I have spent the bulk of my week at a fantastic academic and policy related conference that brings together scientists and leaders from a wide variety of fields. What’s really been great about this experience is it’s commitment to engaging with a variety of disciplines. We’re not just seeing health scientists, researchers from STEM fields, or social scientists and humanities scholars, but truly a variety of perspectives from across the research spectrum. Another strength of this conference, which I realize now has not been part of my general conference experience is I’ve noticed a real effort to balance gender representation on the panels. Most of the panels I have attended have either had equal numbers of men and women present, or had greater numbers of women and men, reflecting their attendee balance, which identifies as about 60% women.
In a recent Vancouver Sun Op-Ed, SFU President, Andrew Petter makes the compelling argument that universities are vital contributors to their communities, writing, “Canada’s public universities, colleges and institutes have an obligation, as well as an opportunity, to harness the instruments at our disposal to the greatest extent possible to benefit the communities we serve”. I, and many of my colleagues at institutions of higher education across Canada, could not agree more with this sentiment. The university of the future will absolutely have a strong role to play in creating the kind of communities that we all want to live in, and also in fostering the kinds of citizens who want to actively contribute to those communities for the good of all. I agree with Petter, and as an Ashoka U change leader and the program head of the Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies at Royal Roads, I have seen this work firsthand. As a result of my work at a university that, like SFU, is pushing the boundaries of education, I can see that providing social support within community means changing the ways we deliver education, so that our raison d’etre in higher education is centered around the good of the communities we serve.
Just in time for the term to end, and grading to begin at many institutions, I wanted to write about how I, and almost all other instructors or professors I know, view the grading process. I think it’s important as a student to approach assignments with this view in mind, as it will help you to let go of some of the feelings or road blocks that may be currently holding you back.
Social media and web 2.0 have presented exciting new possibilities for sharing research with the world. While our research in the academy is often confined to discipline specific conferences and academic journals, stuck behind paywalls and accessible only to others in the academic community, self publishing our work on blogs, twitter, facebook, or other platforms allows researchers to communicate their work to a broad audience.
This trend is exciting. As you can see on this blog, I can, with no intermediary, share in plain language, why I think my research is important. People can access my work from around the world, and we can engage in debate or take research in new directions. Furthermore, it’s in the interests of society as a whole. As an academic, my work is at least in part funded by tax dollars. Thus it can be argued that I have an obligation to make my work available and accessible to the public who helps to fund my work.
As with any new WordPress blog, the first post you see when you load it up for the first time is the ubiquitous “Hello World” post. I’m thinking of leaving that post on my blog as I write this. Not to indicate a lack of familiarity with how to edit a blog, or to demonstrate a lack of professionalism, or a sort of ambivalence to blogging, but rather, because that phrase sums up an insecurity that I think we all have regarding public writing and public scholarship in particular.