What’s on your mind?

Hi!  As co-champions for TransformUS, the two of us are launching this periodic blog to provide relevant and timely updates about the university’s prioritization and finances. We also want to create opportunity for direct discussion by members of the U of S community with us and with each other.

As a reminder to those who might not know us, Brett Fairbairn is Provost and Vice-President Academic, and as such is responsible for university academic and planning processes, including the alignment of university resources with our priorities, as well as for students, faculty, and academic programs.  Greg Fowler is Vice-President Finance and Resources, in which role he is responsible for the stewardship of the university’s staff, finances, buildings, and administrative processes. Together with PCIP (the provost’s committee on integrated planning) we will be responsible for developing an implementation plan resulting from TransformUS.

Both of us have been associated with this university for a long time.  We know many of its people and units, and care deeply about them.  As senior administrators, our job is to put the interest of the whole university first and come up with the best outcomes for all.  This blog will help us do that.

We will share ideas, reflections, and questions that are on our minds as we consider the TransformUS reports, the discussions across the campus, and what is going on outside the university in the world of higher education.

You can expect to hear from us regularly, though we will not follow a specific schedule.

We encourage you to submit your thoughts about topics you would like us to cover in future blog posts.

We encourage you to comment and to ask questions.  Depending on the number of comments and questions, it will not likely be possible for us to respond to every posting.  We will try to shape our own postings in part to reflect what others ask us about.

We expect this blog to adhere to the values of an engaged academic community, which means both openness and respectful discourse.  We ask you to participate in ways that are respectful of everyone, including of people with varying views and opinions in this phase of the process.

So here is the disclaimer:  comments and questions are welcome and encouraged, although they must not contain inappropriate or insulting language.  All comments will be monitored and we reserve the right to delete, remove, or edit comments, or to close the comment forum, on the basis only of inappropriate or insulting language.  If we edit, remove, or delete comments we will indicate that we have done so.

So now we are open for business.  We will be sharing what’s on our minds.  What’s on yours?

Brett and Greg

12 thoughts on “What’s on your mind?

  1. As President of Saskatoon Seniors for Continued Learning (SSCL), I am responding to your invitation to post a comment about the Transformus Program.

    SSCL has been an integral part of campus life since the early 1980’s. It is a program offered by the Centre for Continuing and Distance Education (CCDE). There are more than four hundred seniors who are members of SSCL, and most of them regularly attend non credit classes offered on campus in the Spring, Fall and Winter. Many SSCL members are retired professionals or alumni and alumnae of the University of Saskatchewan.

    The classes offer SSCL members the opportunity to partake in a variety of courses that are taught at a university level. I strongly believe that having a generational mix on campus provides a salutary environment for the entire university population. Sessional lecturers and retired professors who conduct these classes enjoy the deeper insights offered by these mature students who have had rich and varied life experiences. The professors also enjoy the attentiveness of senior students, and their willingness to enthusiastically engage in class discussions.

    As Pauline Melis, the Assistant Provost, Institutional Planning and Assessment at the University of Saskatchewan recently wrote in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix….” the university has a learning commons and learning communities for students…”

    I would argue that members of SSCL are an integral part of the learning commons and learning communities on campus, and therefore our program with CCDE should be continued. Dropping this program would be a major blow to a generation of Saskatonians who helped lay the foundation for making the University of Saskatchewan one of the best learning communities in Canada. The University of Saskatchewan has prided itself on being open to everyone, and curtailing a program that offers seniors the opportunity to partake in campus life would be tantamount to age discrimination.

  2. I am deeply concerned to hear that certain subject are potentially at risk of being eliminated at the University. I could not more strongly believe in the power of the humanities and could not be more passionate about ensuring that a widespread of humanity courses are continually offered at the University of Saskatchewan. The phasing out of humanity classes and professors of these fundamental courses only contributes to a creating a society where our academic institutions are focused on producing economic machines and not critical and active thinkers.
    The thought of Women and Gender Studies being eliminate would, as I agree with Jenna N’s comment, be an embarrassment and an unforgivable mistake for the University of Saskatchewan. It is a course offered at this university that provides more range for creating active and critical members of our democratic society than many other courses offered.
    Political Studies is also one of the most fundamental areas of study needed in our modern society today. To see the incredible and phenomenal professors the U of S has been so fortunate to have instruct here be pushed into retirement or forced to feel unsure about their security as professors makes me wonder what direction our university is steering towards? Is the U of S main focus of learning simple to be a tool of the gross national product, or does the University pride itself on educating active, engaged and critically responsible citizens of this city, province and country.
    As individuals in positions of power, I encourage you to ask yourself this question and ask the fellow administrators at the U of S. What is the primary goal of the University of Saskatchewan’s academic education? And will the elimination or diminishment of the humanity courses (such as women and gender studies) increase or decrease the achievement of this goal?
    I strongly encourage you to recognize the importance of the humanities and the liberal arts as critical courses offered and instructed at this university and I strongly advise you to consider not removing or even diminishing their presence at this university. Doing so will only lead to the decline in the university’s reputation.

    I also encourage you to read or skim over the incredible book, “Not For Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities” Written by Martha Nussbaum. It is an incredible read and provides the convincing argument for the importance of the humanities.

    I leave you with a summary quote of the importance of Nussbaums argument:

    “Historically, the humanities have been central to education because they have rightly been seen as essential for creating competent democratic citizens. But recently, Nussbaum argues, thinking about the aims of education has gone disturbingly awry both in the United States and abroad. Anxiously focused on national economic growth, we increasingly treat education as though its primary goal were to teach students to be economically productive rather than to think critically and become knowledgeable and empathetic citizens. This shortsighted focus on profitable skills has eroded our ability to criticize authority, reduced our sympathy with the marginalized and different, and damaged our competence to deal with complex global problems. And the loss of these basic capacities jeopardizes the health of democracies and the hope of a decent world.

    In response to this dire situation, Nussbaum argues that we must resist efforts to reduce education to a tool of the gross national product. Rather, we must work to reconnect education to the humanities in order to give students the capacity to be true democratic citizens of their countries and the world.”

  3. Please Please Please do not phase out the Women and Gender Studies Program. This course is one of of the most powerful learning spaces on campus. This course not only taught me about feminism and how it is about equality, but many other important life lessons. For example, the course teaches you how to critically think about your own life as well as the world around you. Studying poverty, privilege, pornography, the single story, and disability (just to name a few) are critically important for any person studying at the academic level to become a well rounded, and a better person in society. I also found its material to be life changing in regards to my outlooks on issues in my hopeful future career path. Besides, how can one work with people without any knowledge or critical though of why things are how they are? Eliminating this program would be a terrible embarrassing mistake which would reflect very poorly on the University of Saskatchewan. Women and Gender Studies, in my opinion, needs to remain a course offered at the university and it would be greatly appreciated if you made it so.

  4. I would like to provide some supportive feedback for ‘Teaching and Learning’ at the U of S on three main points:

    1. Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching and Learning (GMCTL)

    a) I have co-taught GSR 982: Mentored Teaching with my GMCTL colleague, Kim West, an Educational Development Specialist, for the past 5 years. This is a fellowship program offered to PhD Candidates in all Colleges across the U of S, which offers evidence-based pedagogy, collegiality and support as these students prepare to teach their first University course and develop a Teaching Portfolio. Several graduates from the program have procured a Faculty position at a university within one to two years of completing the GSR 982 program, and they have told us the education they received, the mentored teaching they experienced and the support they received in developing of a Teaching Portfolio were key to their confidence and success.

    b) Over the years, I have participated in a number of events offered by GMCTL to the U of S Faculty and Staff, such as the annual start-of-term ‘refresh your teaching’ sessions offered to new faculty, a 5-day interactive course redesign workshop, and numerous 1-3 hour sessions which are offered throughout the year and given by both members of the Gwenna Moss staff and/or inspiring experts in teaching and learning, many from out of country. A significant highlight was attending the prestigious 3-day STLHE (Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education) Conference, hosted by GMCTL here at the U of S in 2011.

    As an Assistant Professor with the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition, I have a strong teaching mandate; these types of events celebrating teaching and learning are invaluable for my continuing education and for keeping my teaching fresh and innovative.

    c) Further to point b), above, GMCTL is a strong advocate for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL), which aims to promote and support research into best practices for teaching and learning in post-secondary institutes, such as universities. There has been much discussion and emphasis at the University of Saskatchewan on ‘action research’ to implement innovative new teaching and learning. I look forward to each new ‘Bridges’ publication, a regular newsletter from GMCTL, containing thoughtful, inspiring and research-based articles on teaching and learning. I am currently in discussions with a colleague from GMCTL regarding designing and implementing a SoTL-based research project aimed at improving student engagement and learning for my large, 350-student Introductory Nutrition course offered each term.

    2. The Teaching and Learning Centre (TLC)

    a) Each year in the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition, there are always a few students who struggle with English usage and effective writing skills. These are considered critical competencies in the field of Nutrition and Dietetics, and I have always been able to confidently advise these students to seek writing assistance from the campus writing centre at the TLC. This is an important support to not just our College, but to all Colleges with students struggling to improve their writing skills. The TLC offers all kinds of other assistance to students as well including math skills, study skills and myriad others. It cannot be the onus of every College to teach not just disciplinary content and skills but these basic skills as well! I cannot imagine not having the TLC as a centrally-important support system for students at the U of S.

    3. Centre for Continuing and Distance Education (CCDE)

    a) A number of years ago, the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition was asked to offer an online Nutr. 120 course, which a colleague and I developed with the assistance of CCDE. We are now entering the 3rd year of offering this course, which allows students who would not normally have access to University courses to take this first-year course, an important elective for many and a prerequisite for Nursing and other programs. A number of instructional designers and educational technology experts from CCDE have been central to the ongoing implementation, administration and support for this course.

  5. Hi, I have heard that TransformUS has been moving towards potentially removing funding, and phasing out the WGST program at the UofS. This is highly disturbing to me, as although I do not intend to pursue this field of study, I think it is one of the most important programs to have, both on its own, and for every other program out there. Also, I think it would be very detrimental to the universities reputation to not have a womans and gender studies program. I’m just curious as to what TransformUS is thinking in this? To me, it makes absolutely no sense.

    • As someone who has not watched The Wire, I am sure I do not get the nuances. I do get that people are worried about job loss.

  6. Trusting that outcomes of this exercise will safeguard the status and the international reputation of the U of S as a centre for Agricultural excellence and the responsible implementation of solutions arising out of creative Environmental foresight. Thanks.

    • I note that many but not all programs in agriculture and in environment have been categorized highly by the academic programs task force. The report also urged the university to consider connecting strong environment programs in different colleges to each other. These are recommendations to be taken seriously.

  7. Maybe the University of Saskatchewan can help needy ‘student’ who withdrew from campus years ago like me to continue completing my studies at ESB as I have only 39 credit units more to complete my B.Comm

    A bond after the completion of the program is expected and I don’t mind as I have lost avenues to find sponsors to go to Canada again.

    Reagards from Malaysia

  8. It’s always a good idea to review the wholle program every so often. What is the driving mechanism for this cleanout? Is the $25MM target a government mandated target or has the Board of Governors established this target?

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