June 30, 2021 – September 30, 2021 – Quarterly Report

Updated: Mar 24

The last three months have been a period of growth, reflection, and future-facing planning. Indeed, the summer was a period where a number of projects came to fruition. For example, several faculty-led projects were funded through CEWIL (Co-operative, Experiential, Work-Integrated Learning), including two Maple League specific projects. 18 projects supported by the Maple League were awarded funding, with varying levels of consortium support in grant design and submission. Two Maple League collaborative projects – The Path and the OLTC curricular initiative – received CEWIL grants for a total of $400,000. The Path, an Acadia-led initiative, builds capacities for student entrepreneurs across the four campuses, and the OLTC project – jointly led by Mt.A with support from the consortium – creates innovative work-integrated learning experiences where students are partners in the pedagogical and technological design of classrooms. The CEWIL grants are remarkable because they are “direct benefit”. This model of grants has the potential to make high-impact practices more accessible for first-generation and BIPOC students: this funding helps cover tuition rebates, provides access to technology, offers money for childcare, and helps to defray transportation costs. Direct benefit to students under these categories helps dismantle WIL barriers for historically excluded groups. Furthermore, Maple League projects have started to emerge from communities of practice: these groups (drawn from diverse disciplines and professional practices) have built trusting and collaborative relationships; many of these groups have been inspired to share best practices, tackle wicked problems, and even create joint proposals for external funding. The International Offices, for example, created a joint proposal related to decolonizing education abroad. We look forward to sharing this project and other exciting initiatives as they emerge. This quarter we have also been attentive to the growing pains of a consortium that only a few years ago was a great idea but didn’t operate in practice. In a few short years, we’ve grown the Maple League across many spheres. We can now say, with grounded confidence, that together we have positioned ourselves as leaders in conversations around quality undergraduate education. As we look forward, strategic visioning for 2021 and beyond has been front of mind. We’ve engaged a number of diverse thought partners – via in-person and virtual consultation spaces – to think about who we are and who we want to be. This is an exciting time, and we are undertaking a strategic visioning process with a curiosity-driven approach that values learning over knowing, privileges process over product, and keeps us open to new ideas and new ways of learning and knowing. As an academic consortium, this work is informed by research drawn from diverse philosophers, scholars, and leaders. Minouche Shafik (Director of the London School of Economics), reflects: “In the past, jobs were about muscles, now they’re about brains, but in the future, they’ll be about the heart.” Heart is a recurring theme in the literature on educational leadership. Parker Palmer, the influential philosopher and higher education guru, titled his highly influential book The Heart of Higher Education. Brene Brown, in her popular series Daring to Lead, says this: “When we imprison the heart, we kill courage. In the same way that we depend on our physical heart to pump life-giving blood to every part of our body, we depend on our emotional heart to keep vulnerability coursing through the veins of courage and to engage in all the behaviours we talk about being necessary for good work: Trust, innovation, creativity, accountability.” Indeed, at the core of my educational leadership is the idea that the heart and mind are inextricably bound in the pursuit of knowledge – both in its acquisition and creation. This is messy, transformative work that necessitates the courage and vulnerability to say, “I don’t know.” Indeed, the research on leadership bears this out. As Brene Brown remarks, “the best, most transformational leaders do not have answers, they have just stunning, I mean, breath-taking questions. That’s where their strategic thinking capacity is revealed, that’s where their ability to work and understand and break apart conceptually complex ideas shines.” As we move into the fall, we carry the words of Einstein with us. He said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes defining the problem and five minutes solving it.” In the next few months, we will continue to invest in problem identification and definition in order to tackle “wicked problems” in higher education and in our broader society. We do this by being proactive and strategic, designing systems that will enable us to be thoughtful and decisive, bold and courageous. Above all, we engage in this work collaboratively with an open heart and the vulnerability to be learners. Here’s to being brave and kind together. ~ Dr. Jessica Riddell, Executive Director, Maple League of Universities

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