Raising Our Sights on learning

By Eric Fung

The U of C is moving in a new direction with its academic plan. Raising Our Sights, approved Apr. 28, 2002 by the General Faculties Council, will bring slow but steady changes to education at the U of C.

"Ultimately, we aim to make the University of Calgary a stronger academic environment by following this plan," said Vice-President Academic and primary author Dr. Ron Bond. "Our emphasis is on quality, and as the title implies, while we’re good, we can be even better."

According to Bond, Raising Our Sights establishes four priorities: understanding human behaviour, institutions and cultures; energy and the environment; technologies and information; and health and wellness. These areas will guide the U of C’s operations and resource allocation for the next four years.

For some, the strategy promises a commitment to the U of C’s pre-eminence in the four target areas and a multidisciplinary teaching approach. Others are more cautious.

"We’re nervous with where the [U of C] president is trying to go with this," said Students’ Union President Matt Stambaugh. "This is an eight-page document that reads well, but that can be interpreted in many different ways."

Stambaugh hopes undergraduates get the best and the most accessible education available with this new plan, adding administration has been receptive to most comments. However, Stambaugh remains concerned the plan will specifically target tuition increases in professional faculties such as law, medicine, engineering, and business. He worries the U of C will essentially become inaccessible to most students.

"The U of C wants to pump out graduates to provide a return to the community, but it could start running into problems," he said. "Will the university start treating Fine Arts as a professional faculty?"

Bond argued that the nature of "strategic resource allocation" implies certain faculties may be favoured in particular budgets.

"The plan goes out of its way not to mention any faculties by name," he said. "The point is that all faculties can and should be guided by the four core principles in the plan and can and should contribute to the four broad interdisciplinary areas identified as strategic academic priorities."

Bond added all students will see the benefits in their learning environment if the plan is properly executed.

"The plan alludes specifically to the need to keep our students at the centre," he said, referring to enhanced student advising and improved forms of financial aid.

The U of C also created special projects to implement the plan, such as Enhancing Undergraduate Learners’ Experience in a Research University which will focus on inquiry-based learning. EULE will approach this from a number of angles, looking at small seminar classes and research integration into undergraduate teaching programs.

For more information on Raising Our Sights, see www.ucalgary.ca/unicomm/raising

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