University vice-presidents address student, faculty and staff questions
This new column from MacEwan University’s vice-presidents is an opportunity to get to know a little bit more about our leadership team and to hear from all of our VPs about the issues you, our students, faculty and staff, tell us that you want to know more about.
In this edition, MacEwan University’s senior leadership team addresses questions that came up as part of the Town Hall meeting hosted by President Deborah Saucier in early November.
No one grows up wanting to be a provost. On this I think we would all agree. Astronaut, yes. Provost, not so much. Yet, for me, being provost at MacEwan is an amazing job—one filled with rich challenge and exciting complexity. I believe that every day there is an opportunity to influence the important social responsibility of preparing our students for personal and professional life after graduation, and for creating and communicating new knowledge that helps us better understand our world.
I have the privilege of working with the deans of our faculties and schools in their collective role as the university’s key leadership team. I also have the great pleasure of working with student and staff leaders whose daily activities promote student success and positive student experience. And, I have the honour each day of working with the president and my vice-president colleagues to bridge MacEwan’s vision and mission and goals to our decisions about new programs, resource allocations, student supports for their success, collaborative relationships with other Campus Alberta members, and our collegial governance and decision-making processes themselves.
Q. Is there a plan for new degrees? Is this a priority?
At the core of why MacEwan exists is the never-ending quest to design and implement quality courses and programs, and to help our students complete those courses and programs successfully. Our commitment to completing laddering and integration of certificates, diplomas, and degrees remains unwavering.
In 2014, we made it a priority to ensure that all of our diploma programs could be laddered or integrated seamlessly into corresponding degree programs, making it simple for students to earn credentials that made sense for them.
To do this, our faculty and school councils, and our Academic Governance Council processes, have worked very effectively to ensure that all of courses are taught at a university level and that students are credited with the work they have done in one program when entering another.
A great example of this is the melding of the diploma and degree programs in Music. The process continues with exciting new degree ideas in the Faculty of Fine Art and Communications that will bring degree completion opportunities to students in Theatre, Fine Arts, and Arts and Cultural Management. The Faculty of Health and Community Studies is also building on the success of the new Bachelor of Social Work program to create degree programs in early learning and in health.
Our deans have done superb work thus far, and we continue to look to them to lead us in the important remaining steps in course and program development that will define MacEwan as a unique institution with a national reputation for undergraduate learning excellence.
Q. How can we be inclusive and systematically work to help all students succeed?
One new development in the Office of the Provost that will make an important difference is the creation of two associate vice-president positions—one for Research and Teaching and one for Students. These positions will allow us to make sure that our big ideas about what it means to be a student-centred undergraduate university are translated into responsible, coordinated, and effective actions.
The breadth of our student-based operations in Academic Affairs is truly remarkable. In so many ways, this work appears to be a bit like an iceberg to our faculty and students, to the public, and to government—the vast majority of what happens lies beneath the surface of what is easily seen, whether it be records kept safely and accurately in the Registrar’s Office, a quiet conversation at a tough time in Counselling, help from an advisor sorting out a semester or career or financial plan, or assistance with a visa for an international student.
The new associate vice-president, Students will take on the direct leadership and supervisory responsibility for some of the key areas that are so vital to student success. The AVP Students position will also allow us to build on strengths, identify areas where we can do better, and ensure that our students experience a user-friendly, integrated and supportive environment.
Q. How will you support faculty members to catalyze growth of a research and scholarship culture in MacEwan University?
While students are a primary focus, we are also committed to supporting faculty who are seeking new ways to envision new pedagogy and curriculum design, and working to build their programs of research and creative activity.
Our government-defined role within Campus Alberta, our board- and Academic Governance Council-approved pillars and our Integrated Strategic Plan compel us to put the learning interests of our students ahead of all else. This places MacEwan faculty in the demanding position of maintaining their scholarly programs while having to teach more than many of their colleagues with similar research and creative scholarship goals at institutions that have different mandates and, therefore, different balances among teaching, research, and service obligations.
As long as our commitment is to put our students first, my view is that we must continue to do the one thing that makes the biggest difference to our students: to have our tenured and tenure-stream faculty in classrooms and laboratories, preferably ones of learning-oriented size and human scale.
That requires us to do two things. First, we need to be fair in the way in which we evaluate the work of our faculty, knowing that their scholarly output may take longer than it would at institutions where the research and graduate studies enterprise is deemed more fundamental than undergraduate teaching and learning. Second, we must do all we can to bring new tenure-stream faculty into our MacEwan community to build our academic culture.
Finding the right balance in both of these important areas is perhaps the single biggest challenge that I face as provost, and one for which I continue to seek solutions that are sustainable for students, faculty, staff, administration and government alike.
But, challenges notwithstanding, there is no job I would rather have and there is no other place at which I would like to have it.
VP, General Counsel and Compliance Officer
Q. Has MacEwan been impacted by the recent increase in opiate consumption and overdoses? What is the university’s approach to using Naloxone kits?
The university has seen no reported increase in opiate use at the university recently. Several agencies in the neighbourhood of the university have Naloxone kits that are given to known opiate users. Opiate users can obtain these kits free of charge from pharmacies or medical centres. EMS is the only emergency responder who carries the kits—they are not carried by police. EMS response to the university has historically been very efficient, usually within five to 10 minutes.
In terms of response to an incident, if a person is found unconscious, Security Services responds with first aid to monitor breathing and pulse, and 911 is called immediately. If there is no pulse, CPR is started immediately and continues until EMS arrives or the subject shows signs of life. Without any other signs of drug use, there is no way to assess if the person is a drug user or other medical conditions have caused the person to be unconscious. Delaying CPR to administer Naloxone, or other medication, could compromise the contributing condition.
Based on the rapid EMS response, it is the university's position that the best course of action is to monitor breathing and administer CPR until EMS arrives to take over patient care. Security Services and all first aiders at the university are trained to provide this level of attention.
For further information, Streetworks, Edmonton's harm reduction and needle exchange program endorsed by Alberta Health Services, delivers information sessions regarding opiate consumption and on the use and access to Naloxone kits. Individuals can also refer to the Alberta Health Services Medical First Response webpage for details regarding response using Naloxone.
The university will continue to monitor opiate use in and around the university, and assess whether a procedure under the Health, Safety & Environment management system, modelling the university's first aid program, is required in the future.
VP, Resources and People
Q. Is there a plan to improve study space in the library?
The university administration is very aware that there are space concerns in the library. The impact of the crowding, noise, and lack of quiet study space has on our students is significant.
The need to improve library space for students is the top priority in the university’s capital plan, which is part of the Comprehensive Institutional Plan (CIP) filed with government. Internal discussions are now underway to consider how the library might be improved tactically, and as part of a longer-term master space plan.
No detailed plans or timelines have been established yet, but this is a significant concern and students can expect to see some decisions taken in the next year.
Q. It sometimes takes a long time for Web Services to respond to university needs. Are they understaffed? Is there a plan to address this?
There is no doubt that the current web services team is under constant pressure to meet the demands of the university. The team does exceptional work in close collaboration with the Office of Communications and Marketing to ensure that the university’s website’s priority focuses on student recruitment and retention.
Large strategic projects underway at the moment include introducing a new portal for students and staff, and implementing a more responsive website that will function on a wider variety of devices. Those projects are putting pressure on the team and creating delays for projects that have a lower priority.
Recently, a decision was made to add some new staff to the unit, which will increase its capacity. Work is also underway to introduce an automated workflow process, which will allow some staff outside of Web Services to add and update web content. These changes will, in time, provide more capacity and a faster response time for requests.
Q. Is it possible to make the child care centre more accessible for students and community members? Perhaps a funding mechanism or reserving some spots at a lower rate?
Currently, the children and parents accessing the child care centre (called Early Learning at MacEwan, or ELM), are distributed relatively evenly between students, faculty and the external community.
It is important that the centre recovers its operational costs, but it is prudent to review operational models from time to time to ensure that the mandate of the centre is clear and supported, and that it meets the needs of our students and faculty.
With a new organization and new VP roles in place, review of the mandate and business model of the child care centre is expected in 2018.
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