An academic town hall was held to gather input and address concerns from the UTM community last Wednesday in the William G. Davis Building.
The first hour of the town hall gave priority to students’ suggestions and questions, while the second hour was reserved for faculty, staff, and alumni.
Students stressed the importance of internships and experiential learning opportunities in the increasingly competitive job market. Undergraduates also expressed their desire for more qualified and well-trained teaching assistants, opportunities to retake courses and replace poor grades, and better access to up-to-date course material—students showed concern for the higher cost of new-edition textbooks that have mostly the same information as the previous edition.
They advised departments to consult with their respective student academic societies and hold individual town halls to better plan for student education and faculty research projects.
“The UTM students had a number of really helpful suggestions,” Mullin said. “At our chairs meeting next week, I plan to encourage both [of these ideas] and have already spoken to one departmental chair who plans to do just that.”
During the second hour, faculty discussed the success of UTM’s new online environment course and improving technical components, services for international students, and resources for writing support.
“I would love to see a concerted effort to bring our students’ writing up to the required level,” said Andrew Gilbert, a professor of anthropology. “They won’t succeed in anthropology if they can’t write. And we know that employers need graduates who can write well.”
With enrolment expected to increase by 20% by the 2015–16 year, Amy Mullin, the vice-principle academic and dean, has set up a prioritized list of goals to be achieved by the committee over the course of the year.
The recently stricken Academic Planning Committee said that it shared the values involved in the planning process for the next five years.
The values were chosen to represent various aspects of academic enterprise: creating internationally recognized research initiatives, creating a positive student academic experience, hiring high-quality instructors, encouraging creative interaction among all groups of the campus’ community, providing rich resources, and others.
The committee, headed by Mullin, is comprised of a graduate, an alumna, and representatives from the Career, the UTM Students’ Union, and the Hazel McCallion Academic Learning Centre.
The last time the administration undertook an academic planning project was in 2004 with the UTM Steps Up academic plan. This year’s plan will go through various developments before its final release, scheduled for November 2012.
“Some of the comments raised in our town halls concerned the need to celebrate and keep doing the things we already do really well at UTM,” Mullin said. “I think that’s a great reminder that as we focus on how best to move forward, we need to remember and preserve the practices we are proudest of now.”
Students are encouraged to provide feedback for the Academic Planning Process on the UTM website.