Take-aways from the 2018 CAUT Aboriginal Academic Staff Conference

Karen Sunabacka is an Associate Professor of Music at Conrad Grebel University College. This past October, FAUW sponsored her to attend the Canadian Association of University Teachers’ Aboriginal Academic Staff Conference.

The 2018 conference theme was “Advancing Indigenization,” and plenary topics included: new Indigenous scholars, advancing Indigenous academic staff, Indigenizing the academy, Indigenous knowledge, and the state of Indigenous Studies programs in Canada.

After the conference, Karen sat down with FAUW’s Indigenization Working Group to share her reflections on the conference. She was gracious enough to answer a few questions for us to share with members of our broader community.

What were your expectations or hopes going into the conference?

As a Métis scholar and musician, I was hoping to meet other Indigenous academic staff and hear how Indigenization was going at other institutions in Canada.

What was your biggest take-away?

Indigenization means different things to different groups of people. I was surprised to learn about the differences between the ways University administrations tend to think of Indigenization and the ways individual faculty and/or faculty groups are approaching Indigenization. Faculty are looking at ways to incorporate Indigenous Knowledge into the curriculum, they are thinking about incorporating Indigenization into different ways of teaching, and they are looking at organizational structures and how to differently arrange the University structure as a whole (some talk about this as “Decolonizing” the University). Whereas Administrations tend to think of Indigenization as simply having more diversity of faculty, staff, and students.

Continue reading “Take-aways from the 2018 CAUT Aboriginal Academic Staff Conference”

Feedback on Feedback Questionnaires’ Use and Misuse

Jay Michela addresses misconceptions in Alex Usher’s analysis of the Ryerson arbitration decision. 

Guest post by Jay Michela, Psychology. 

Alex Usher of Higher Education Strategy Associates (HESA) has offered his analysis of an arbitration decision at Ryerson University which ruled against conventional use of students’ course ratings for personnel decisions (tenure and promotion decisions). It has been circulated within our university and elsewhere (e.g., to OCUFA), and appears on the HESA website under the headline “Time to Talk Teaching Assessments.”

I was moved to respond to Usher’s statement because it expresses many of the misconceptions that exist around summative use of students’ ratings of courses and instructors.

What follows is the full text of Alex Usher’s analysis, with my responses interspersed. I hope this format for explaining the urgent need to change university practices around student questionnaires turns out to be more engaging and pithy than some of the literature reviews and other research reports on which this material is based. Continue reading “Feedback on Feedback Questionnaires’ Use and Misuse”

Using Your Resources: A Different Approach to Mentorship

Jo Atlee is a professor in the Cheriton School of Computer Science and the director of Women in Computer Science. She helped us prepare our faculty guide section on mentorship and has agreed to share here what she’s learned from her experiences—both positive and negative—with various mentoring models. Here’s Jo:

I’m not a big believer of the formal-mentor model of mentorship. Such a model of mentor and protégé makes sense for supervisor-student (or supervisor-postdoc) relationships, because there is an aspect of apprenticeship in the progression from student to faculty member. But outside of these relationships, I think that people have unrealistically high expectations of being able to find and establish a really strong relationship with some singular mentor or mentee. This is especially true with respect to finding a mentor within one’s department who is worth meeting with regularly.

I prefer a model of having a network of colleagues—peers, senior colleagues, junior colleagues, preferably at multiple institutions—that you can draw on for advice, feedback, or ideas on how to navigate a sticky problem. A wide network provides the obvious advantage of diversity in advice and expertise. I also like this model because the time commitments on mentors are relatively lightweight. Mentoring interactions tend to be a lunch, a phone call, or a quick email response that is purposeful, as opposed an expectation to meet regularly with a mentee. As a busy person, it is easier for me to say “yes” to an invitation to lunch with someone looking for advice than to a request to be a mentor, not knowing what kind of time commitment the requestor is expecting.

In my years of work with Women in Computer Science and Women in Math, one problem with the formal-mentoring model has always been that, while senior students recognize the value of mentoring and are interested in being mentors, junior students are not interested in being mentored. They believe that others have gotten by without this extra “help,” so they can as well. I’ve seen junior faculty take a similar view of formal mentoring programs within their departments; these pre-tenure faculty would prefer to be acknowledged as peers within their departments than as formal mentees or protégés.

An advantage of the network model of mentoring is that the vocabulary surrounding mentoring is devoid of this power differential. There is no notion of protégé. Best of all, the network model changes the vocabulary associated with “seeking advice”: by reaching out to members of your network for advice, you aren’t “asking for help”—you are simply “using your resources.”