Under the microscope
We all know that research plays a huge part in the lives of university faculties. That’s why we all came to a college, right? But as Mount Royal makes the transition towards university status, many are wondering whether the students will suffer.
With instructors facing an increased workload, which has the potential to challenge the school’s reputation of placing education over academia, students and faculty alike have started to grow worried about a shift in priorities. That stigma is something Trevor Davis, Mount Royal’s senior vice-president of research, is quick to dispel.
“We’re not going to be just another university,” Davis insists. “We will be increasing research, but at the same time we will maintain a focus on education and teaching. Our instructors are here because they want to teach — that’s what attracted them to the job in the first place — so we need to keep that focus.”
Davis says that while more research will be conducted here, the majority of that work will involve students through in-class experiments and special projects, which will continue to foster and enhance the student experience.
“The potential benefit for students is high,” says Davis. “We’re looking for cutting-edge research, and that can come from student-teacher interaction: including students as test subjects, having them participate in crucial experiments. Even methods of teaching can be a research topic, which can only come from the act of teaching. The possibilities are endless.”
But do the instructors taking on the extra work feel up to the challenge? And do they agree with Davis’ assertion that the students will excel rather than suffer?
“There is some concern (amongst faculty members), but ultimately there’s a sense of excitement about what’s around the corner,” says David Hyttenrauch, president of the Mount Royal Faculty Association. “You can’t please everyone. But at this point I don’t think anyone’s going to leave because they’re not going to get what they came here for, which is a career in teaching. People here are generally optimistic.”
What Hyttenrauch doesn’t mention is the almost universal dissent from university faculties across Canada over the new federal budget presented in January. According to the Canadian Association of University Teachers, the budget made a huge mistake by not including initiatives for more academic research funding, a sentiment echoed by Marie Barnes, VP academic of Mount Royal’s Students’ Association.
“We’re passing around a petition in the offices calling for more research funding, because what the Harper government has offered is simply not enough,” says Barnes. “Students see the value of research, and we’ve seen great support for the petition so far.”
In a press release, the Association’s executive director James Turk fears that Canada will lose some of its top researchers to the United States, where President Barack Obama’s stimulus package includes more than $12 billion in research funding.
“If you look at the relative size of our economy, that means we’d need more than $1 billion here just to keep pace,” Turk said in the release.
Trevor Davis, however, remains optimistic that any potential loss of researchers to the U.S. will not impact Mount Royal.
“We’re still an education-focused institution, and always will be, so I don’t think we’re going to lose people,” says Davis.
Ultimately, Davis expresses the excitement that practically everyone is feeling in light of the new change, and is adamant that Mount Royal will continue to be the same school everyone knows.
“We’re playing in a different pond now,” says Davis. “We’re fairly up there within the Canadian colleges, but once we become a university, we’ll be farther down the ladder. But I don’t think that’s going to influence how we act as an educational institution. We’re going to stick to our guns — we’re not going to be another Acadia.”