Welcome to my service dossier. To the left are links to the service I have provided to Augustana, the University of Alberta, and the other communities of which I have been a member. Below, I elaborate on my service activity.
In the early 1990s, when I first arrived, at Augustana we adopted the motto ducere et servire: to lead and to serve. It has been the foundation for the service I have performed over the last 23 years as a faculty member of Augustana. I do enjoy solving logistical problems, but I do not enjoy being the centre of attention. My difficulty in serving in leadership positions, is that I find it difficult to ask someone else to carry out a task when I know everyone at the university is overworked. I only feel that I have the moral authority to make service requests, when I know that I am part of the same working team. I only know how to lead by example. I do not know how to lead by making demands of others. Thus, ducere et servire well describes my service to Augustana and the University; to serve is to lead – by leading, I serve the needs of others.
Faculty hired before our merger with the University of Alberta in 2004, will remember that a very large part of our workload involved service to the university. Thus, while still assistant professor, I was active on a variety of Augustana committees that impacted student campus life: Student Affairs, Chapel Planning and Chaplain Advisory Committees, and the Library Committee. In addition, I also served on a variety of curriculum and program assessment committees, in attempts to improve efficiency of program delivery, while maintaining their exceptional effectiveness. Also, during the early 1990s, I was a member of the Augustana Faculty Association executive and ad hoc workload committee for a couple of years, during the time of the nefarious >20% financial cut to academics at Augustana. These were difficult committees on which to serve, but I think for the most part, my voice played a role in ensuring that students’ needs were heard and met. One of the accomplishments with which I am very pleased, was ensuring that tenure-track science faculty were given credit for teaching labs equal to teaching lectures. Before this, there was an assumption that labs were easier to deliver than lectures, and thus not worth the same workload credit. It required much explaining on my part, that the two were equivalent in workload. The only difference between the two is that labs must be prepared before the term starts (e.g. planning of assignments, coordinating with the lab technicians, writing, revising and printing the lab manual), whereas lectures may, if necessary, be developed and revised during the term, only days (sometimes hours) before a lecture is given. The workload of labs and lectures are equivalent, but they differ in when the work must be accomplished.
My administrative service began with Divisional Registration Officer in 1994/95, and acting Chair in 1995/96, continuing as Chair of Science from 1996, through Augustana’s merger with the University of Alberta, ending in 2006: Twelve years of significant administration early in my academic year, which began before being promoted to Associate Professor in 1996. It was as Department Chair, that I was able to bring the workload of science faculty in line with other disciplines (labs became equivalent to lectures). As Chair, I also negotiated the inclusion of Augustana in the Two-Year Biological Sciences Block Transfer in the late 1990s, which reinvigorated our biology curriculum in the process. During this same period, I implemented the practice of hiring senior undergraduate students to assist faculty in 100-level labs. This became necessary as our lab enrolment increased, making it difficult for lab instructors to answer student lab questions in a timely manner. Student lab assistants were able to facilitate the efficient running of the lab, by answering relatively simple questions, that would otherwise interfere with the timely completion of the lab by students (e.g. How do I focus my microscope? Where is the ON button on my spectrophotometer? Is this an amoeba I am seeing or a speck of dirt?). More difficult theoretical or procedural questions could then be handled by the lab instructor. With the adoption of a new campus-wide core curriculum in the late 2000s, the position of student lab assistant became an opportunity for our students to satisfy their experiential learning core requirement.
Other notable accomplishments during my tenure as Chair of Science include:
- Facilitating redevelopment of poor lab space in the Augustana Classroom Building (C015 and C020) into a museum, research lab, and flexible teaching lab. The redevelopment of the research lab was completed by my successor, Dr. Jonathan Mohr.
- Hiring and developing teaching skills of sessional faculty, many of whom used that experience to find permanent positions elsewhere.
- Overseeing the restructuring of two divisions/depts (BIO/CHE/GEO and CSC/MAT/PHY) into one Dept of Science in the mid-2000s.
- Leading the process of bringing science degree programs into the academic structure of the University of Alberta, which included hosting site visits by academic staff from North Campus, and entering their research ethics approval process for research in natural science.
- Initiating and facilitating the renovation of Augustana’s advanced organic and inorganic labs in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
- Initiating in the 1990s, the development of Science program brochures, including pre-professional brochures, to facilitate student understanding of requirements, expectations, and opportunities. Some of this text remains my original writing.
- Supporting the development of our Costa Rica suite of courses, implemented by Drs. Doris Audet and Dave Larson in the late 1990s.
- Supporting the development of our environmental science and studies degree programs, initiated by Dr. Glen Hvenegaard in the late 1990s, and developed with the assistance of a variety of Augustana faculty.
After my second term as Chair of Science completed in 2006, I was asked to serve as Chair of the ad hoc Core Curriculum Review Committee during the 2007/08 academic year. It had been 10 years since the last time I had served on the committee, which considered approaches to reinvigorating our core curriculum; it seemed particularly timely to revisit it again, since Augustana’s merger with the University of Alberta. The greatest concern at that time was to reduce the size of the core (to enable students to explore what the academy has to offer), while remaining true to Augustana’s ideals. No easy task, but I welcomed the opportunity to have a significant impact on our students’ educational experience. Thus, our committee (K Sutley, J Wesselius, T Parker, P Harland, I Blokland) began a yearlong process of communal consultation, grounded in research of current North American practice. One of the difficulties that we had to overcome, was balancing the tension between being innovative and effective, while remaining attractive to our base of prospective students. What the Augustana community settled on, was a triad approach which included a breadth requirement, an Augustana specific component, and a reaffirmation of the skill requirements, which included information literacy, thinking, writing and speaking. This past year (2012/13), a skills assessment committee taskforce revised our skill requirements (thinking, researching and communicating) and improved their integration into our core trinity.
In 2010, I was asked by Roger Epp, Dean of Augustana, to accept the position of Associate Dean (Teaching). I was reluctant because my experience as Chair of Science taught me that senior administration positions make demands on your time in unpredictable ways, and I did not want to again subject my family to those demands. However, Dean Epp intrigued me with the problem that our students have in articulating their learning after graduation from Augustana. Looking for a solution to help our students, Dean Epp wrote a letter of introduction that students could use to articulate the Augustana experience producing our excellent graduates. This was unsatisfactory for Dean Epp, and it bothered me, that our students did not seem to realize what they had accomplished while completing an Augustana degree. I accepted the position of Associate Dean in order to find a solution enabling students to be more engaged in, and aware of, the learning experiences provided to them by Augustana.
Being Associate Dean has been one of the most invigorating experiences of my academic career. In looking for a solution that would engage our students in their own learning, I have been able to work with some incredible faculty both at Augustana, the other other four campuses of the University of Alberta, and beyond our own university. These academics, who hold teaching to be a higher calling, have taught me what it means to be an excellent teacher, one whose teaching excellence reaches beyond the confines of the classroom in which we teach. Below, I reflect on the service I have provided in my three years as Associate Dean.
One of my tasks as Associate Dean, was to produce successful nominations for the teaching awards available both within, and beyond, our university. To produce successful teaching award nominations requires that outstanding teaching occurs in our Faculty. Thus, an important role of the Associate Dean is to cultivate a culture of teaching excellence on our campus. In my first year, I expanded Teaching Squares, which had been piloted by my predecessor among new tenure-track faculty, to the entire Augustana professoriate, inviting all instructors to participate. Teaching Squares is a program designed to develop the practice of reflecting on one’s teaching. To become effective instructors that learn from both our mistakes and our successes, we must reflect on our practice. The Teaching Squares program encourages this.
A teacher development program I initiated during my tenure as Associate Dean, is the Augustana Teaching Seminar Series. I initiated this series to give Augustana faculty the chance to share their best practices, innovations, and successes, because I knew that some of the best teaching practices both tried & true, and innovative, are used by Augustana faculty. My intention with this series, was to encourage a conversation about teaching practices, and extend that to asking what is good teaching? What is a good learning environment? What is the role of the instructor? My hope, was that this would extend our teaching beyond the confines of our own classrooms. The impact we can have on students increases when we share our own excellent teaching strategies with our colleagues, such that the learning environment across our campus and university becomes richer.
In cultivating a culture of teaching excellence, I have tried to raise the profile of high impact educational practices (Kuh 2008). Part of this has been to consider how students best learn. Many advocate for active learning vs passive learning. Parker Palmer (2007) advocates for engaging students with the material, which can include lecturers who treat the content with respect, but more commonly involves instructors actively engaging students in the learning process. I have tried to raise the profile of active learning on the Augustana campus by:
- Developing a community of practice around Team-Based Learning which cultivates student learning communities.
- Initiating an e-portfolio pilot, which encourages reflective learning in our students, such that they are able to articulate what they learn, how they learn, and why they learn. Its ultimate goal is to enable our students' articulation of their acquired skills after they leave Augustana.
- Further institutionalizing undergraduate research at Augustana by encouraging faculty to enter their students in the Student Academic Conference, submit student papers to Metamorphosis, and consider how to scaffold research into their courses.
One of my primary responsibilities as Associate Dean, has been to prepare Faculty nominations for major teaching awards. During my three years as Associate Dean, I have had the honour of producing four successful nominations: the Rutherford Award, the Teaching Unit Award, the Alexander Award, and the 3M National Teaching Fellowship. The Centre for Teaching and Learning at the University of Alberta hosts a teaching award workshop at the beginning of every August. When I participated in 2010, at the beginning of my tenure as Associate Dean, I found it instrumental in raising my awareness that good teaching is not just about lecturing in the class and earning good USRIs, but rather, that it is about setting the environment in which students will learn best, and a willingness, and ability, to share good teaching practices with colleagues. Excellent teachers have an ever expanding circle of influence, resulting from active sharing of their successful teaching strategies with their colleagues.
As Associate Dean teaching from 2010-2013, I was a member of the Teaching, Learning and Technology Advisory Council to the Provost. In addition, I also acted as liaison with the Centre for Teaching and Learning for Augustana.
Of significance was my participation on the Festival of Teaching Steering Committee 2010-2012, co-chairing it with Vice-Provost, Colleen Skidmore, in 2012. This was an incredible experience for me to work closely alongside others who felt as passionately about teaching as I did, allowing me to cultivate a network of like-minded people dedicated to giving students the best learning experience possible, and to developing a culture of teaching excellence across all five campuses of the University of Alberta. This was an excellent way to begin my tenure as Associate Dean allowing me to think deeply about teaching: What is good teaching? What is a good learning environment?
Finally, in addition, to the significant senior administrative service I have provided to the university, I have been Augustana’s representative to our university’s General Faculties Council for three years, Biology Club faculty advisor for 7 years, and served on a variety of search committees for both academic and non-academic staff.
Kuh GD. 2008. High-impact educational practices: What they are, who has access to them, and why they matter. Washington (DC): Association of American Colleges and Universities.
Palmer PJ. 2007. The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life, 10th anniversary edition. San Francisco (CA): John Wiley and Sons.
Created: 2007 May 10
Updated: 2013 June 16