena Neiterman and Christine Zaza of the University of Waterloo. The authors refer to a survey-based study they conducted, in which they found that students were more likely to use technology for off-task activities in large classes compared to small ones. Some students also felt that professors were at fault for off-task technology use when the material covered in class was too dense or boring. Some instructors, on the other hand, felt that learning to concentrate despite feeling bored should be part of a university-level education, while others lamented the fact that they rarely made eye contact with many of the students in their classes due to technology use. The Conversation (National)

How institutions can help students struggling with the transition into post-secondary: Gonzalez

The fact that students from marginalized homes are struggling with the transition from high school to post-secondary is a problem that policymakers need to acknowledge and address, writes Christina Gonzalez. The author cites a 2018 Canadian study showing that Black, Latino, and Southeast Asian students are less prepared for post-secondary education compared to their white counterparts due to systemic, early-life disadvantages. The author adds that improving early-school experiences for these students can have a significant impact on their later success and wellbeing. For those already in post-secondary, the author also highlights programs at Wilfrid Laurier University and Confederation College to show how institutions can provide students struggling with the transition to post-secondary with greater support. Maclean’s (National)

Advice for presidents who want to continue teaching

“It can make for a grueling workweek, but the insights gained from students make teaching worth it,” writes Martha D Saunders in an essay offering advice to post-secondary presidents who still want to teach. The author notes that if a president wishes to keep their finger on the pulse of their campus, there is no better place to do so than in the classroom. To this end, the author offers tips on how presidents can make the most of their teaching experience, which include considering teaching a course with another instructor or team, listening to students, and consulting with faculty members in one’s academic department. Inside Higher Ed (International)

Two new WesternU programs look to highlight grad student skills for employers

A pair of new programs at Western University are looking to match Western graduate students and non-academic employers. The first of the programs, called hirewesternu PhD, promotes what doctoral students bring to the table, including their non-discipline specific skills fostered through both their academic and professional development programs. The second program, or Graduate Student Internship Program, lets doctoral students create internships that are project-based or designed around specific pre-existing duties. “We need to do a better job of helping grad students understand that there are more opportunities than being so focused on academia,” said Chris Circelli, Graduate Experiential Learning Developer (Careers & Experience) with Student Experience at WesternU. WesternU (ON)

Some US institutions asking students to declare general academic major before arriving on campus

“Flitting from subject to subject before alighting reluctantly on a major during junior year? That is discouraged,” writes Alexander C. Kakfka in an article highlighting how some US college systems are asking students to choose a general “meta-major” area of study before even arriving on campus. Proponents of this approach argue that it is important to help a student narrow their area of academic focus early in their academic studies “before choice paralysis kicks in.” These proponents also point to research suggesting that students often need—and welcome—intensive guidance to help them find their academic focus. Chronicle of Higher Education (Subscription Required) (International)

Laurentian approves tuition exemption for youth in extended society care

Laurentian University has announced that youth in extended society (Crown Wards) care will again be eligible to apply for a full tuition exemption for courses at the university. The program will be open to current and former youth in the care of the Children’s Aid Society who are pursuing their first post-secondary degree. “These students, many of whom are Indigenous, face unique challenges in accessing post-secondary education,” said Laurentian interim Vice-President, Academic and Provost Serge Demers. “It is important that we remove barriers and enable them to achieve their academic goals. We are proud to continue supporting this group of students and we will look towards fundraising within our community to expand the program’s reach in future years.” Laurentian (ON)

UCalgary opens the doors to MacKimmie Tower

The University of Calgary has formally re-opened the doors to MacKimmie Tower, its first net-zero carbon building. Two additional floors have been added to the retrofitted tower and a “double-skin exterior” will respond to changing weather and work to minimize energy use and optimize temperature and air quality. The grounds will also soon feature regional vegetation that supports biodiversity and minimizes maintenance. The building will house several different departments, including the Office of the Registrar, the Office of Institutional Analysis, and Information Technologies. UCalgary (AB)

BrandonU launches greener options for on-campus food

Brandon University has revamped its menu and launched fresh, sustainable, and local options for its on-campus food, with expanded vegetarian and vegan fare. “Students in residence eat three meals a day here, and many other students, faculty, staff and visitors rely on us for regular meals and snacks throughout the week,” said BrandonU Food Services manager Nicholas Namespetra. “It is critical that we offer healthy, tasty and diverse options that appeal to everyone.” The new options will feature the new label and logo for “BU Fresh,” and reflect a deeper commitment to serving fair trade and sustainable meals using recyclable and compostable materials. BrandonU (MB)

Big pharma funding may come with impacts on research, education

In an article about the impact of the pharmaceutical industry on Canadian medical schools, Laura Hensley highlights the many ways that companies interact with faculty, students, and staff. York University Professor Joel Lexchin explained that pharmaceutical companies “want to establish a positive relationship with these medical students that can then go forward” in the students’ professional lives, and make donations that can influence the focus of research conducted at the institution. Several Canadian medical schools have policies in place to combat conflicts of interest and industry bias, and Global News stated that all the provided policies encourage transparency. The schools argue that donations and research funding can help promote quality education, but Lexchin asserts that funds from drug companies come with long-term costs that are often not considered. Global News (National)