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2014: The Year Ahead at CityU in Canada

From the old to the new

Before we move ahead in this period of transition from the old to the new I would like to acknowledge the challenges and accomplishments of the previous year and express my gratitude to all those who have contributed to the success of our endeavour. Our collective mission is to transform the society through the provision of relevant post-secondary education. As a city university we feel we have a special responsibility to respond to the pressing issues of our times and participate in the restoration of community. In addition, as educators we believe we have an important role to play in dispelling the ignorance that causes us to harm one another and our natural environment and to enliven ideas and practices that contribute to our well-being.

Good theory, good practice

From this perspective knowledge making, learning and instruction take on a different significance and require a different approach. It is for this reason that the integration of theory and practice and instruction by scholar/practitioners are central to our approach. The test of good theory is its value in making a difference in the everyday lives and relationships of people and the test of good instruction is its capacity to initiate learners in communities of practice and successively, over time prepare them for practice. In this context, the unique characteristics of the scholar/practitioner are critical. Scholar/practitioners are individuals deeply involved in theoretically and dialogically informed practice. Though their concerns are pragmatic they have never given up on the learning process. It is their weathered faces that are seen making presentations at conferences; participating on panels; asking questions from the floor; scribbling notes; publishing papers; carrying around books with well worn pages; restlessly poking the seaweed on the internet; and singing and dancing in celebration of learning. It is not enough for them to profit from their status and expertise; they feel compelled to pass it forward. For far too little compensation they stand on the street corners of the agora and share their thoughts with whoever comes along or, increasingly in our times, peck it out on the keyboard over the wires and the distance. This is who we are and who we aspire to be.

Gratitude

In expressing gratitude, let me also thank our colleagues in Seattle, now and in the past. City University of Seattle has provided us a home and a framework within which to explore and develop this approach to post-secondary education. Thanks to all our Associate Faculty who deliver where the rubber hits the road in the classroom and in the community. Thanks to all our students and alumni whose enthusiastic engagement makes it all worthwhile. Finally, thanks to all who have contributed to the success of our endeavours.

 Definitive steps forward

Over the past year, we have taken several definitive steps forward in expanding our offerings and clarifying our identity as a distinctly Canadian educators and programs. In accord with our strategic plan we have added a growing Continuing Education and Community Engagement program led by Gerry Zipursky. One of this program’s significant accomplishments this year has been the implementation of the Executive Leadership – Non-Profit Societies certificate program and this program’s sponsorship by Social Venture Partners Vancouver.  Executive Leadership will soon be complemented by the inception of an MEd Certificate in Applied School Counselling developed in partnership with several school districts.

Late in the year, the Alberta Ministry of Education announced the approval of our MEd – Leadership program under the direction of Heather Henderson. With the guidance of prominent educator and Provost Emeritus of the University of the Fraser Valley, Dianne Common we have been further enhancing scholarship and academic rigour at CityU in Canada culminating in the establishment of standards for our recently announced Western Canadian Research fund. As the New Year begins we are uploading content to cityuniversity.ca and setting up a Canadian Facebook page. As we enter this New Year we are ‘under one roof’ with the Advising and Site teams now reporting through the Canadian organization.

Guiding themes for the New Year

What are the themes that guide us as the New Year unfolds? In this respect, I am reminded of a conversation in which Provost Steve Olswang and I participated at a regulatory board meeting. One of major creative tensions that we experience in the regulatory environment is the extent to which we are perceived to emphasize practice rather than academic research and engage practitioners as instructors rather than traditionally prepared and tenured academics. We would, of course, not endorse such a polarized view, however, in addition we asked the question, “Why is that so many teachers, education leaders and counsellors seldom engage in any form of scholarship after graduation?” Our hunch is that many have found that the worlds of theory in the academic setting and practice in the context of employment have little connection to one another. Our focus is this connection and our contention is that both theory in the form of scholarship and practice in the form of educating and helping others is the better for it. From an academic point of view, the outcome is not watered down scholarship, but scholarship brewed in the cauldron of responding to the urgent educational needs of our times.

The elaboration of this theme that I would like to propose for this year is for us to assure that we are delivering on the promise of connecting theory and practice in our pedagogy, instruction, curriculum and conduct as a community. In this respect we have taken some initial steps by designing and beginning to implement a curriculum review process. In this context, I am also happy to share with you that Avraham Cohen has agreed to work on designing and putting into practice a Canadian New Faculty Orientation process. Surely, the guidance and direction that we provide during the early days of a new instructor’s engagement with us are critical.

A further theme for this year is the addition of the third leg of the stool. We plan to supplement our outstanding Counselling and Education programs with Business and Management programs. To this end we welcomed a Ministry of Advanced Education, DQAB panel on January 8 to review our Bachelor of Management program for approval.

One of our strongest agreements is the significance of community, in the narrower sense, communities of practice, but, in the broader sense, the social and economic environment in which the university is situated. Whether it is by our actions or by our silence we play a role in community. It is with this in mind that we added ‘Community Engagement’ to the newly created position of Director of Continuing Education and Community Engagement. It is also with this in mind that we have been involved with diverse community organizations in envisioning and developing the Green Technology Education Centre (GTEC). One of the sources of inspiration for the GTEC model is a small, private, not-for–profit university in Johannesburg, South Africa called CIDA. We are now participating in a conversation with the Director of the Foundation that operates CIDA and one of our students who is from Johannesburg visited CIDA as our ambassador and met with their Academic Dean over the holiday season.

 Heading for the Blue Ocean

Apparently the significance of the term ‘blue ocean’, at least in the context of marketing where I first encountered it, is that there are domains in which there are felt needs and aspiration to which few or none are responding and other domains referred to as ‘red oceans’ in which there is already many sharks swimming about. The metaphor of the blue ocean and the associated ethos of creativity and responsiveness appeal to me, as I hope they do to you. So let’s continue to head to the blue ocean together in 2014.

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