Mount Royal College, Calgary, Alberta; Department of Earth Science, BSc geology major
by Katherine Boggs
Department strengths and weaknesses
Mount Royal College is an institute in transition. We find ourselves in the incredibly exciting process of accepting our first geology majors into a brand new BSc geology major program, which developed from a two year university transfer program. Mount Royal College has always presented itself as a student-focused institution, with small classes and faculty whose primary focus was on teaching. We also have an exceptionally collegial spirit amongst our faculty which draws instructors from a variety of backgrounds that are searching for a reasonable balance in their lives.
This transition period has created several challenges, many faculty feel overwhelmed and we do not yet have alumni. Perhaps the largest challenge for many of us is a switch towards research (we can now choose between a teaching or a research stream). We are uncertain on how to incorporate our students in our research or how to structure our fourth year geological research capstone course. Even more challenging is our inability to apply for federal grants until we become a university and can call ourselves professors.
One exceptional strength at Mount Royal College is the support for faculty which includes several programs and centres such as (see page 3 for individual program descriptions):
i) ISP - Instructional Support Program for new faculty
ii) ADC - Academic Development Centre
iii) Triad program - support groups for faculty
iv) Professional Development Days - a two day retreat
v) MRC SoTL (Scholarship in Teaching and Learning) program
vi) WRAPP (Writing for Academic Publication Program) - suport faculty in publishing
We believe that these programs outline the commitment of the college towards creating an environment that the faculty enjoys working in.
Our department is small, 6 full time instructors, 3 tenured (2 recently), 2 tenure-track and one term certain. Three of us are female, though none of us are visible minorities. We are very careful to hire based on capability (research and teaching) and compatibility. Our department head is very supportive and has mentored all of us. We are all willing to experiment with new techniques to improve the learning experience in our classrooms. Even with the funding challenges outlined above, four of us will be conducting field based research this summer, one in Virginia and Newfoundland, one in Ontario, and two in Alberta/British Columbia. Dr. Paul Johnson will be co-ordinating the conference in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Burgess Shale in Banff, Alberta this summer. Dr. Boggs is spear heading the introduction of a high school geology course in Alberta, which we intend to spread across Canada.
Our curriculum is controlled by two main factors, our accreditation bodies (provincial and national professional associations) and the Mount Royal College general education requirements (11 courses from the four clusters of Numeracy and scientific literacy, Values beliefs and identity; Community and society; Communication). We do not intend to compete directly with the much larger research-oriented University of Calgary that is 15 minutes away from our campus. Therefore we chose to develop a broad/general geology program that would permit our future graduates to work anywhere (petroleum, mining, paleontology, environment, scientific journalism, teaching, etc) or to go into academia. The result of this process was a geology major with the following structure:
- Geology (and Geophysics) 20 courses
- Fundamental Science 9 courses
- General Education 11 courses
A provisional curriculum for the geology major was developed by faculty and then circulated internally and externally to geosciences professionals in government, industry and academia for feedback. This process resulted in minor revisions to our program. The program was then submitted, along with other BSc majors to the Campus Alberta Quality Council for feedback/ approval before final authorization by the provincial government.
Our BSc in geology program is in its first year of operation and has therefore not had a formal review. However, MRC has a formal program review process which must be applied to all programs on a 7-10 year cycle. This process consists of the following six steps:
iii) Self Study
iv) Peer Review and report
v) Finalization of Advancement Plan
vi) Institutional Review of complete process
Neither the provincial nor national associations provide accreditation to geology programs. They give accreditation to individuals once they have completed the requirements for graduation and some work experience. We are liaising with these associations to ensure that our students can achieve accreditation if they so desire.
MRC Program Descriptions
Mount Royal College is dedicated towards the professional development of its faculty and the creation of a collegial environment for the faculty. Each of the following programs was developed by the faculty for the faculty.
i) ISP - Instructional Support Program for new faculty. Every new hire must complete this program, which involves mentoring from senior award winning faculty. The two leaders of this program co-ordinate a 3 day retreat in August followed by small group sessions for three years. This was an incredible experience that forms the new faculty into a strong supportive group.
ii) ADC - Academic Development Centre. This centre is staffed by several award-winning instructors. This group of people co-ordinate programs such as ISP, Triad, PD days, SoTL and WRAPP. They also make several professional development seminars available throughout the term. Other faculty support programs include the Sandbox program (where we can ask questions and get advice on using technology to support our teaching and research) and the Garage program (where students will complete various technologically-oriented projects for teaching and/or research).
iii) Triad program - every faculty member must participate in a support triad every other year. We are free to pick our triad members and may use this system for support, finding peer reviewers for our tenure process or simply for social outlets. This starts off every year with an event off campus known as the 'Triad Kick-off Day'.
iv) Professional Development Days - a two day retreat (May) is set aside for voluntary participation. There are a variety of sessions that cover different topics and several social activities in the afternoons ('Rock, walk and talk' is our annual contribution). Our faculty enjoy participating in these events because we enjoy each other.
v) MRC SoTL program with Richard Gale as our visiting scholar. Dr. Boggs is our representative in this program which is designed to assist us all in developing SoTL research programs and to implement various techniques into our new degree programs. This involves three retreats, monthly meetings and bi-monthly updates on the individual projects.
vi) WRAPP (Writing for Academic Publication Program) - designed to assist faculty in publishing their academic works. This involves one retreat followed by monthly meetings with an editor/mentor.