Queen’s Gazette: Academic writing team “here to listen” (25 May 2010)

Queen’s Gazette, 25 May 2010

Six faculty members will be spending the summer listening to the views and ideas of faculty, students and staff, and identifying “themes that resonate” as part of the yearlong academic planning process.

Michael Adams (Pharmacology and Toxicology), Tim Bryant (Mechanical and Materials Engineering), Yolande Chan (School of Business), Kim Nossal (Political Studies), Jill Scott (German) and John Smol (Biology) have started reviewing materials that include all of the unit and faculty-level responses to the Principal’s vision document. They’ve also spent their first meetings focusing on how they will gather the thoughts of the Queen’s community.

“We’ve been asked to be great listeners,” says Professor Adams. We’re going to do our very best to hear everyone and pick out themes that resonate. We aren’t going to say, ‘This is what we’re going to do and not do.’ We’re going to take a long, hard look at where we could possibly go, and try to match the course of action with the major tones that people are speaking.”

There will be many ways for students, faculty and staff to provide input, including email at academic.writing.team@queensu.ca, Student teachers’ work abroad provides amazing experiences the team’s website (in development), text messaging, Facebook and on-campus meetings.

“We know we have to use every possible avenue because people aren’t always on campus during the summer,” says Professor Scott.

Both Professors Scott and Adams say the current financial and political landscape is an important backdrop for the campus-wide discussions that will take place over the summer and fall.

“We are in an environment in which we have all been struggling with dwindling resources,” says Professor Adams. “We are all recognizing we are in a time when we must adapt and change and recognize the need for efficiencies. These are important times. You can either adapt or say ‘no change’ and dwindle away. It’s like Canadians in winter. You either attack it and get out there and ski and skate or let it freeze you over.”

“Post-secondary education in Ontario is changing quickly,” says Professor Scott. “So we have to see change as something we are constantly engaged in. It’s not that we should be reacting to everything, but always thinking how can we be doing things better.”

Some faculty members in Arts and Science have said they fear the academic plan will end up being a financial plan in disguise.

Professor Adams says the university’s finances are a reality that must be dealt with by every unit on campus, but the team’s work will be focused on how best to deliver on Queen’s academic mission.

“Efficiencies and money are part of it, but they are absolutely not the dominant force,” says Professor Adams. “This isn’t about cuts. That’s not our job. We see this as a discussion paper about where we can see ourselves going, based on what we’ve been told. Our goals are to be the best listeners we can be and then suggest how to provide the highest quality educational experience to our students based on the resources available.”

The professors will produce a framework document for a university academic plan. Their hope is that it will gain the support of the Queen’s community because it will reflect the voices of faculty, staff and students.

“We aren’t representing anyone in particular,” says Professor Adams. “I’m wearing the Queen’s University hat.”

“This is not about us,” echoes Professor Scott. “We don’t want to put our individual imprints on this. We represent the Queen’s community – students, staff, faculty.”

She says the team’s goal is to articulate what makes Queen’s extraordinary and how to enrich the student experience in an everchanging world.

“In the end, we exist for our students. We owe it to them – the best and brightest – to really think hard about how we can give them the best. These are tough times, challenging times, and students are also really feeling it. We’re all in this boat. We have to think really seriously about how we can work together.”

Professor Adams is optimistic. “In the end, we hope most people will say ‘Thank you. You did what we asked you to do.’”

[see also]

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