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Four days in the heart of Higher Education development

Updated: Mar 24, 2022

By Georges-Philippe Gadoury-Sansfaçon, Maple League Research Fellow, Stephen A. Jarislowsky Research Fellow, Bishop’s University

On February 18, 2020, Maple League faculty and students gathered at Acadia University for a Quality Undergraduate Education Summit and to discuss the 2016 book The Undergraduate Experience: Focusing Institutions on What Matters Most. Leading that discussion was one of the book’s authors, Dr. Peter Felten. Dr. Felten is based at Elon University as the assistant provost for Teaching and Learning, director of the Center for Engaged Learning, and a History professor. Later that week, some delegates also attended the Educational Developers Caucus (EDC) in Halifax, whose theme was focused on our collective role in transforming teaching and learning on our respective campuses.

Student delegate Georges-Philippe Gadoury-Sansfaçon shares his experience.

Adventure is what I want my days to be about, and that certainly was the case last month when I got to spend four days in Nova Scotia as part of my Maple League/Jarislowky Research Fellowship.

I got to Halifax late Monday evening, already looking forward to the next morning – and I had all the reasons to be! We left the city early and headed to Acadia University, in Wolfville, for the Maple League Higher Education Summit. Before the day had even begun, I got to spend close to two hours on the road with my Maple League Executive Director Dr. Jessica Riddell and the one and only Dr. Peter Felten – talk about a great way to start the day! We then spent this day discussing how we can strive to enhance the quality of our institutions with Peter, a world expert on quality higher education, who wonderfully led by sharing his own experience, work and immensely valuable insight. We were joined by collaborators from the four Universities of the Maple League (Acadia, Bishop’s, Mount Allison and St. Francis Xavier), and Peter asked the right questions to get us to talk all day long: “How do we recapture what is now a transaction for so many?”, “How do we know that someone is transformed by what we do?”, “How can we support every student’s path to success?” and the crucial “How do we do all of this together?” After only a day, I had already started to immerse myself in this fascinating world where people try to create change in higher education. And there were still three days left!

Driving back to Halifax Wednesday morning was also an adventure in itself and we were headed towards even more opportunities to grow. After the Maple League Summit, I was more eager than ever to learn more about this new world that is educational development, and the Educational Developers Caucus was just the right place for that!

From Curriculum Mapping to Indigenizing Education, it was all about helping students make the most out of their potential in an inclusive and safe environment that fosters sound learning and creative problem-solving. I learned so much in two days that I filled half of my brand-new notebook with questions, quotes and inspiring solutions! I met amazing people that taught me so much, and I have so many new projects for my 2020-21 term as VP Academic Affairs of the Bishop’s University Students’ Representative Council as well as for my future Maple League endeavours!

My favourite part was also my least favourite part: I was a student, surrounded by educational developers and profs, and I got to share the student perspective, part of the most important perspectives necessary to appropriately better higher education. But I was one of the only few students there. We need more insight from students – all students, not just the leading, performing students. We keep saying that it’s all about the students – it’s about time we include more of them in the conversation!

I’m lucky my institution and the Maple League allow me to advocate for our priorities and to sit not only at the tables of powers but also at the tables where the groundwork is done. Students are partners in learning, students are collaborators, students are the future – let’s build their education with them, not for them!

This trip was a unique chance to learn more about what’s coming up for higher education and how we, as students, can help in building the future of our institutions. Getting to know Peter, Jessica and all of the other friends I made there played a key role in making this experiential learning opportunity one of the best I’ve had – after all, we’re so much better together than we are on our own.

Georges-Philippe Gadoury-Sansfaçon is the Stephen A. Jarislowsky Research Fellow as well as the Maple League Research Fellow. His mandate is to undertake research so that all our decisions and policies are informed by data and underpinned by student voices through a lens of diversity, equity and inclusion. He is in his third year at Bishop’s University, studying Mathematics and Psychology.

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