Friday, April 28, 2017

Consider This: Mourning Those Lost On the Job

Recognizing the National Day of Mourning for Persons Killed and Injured at Work at the University of Alberta
There are four times of the year that remind me about the importance of what I do here at the university - March 23rd, April 28, 1st full week in May and August 18th.

In a previous life I was the Manager of Occupational Health and Safety at the City of London, in Southwestern Ontario.  On March 23, 1996 at 11:25 a.m. I received a call from a colleague, David Howard.  It was a Saturday and I was just heading out the door to visit some friends.  David’s call was important.  He said, “Andrew, there’s been an explosion at the Silverwoods Arena and one of our staff has been seriously hurt….”

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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Consider This: How to Nurture Student Leaders

The relationship between university administrators and student leaders, whether they are activists or elected by their peers, is complicated. These students are partners in governance, and they are astute and sometimes vocal critics — but they are also learners. In some ways, we are their mentors. Certainly, it’s challenging to maintain all those dimensions of the relationship and keep it a productive partnership that works for the institution and its community.

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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Entitlement and Me: Problems in Canadian Medical Education

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A "Consider This" Piece

When I was admitted to medical school in Canada, I was commended by my new professors as one of the country’s brightest students. The first months inculcated and cultivated the idea that I was exceptional and set apart from other students who did not make it to medical school. Sometimes the praise was explicit, sometimes not; few probably noticed. Yet there was a subtle message: I was special and deserved all my success because of it.
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The Aga Khan Garden: A Preview of Things to Come


Last week’s public unveiling of the Aga Khan Garden Alberta, to be located at the University of Alberta Botanic Garden, was an eye-opener for many. I, like many others, envisioned an oasis garden with fruit trees and palms around a desert oasis. We are all, however, challenged to re-imagine a contemporary garden drawing from the Mughal, Ottoman and Islamic cultures of history. This enlightenment comes with the new garden made possible by a gift of over $25 million from His Highness the Aga Khan.

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Consider This: Reasoning with Student Resistance

Reasoning with Student Resistance
After spending hours designing an engaging and thought provoking group activity, you are finally able to reveal it to your class. As you finish your explanation you are met with blank stares, unimpressed faces, and rolling eyes. Questions like “Do we really have to participate?” and “Aren’t you supposed to be teaching me?” appear scrawled on students’ foreheads. After coaxing students to finally interact, you finish the class and students pour out of the room. Disheartened, you are left to reflect on why they resisted what you thought was an excellent activity.

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Thursday, April 6, 2017

A Consider This Opinion Piece: The Tyranny of Student Evaluations

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UAlberta Course Evaluations
Faculty members are generally rather dubious about the effectiveness of student evaluations of teaching and I believe such skepticism to be well founded. Even when a chair’s letter accompanies the USRIs, the dependence on student evaluations of teaching can lead to all sorts of problems, some of them quite unexpected.
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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The U of A’s Non-Playing, Totally Rad, Corporate Challenge Basketball Captain

Members of the University of Alberta's Corporate Challenge Basketball Team
Image courtesy of Andrew Leitch (i.e. the one in the tie)
I’ve been the university’s non-playing Corporate Challenge basketball captain for a decade and it’s an important job: I have to make sure everyone has the correct size of T-shirt and that they remember to bring their ONEcard on game night. Also, sometimes I bring water.
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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Consider This: Let's Make Decisions Together


I never really intended to get involved in university governance. Like a lot of faculty, I kind of fell into administrative work early in my career; I served on a few committees in my department because they dealt with things that mattered to me. Then I got involved in some faculty-level committees in my field of expertise. When my term expired, I was ready for something new, and when the call came out for faculty members to serve on General Faculties Council (GFC), I decided I would throw my hat in the ring and see what happened. I had never been to GFC, and I didn't even know anybody who had been on it - it was a black box to me.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Consider This: What It's Like to Be A Book at the Human Library

The Human Library at the University of Alberta
Image courtesy of the Human Library
To be read as a human book is an extraordinary feeling. Every conversation you have with a reader is different and their reasons for choosing to read you are so diverse that it is often hard to plan your whole conversation/”reading” in advance. What is a guarantee, at least for me, is that whether you are a book or a reader, the Human Library is a place that creates moments of understanding and connection.

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Friday, March 10, 2017

Bringing Beyonce to Class, and 9 Other Articles About Higher Ed

Another travel ban, the realities facing women in PSE, and supporting those not on the tenure-track are among the topics covered in the latest collection of PSE stories. Oh, and adding Beyonce to the syllabus. Cant' leave that one out...
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Thursday, March 9, 2017

Consider This: Should we teach our academic histories?

Should we teach our academic histories?
Each of our disciplines across the academy has a story – one that has shaped our curriculums, our canons, and processes for development. These histories have led us to today and will impact how we uncover our paths to tomorrow. But how many of our students actually know these histories?
Should study of the history of medicine be a requirement for medical trainees?
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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Consider This On International Women's Day

Celebrating International Women's Day in Higher Education
In honour of International Women's Day, Undergraduate Engineering Student Victoria Thomsen shares her experience as a young woman pursuing studies and a career in a male-dominated area.

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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

A Garden Path: Introducing the University of Alberta Botanic Garden

Exploring the University of Alberta Botanic Garden
The walk to my university office is up a sandy path through a birch forest. Depending on the season, it is bathed in bottle green light, yellow birch leaves or snow-riven light shafts. The deer, grouse and moose tracks reminds me that the university garden I direct is a gem set in a forest.

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Friday, March 3, 2017

Academic Jealousy and 14 Other Topics in Higher Ed

Maybe you’re just jealous, solving the problem of unfair credit, and discovering the Hive are all top of mind in this collection of PSE stories.
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Thursday, February 23, 2017

It’s A Different Way To Learn

Experiential Learning at Augustana
I was sitting in the bucket of a rusty blue 1950's truck. I felt the murmur of the engine and I bounced with the rhythm of the ruts that covered the well-used gravel road. I couldn’t help but think – this is a unique way to learn about the world. (Yes, it may sound surprising, but I did get to ride in a truck for class – we were touring a farm.)
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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Creating a Culture of Environmental Sustainability: Augustana Chaplaincy

Campus Sustainability Leadership Award Winners 2016 - Augustana Chaplaincy
Last year, when I saw that nominations were open for the Campus Sustainability Leadership Awards, I knew I had to put in a good word for the members of the Augustana Chaplaincy, who make our campus more sustainable in so many ways.
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Friday, February 17, 2017

12 Stories The World of Higher Ed is Talking About

Bafflegab (yes, bafflegab!), the lessons of Canada’s dark age of science, and THE global teaching survey results, are among the topics covered in this collection of PSE stories.
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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Women in Academic Leadership: Learning from each other

Celebrating women in academic leadership
Image courtesy of SWAAC 2016. Photo credit: Roger Aziz
Some of us respond to a tap on the shoulder, and others plan and learn explicitly to become leaders at some point in their careers. Sometimes it is difficult to see where your choices are leading, although (as a committed narrativist) I know it is illuminating to understand your choices backwards – “oh, yes, this led to this, and then that led to that…and so now here I am.”  Part of this journey depends on opportunity and timing, but I think more depends on curiosity, openness to change, and acceptance of personal agency. This is where I find myself now.
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Monday, February 13, 2017

The Importance of Fair Dealing

Fair use is for everybody
Image courtesy of Fair Use Week
Fair dealing, particularly for the purposes of education and research, has a major impact on universities and on how faculty members, staff, and students can use and provide access to materials. The risk of infringing copyright through an over-broad interpretation of fair dealing has led many universities to be cautious in how fair dealing is applied, only rarely venturing beyond their conservative fair dealing guidelines.  However, when practices remain more conservative than recent court decisions suggest the law might allow, those practices risk establishing norms that might lead to an effective redrawing of boundaries at more restrictive levels. Fair dealing rights could easily become a victim of “use them or lose them.”
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