Congress 2018: Openings and Closings

The closing convening day for both of my associations started off with an important conversation at ACCUTE about protecting those in the academy without power and those whose critical public scholarship put them at risk for attack. Teams, alliances, training, and Judy Chicago’s amazing art are all strategies to ensure that we listen, believe, support, and act in solidarity to defend each other.

I brought this important consideration to another central Congress session, chaired by the remarkable Ray Siemens. This large panel showcased the incredible scope of the open, public scholarship that is building a national reputation on multiple fronts in Canada, but which still requires more attention to the challenges and complexities of calls for open scholarship for some scholars.

I was lucky to de-brief the events of my Congress experience on my own (over noodles), as well as with two wonderful friends (over pizza), both of whom have done incredible jobs organizing the ACCUTE convenings over the past two years.

It was a smaller convening this year than years prior, but the positive tone and attention to professional stewardship in the sessions were noticed and appreciated. It’s ironic that I would feel more part of the English community now that I have left it for Education, but it is perhaps the willingness to be more open about the discipline’s circumstances is what finally allows me to feel part of the conversation.

Also, this Baba Yaga Saskatchewan sports car:

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Congress: Leadership Day

Today I listened to leaders–Provosts of HE institution’s in Saskatchewan. I got a few moments of excellent face time with Provost and VP Academic Thomas Chase, who started out as an English major.

Then I spent some time with folks thinking through principles to guide leaders who hire contract faculty. They have developed an excellent list that will be further refined this year.

I facilitated a session, practical pédagogies, with three emergent leaders in teaching English, all of whom did thoughtful, excellent work to promote student-centred learning from a humanist lens.

I listened to a passionate group speak about PhD reform, which was great to see as a Congress event for how they echoed many of own panel themes. Finally, I celebrated with talk and music into the evening with friends and colleagues, including those with new faculty and departmental leadership positions.

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Congress: Panels Day

Day 3: Two panels, plenty of excellent people

Today I presented at an ACCUTE-sponsored panel, titled Changing By Degrees: The Impact of the New Approaches to the PhD upon Research and Practice in English and chaired by my colleague-in-crime Mark McDayter.

It was such an honour to present with such intelligent, passionate humanist scholars and thinkers. The audience was receptive and engaged, and there may be an ESC special issue in the future on the topic.

I also presented at CSSHE panel with colleagues from across Canada on the role of blended and online learning in higher education reform, chaired by the hard-working Wendy Freeman. The professional association to which we belong is called COHERE: It was a lively engaged group with more to say than time to say it.

It was a pleasure to walk in the University of Regina’s campus, where I was treated to a drumming circle, an on campus food garden, and a bag of free popcorn. I also got to say hello to the University of Regina’s newest CRC, Dr. Michelle Coupal, and to an affinity group for blended and online learning, where I spent time with the formidable Dr Marti Cleveland-Innes.

Finally I hit the president’s reception, where I met a number of fantastic people, including my bud Morgan Rooney and Scott, the Newfoundland-born head of the security on campus keeping us all safe (and gave me a ride back downtown).

Also, a prairie dog.

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Congress: CSSE visit to Fort Qu’Appelle

Day 2: Easily the most worthwhile thing I’ve attended at any Congress I’ve ever been to.

The tour had us visit a small town with a history of Indigenous settlement. On a narrative walk we learn about the daily lives of people, and how decisions such as enfranchising Indigenous soldiers led them to sign up for more tours when they found they could not go home. These walks should be created for every Canadian city on territorial lands.

Learned about the Treaty 4 Alliance and its community leadership action network, which is advocating for the ability to make sovereign decisions about their school system, separate from the public system (for some good reasons). http://educationalliance.ca We also watched an incredible music video by talented young adults in the area: https://g.co/kgs/bv89BK (You should watch it too.)

Visited a medicine/sweat lodge. Painted a buffalo.

And went to the site of one of the last residential schools in Canada at Lebret. Sobering, stories of pain and betrayal from our guides, but also of resilience and empowerment. We smudged, we prayed, we learned. We thanked our creator. And we thanked all those from the Treaty 4 area who gave their time for us today.

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Congress 2018

Day 1

Arrived in Regina, SK on a plane with many scholars. Words like “skepticism” and “objectified” buzzed around the cabin. I had sat with a young woman working for Westjet Encore, who explained that the subsidiary wasn’t unionized but that the job itself wasn’t enough to pay for her dream to do a teacher education program in New Zealand. I gave her my card.

When you start going to Congress you feel overwhelmed, lonely. Fourteen years later, and it’s a happy reunion. Saw many great folks, and attended the Federation’s swanky opening reception. Heard honest, supportive comments from political leaders about the value of this conference for SK, and the contributions that URegina will make to the conference. It was, truly, an exciting event (and the drumming and dancing were awesome!)

It is such a privilege to travel to these kinds of events, even when one pays for herself. I had said in my posts that Canada has a lot to learn from NZ about Indigenization and decolonization, but I think that Ontario has something to learn from Saskatchewan. More on that.

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Some Aussie Fun: Tours, Treats, and Trains

Following my many uni visits, we had a few days of vacation time!

The Tours: We took two tours in Australia–one guided tour in Brisbane (a full-day guided bus tour that ended in a visit to a koala sanctuary, and one self-guided tour in Sydney (following “Sydney in one day” advice from a blogger). Both tours had us visiting incredible botanical gardens and taking relaxing ferry rides. Aside from the convenience of a human shuttling us around and answering our questions, the online suggestions were a great alternative!

The Treats: My treats are art galleries and fun festivals. We hit up the free art galleries in both Brisbane and Sydney; the latter gave out free pencils and easels to practice sketching sculptures (mine showed great effort and heart). Because Australia is hosting the Commonwealth Games, we were also treated Indigenous storytelling and other group fun events (pub choir!) in the cultural district.

The Trains: The fun train ride was a 12-hour overnight trip from Brisbane to Sydney, where in first-class we had a sleeper carriage with our own bunks, snacks, and a bathroom that converted into a shower! The not-so-fun train rides were, in fact, buses: on our one day in Sydney, a good number of the trains weren’t running and free bus shuttles were offered instead, As you can imagine, these confusion was great an the buses were packed!

Bum rests in Brissie!

And now we must say Cheerio and Hooroo to the fall Australian sunshine, as we return to what I hear is cool spring weather in Canada!

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Initial Summative WSIEP Reflection: Boring for Readers, but Useful for Me

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Partially shown here: Lovely silk scarf.

This week I headed up to Griffith University, Mt. Gravatt campus, which is one of five campuses in the area. I met with the energetic Dr. Christine McDonald, an open and busy senior lecturer, advocate, supervisor, researcher, instructor, and director of the EdD. Over lunch we chatted about a wide range of issues, making me slightly late for my second meeting with the visionary Craig Camamile, organizational psychologist and learning and development manager. With a different position but a similar sensibility, we also had much to discuss! The day was organized by Chelsea from International, whom I never met but who was extremely generous with her support, even sending along a gift of a lovely silk scarf.

What follows is initial reflections I will take back to my role at Western. I have other thoughts on the value of the WSIEP program for future Western participants, but I’ll describe them in another post. (I also went nose-to-nose with koalas and native lizards this week, but these activities deserve their own post as well!)

Griffith University in Brisbane is similar to Western in many ways: a top tier university that cannot rival the biggest institution in town, but has many unique characteristics and strengths nonetheless (and its secondary status forces it to be innovative). They have similar departments supporting academic work, but emphasize different elements. Their doctoral programs are similar to those in New Zealand; faculties are constantly asked to do more with less. Leaders have heavy workloads, and find respite from their administrative duties to do research over the holidays. 😐

All three institutions I visited had lush but hilly campuses. Some are more centralized, while others are decentralized, a product of their distinct culture and geographic location. I met few folks who were fully immersed in online learning, so this was one element that went under-discussed in most of my conversations.

However, I spoke with academic and professional staff in a range of different roles. There were usually equivalents with those at Western, but the different structures, roles, and responsibilities led to new opportunities and innovations at these campuses. At the same time, Western has comprehensive supports and services for staff compared to other institutions. There is a range work responsibilities—while academic staff seem to have less supervision and teaching responsibilities compared to Western’s faculty, there also seems to be much more in the way of administrative responsibilities. But (and crucially for me), learning and development folks are afforded academic posts, or at least more in the way of academic responsibilities, including research and supervision.

From an EdD perspective, I encountered a newly designed program (only 2 years so, and optimistic), a program in redesign (much to the concern of some faculty), and a program in decline (following required admission changes). A combination of contexts, policy, and staff have shaped the possibilities and constraints of these programs. There are also inevitable trade-offs, and wishing for something different inevitably means other complications would emerge. Finally, there continues to be disagreement about how EdDs should be viewed, though here more traditional notions prevail.

It has been a real pleasure and gift to meet academic and professional staff from three Australasian institutions with a range of similarities and differences—in relation to Western as well as to each other. I’m grateful for this opportunity and wish I could have visited more, but alas my trip comes to an end with an overnight journey to Sydney tomorrow.

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