Build and Learn

Lego model of student services

Student Services can be distant and detached

It has been great fun to partner with Ken Derry at UTM and brainstorm new ways to teach undergraduates.  He joined my class (1803: Recurring Issues in Higher Education) to discuss how empathy and engagement must go hand in hand for instructors.

This picture shows an activity from early February when the class used Lego to show the challenges facing student service providers. Since many of them are student service providers, their models were excellent.  This model showed the power gap between the student (who seems absent) and the student service provider who has some cumbersome infrastructure.

It took some time for my professional M.Ed students to warm up to this activity, but it has definitely received the most positive feedback of any tool so far.  By the time each group had explained their model, we had analysed almost every angle and contingency of student affairs work.

Lego modeling was one of the engagement tools we discussed when Ken joined the class this week and we had a chance to think critically about all the pedagogy tools we had been using.  It is delightfully humbling to have an outside facilitator lead your students in a discussion of your pedagogy. I suspect I will need to  change several of the assignments for the next course based on their helpful feedback!

New and old colleagues in Montreal

Guest lecture at University of Montreal

Last week marked a turning point in my role as a visiting scholar at the Université De Montréal.  It was a privilege to work with my dear friend Olivier Begin-Caouette and to meet his colleague Alexandre Beaupré-Lavallée and excellent doctoral students.  Learning from their largely quantitative approach was a good challenge and this allowed me to move ahead on two of our comparative research papers – four country studies on the external activities of professor (comparing – a) Croatia, China, Argentina and Canada b) Germany, Kazakhstan, Russia and Canada).  Watch for these papers in an upcoming

Higher Education Policy special issue.


Survey data are analysed!

After three years, 69 ethics applications, 34,000 invitations and 9 graduate assistants… (drum roll please)… Our descriptive statistics are finally done for all 51 items on the survey.  We owe a big thank you to Dina Abdulkhalek – our summer GA who worked to put the broad data trends on the website.  These can be found here:

Upcoming Events

This fall I am continuing my position as the manager of the Canadian Chapter of the Academic Profession in the Knowledge Society at OISE (University of Toronto’s Education Faculty). We were fortunate to receive a SSHRC Insight Grant which will take the project to March 2020 and allows us to bring on more awesome students (cannot say enough about our student crew!).  For the first time this year, we have graduate assistants at the Université de Montréal, University of British Columbia and four here at OISE.  Our year will focus on publishing our survey findings as we guide the students through journal submissions, book proposals and media writing.  In March or April we plan to have them present their nascent papers at a research symposium – so stay tuned and make sure to come to OISE to hear their presentations.

To stay connected to the full Canadian team, I am going to the Université de Montréal as a visiting scholar in November.  It will be a great chance to train our student there, present my thesis research and work on Olivier Begin-Caouette’s latest project on the provincial factors that influence Academic Research Production in Canada.

How are Canada’s professors feeling?

The international meetings for the Academic Profession in the Knowledge Society (APIKS) study have begun and we are looking forward to seeing how Canada is distinct from other countries in the professional experiences of academics.  However, the fun of sharing our findings has already begun in the Canadian context.  Our whole research team was able to be at the 2019 annual meeting of the Canadian Society for the Study of Higher Education – hosted at UBC in June.  We shared our findings at our panel and were thankful to Kerry Banks and Leo Charbonneau who made sure the event was covered in University Affairs.  You can read their piece here:

How sustainable is the internationalization of higher education?

June was amazing with great conferences in Vancouver and Toronto.  At the top of the list was definitely the Shaping Sustainable Futures in the Internationalization of Higher Education conference (SSFIHE).  The OISE team who put it together included Clara Kim, Diane Simpson, Emma Sabzalieva, Nadia Kachynska and Scott Clerk.  They nailed the topic and it drew a lot of interest from those of us who have wondered about the long-term shaping of internationalization.  Read my piece on it here:

Inspired to my core by Maria Ressa

@mariaressa twitter image

One of the wonderful aspects of working at a university is meeting really great thinkers and activists who are actually making a difference in the world.  The only downside is sometimes you get used to it.  Fortunately, there is no “getting used to” Maria Ressa (and I mean that as the highest complement!).  I was blown away by her presentations at the 2019 Worldviews Conference.  I had not expected to be so inspired by her journey and her mandate.  Talk about life-risking commitment to democracy.  I will carry her words with me for the upcoming year.

The Worldviews conference continues to be the most impressive conference line up and format for me.  The speaker selection is done with precision and OCUFA deserves credit for the world they put into this.  You can read my piece about Worldviews here:



Well done University of Winnipeg – you set the example for urban development

Recently, while I was researching an editorial for University World News, I came across the University of Winnipeg’s Community Renewal Corporation.  This non-profit organisation has helped revive the campus and develop relationships with the surrounding community through environmentally conscious, social enterprise.  Not only have they transformed their campus to be the centre of urban culture (and become Kyoto Protocol compliant!) – they have consulted for other universities to unroll this model at their university.  Over the past year, as we have watched conservative provincial governments take steps backward for the environment and urban communities, UW’s activities should wake us up.  Universities can set the urban development agenda for the future and do not need to wait around for governments to empower them.  You can read my piece on urban development and universities here:

Do we really want Ford’s tuition cuts?

Image compliments of University World News

As I have stated before, graduate assistants are one of the best parts of my job.  Not only do they fill my office with interesting conversation, they teach me about their world and their research interests.  Stefanie Bronson has been a dynamite researcher with a passion for student-centred policy.  She explained to me the complexity of Ford’s recent tuition cuts and showed how it may not be the best way forward.  You can read our piece in University World News here:

Franco-Ontarian Universities Refuse to Give Up

Since my daughter began school four years ago, I have been part of the Conseil Scolaire Viamonde – Ontario’s dynamic French-language public board.  Five years ago I was unaware of its existence, but a kind neighbour recommended it for our family, knowing we value linguistic diversity.  Since enrolling our children, we have had our eyes opened to vibrant Francophone community in Ontario that is comprised of recently-immigrated and long-time Canadians with many connections to Indigenous communities.  This community had a powerful vision to develop a Franco-Ontarian university.  Not only would the constituents be diverse, the pedagogy would be cutting edge.  After walking alongside my colleague Olivier Begin-Caouette and hearing his excitement for project, I was deeply grieved that the Ford government has cut the funding.  Fortunately, the planning committee are a savvy group and are willing to hold the charter tightly until funding becomes available again with the next provincial government.  You can read the editorial I wrote with Olivier here: