August was a busy month in the Maple League: while many of us were on vacation, travelling, and resting, a number of committees and communities of practice were very animated. The four Maple League Presidents Council (MLPC) met in person at Acadia university for a two-day strategic visioning retreat this month; a number of thought partners and clusters worked hard on the design and delivery of innovative programs (like the OLTC program, decolonization abroad); our teaching and learning champions connected to support the start of the academic year; and we welcomed a new cohort of faculty across our four universities with a new faculty orientation.
What has struck me in August was that every member at the multiple meetings I attended this month are learners and teachers, mentors and coaches in the development of our students and ourselves. Whether it is in the classroom or at the Library, learning at the IT helpdesk or engaged in experiential learning, meeting with leadership and academic facilitators or learning alongside students, we are all engaged in a university experience that transcends (or extends) learning beyond the classroom and into our communities.
Every one of us – as faculty, staff, managers, or administrators – teach and learn every day in our own capacities and contexts.
This maps onto the work of Peter Felten and Leo Lambert, who write about Relationship Rich Education(2020) in the following way: Decades of research demonstrate the transformative potential and the lasting legacies of a relationship-rich college experience. But in this revelatory book brimming with the voices of students, faculty, and staff from across the country, Peter Felten and Leo M. Lambert argue that relationship-rich environments can and should exist for all students at all types of institutions. In Relationship-Rich Education, Felten and Lambert demonstrate that for relationships to be central in undergraduate education, colleges and universities do not require immense resources, privileged students, or specially qualified faculty and staff. All students learn best in an environment characterized by high expectation and high support, and all faculty and staff can learn to teach and work in ways that enable relationship-based education.
As we move into the new academic year with all its energy and excitement, I hope we carry with us the knowledge that every member of our communities all have a part to play in a transformative university experience that differentiates our universities in Canada.
As they say in Quebec, bonne rentrée scolaire!
~ Dr. Jessica Riddell, Executive Director, Maple League of Universities