At this week’s Canadian Strategic Enrolment Management (SEM) Summit, we discussed SEM leadership in times of disruption. We focused on how changes in institutional leadership, governments, and technologies affect SEM performance. In particular, we discussed the impact of disruption on building community and international engagement.
Some of our discussion points included:
- Who should be around the table when a disruption occurs? Are groups already formed, or is there a need to develop new groups?
- How do we get the data needed for decision-making? Some may already exist, but new data may also be needed.
- While disruption can leave us perplexed, we need to find ways to keep our sense of purpose while managing SEM during challenging and distracting times.
- Disruption can be an opportunity to try something new or to focus the institution more clearly on its educational values and aspirations.
- The growing challenge of maintaining data privacy and security in turbulent times.
- The opportunity disruption provides to move from competition to collaboration across the higher education sector.
For many, we are already in disruptive times in the area of international student enrolment and engagement. Some talked about the near explosion of international student enrolment in recent years, especially for students from India. We heard about how this challenge might be a way of bringing together budget and SEM; that sometimes disruption can be internal; that budget drives culture; and opportunities flow from effective brainstorming across institutional silos. We were reminded of the importance of supporting international students, both personally and academically, as they enrich our institutions.
Jason Hunter, Vice President, Student and Community Engagement, at Humber Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning put it well when he said the Summit helped us “to frame critical issues” and “to build capacity” by developing a strong SEM network of administrators and educators across Canada. We all experienced a little SEM therapy.
For me the key take away is the importance of encouraging collaborative dialogue and planning for disruption as we work to enhance institutional health and student success through our SEM work.
This week I, along with Windsor colleagues (Dr. Ken Montgomery, Dean, Faculty of Education; Ryan Flannagan, Associate Vice-President, Student Experience), welcomed graduate students and faculty to the University of Windsor from Western Michigan University’s Higher Education and Student Affairs Leadership program during their study abroad trip through Ontario. As a dual citizen (both US and Canadian), it was my pleasure to share a bit about Canadian higher education.
As Canadians often do, we opened our dialogue on the state of the weather, which was 9 degrees Celsius and with a forecast of light snow mixed with rain. Keep in mind this was April 10th! We then talked about geography. Some were surprised that they had traveled south as they came into Canada and that Windsor is the southern most part of Canada, with a good portion of the US north of us.
I was, of course, glad to see some adventurous students try poutine in our cafeteria, a made-for-students delicacy composed of fresh-cut french-fries topped with cheese curds and gravy. They loved it!
The visiting students and faculty were very interested in the similarities and differences between the educational systems and the challenges and opportunities facing the Canadian and Ontario higher education systems. This, of course, led to some discussion of the political system in Canada since higher education is mostly funded and controlled by the provinces.
Our conversation touched on many topics, but two were of particular interest: international education and student mental health.
On international education, we discussed the growing international student population on Canadian campuses, including the University of Windsor, and the stalled and declining enrolment of international students at many American colleges and universities.
Mental health for both American and Canadian institutions is a growing concern. Some were surprised to learn that mental health support at our campus is greater than it is in the community.
We then took a short tour of our student services, snapped a picture, and wished them well as they travelld to other Ontario colleges and universities.
My guess is they will head home with a richer understanding of Canadian higher education and a sense of some of the things we can do together in the years to come.
For the past few semesters, I have ended my smaller classes with potluck food and beverage sharing, a poster fair, and a chance to end the semester with loads of fun. I thought I’d share a bit about this in case this may be something other teachers might want to try.
The students plan the potluck. I just ask that they try to mix it up a bit so we don’t get all chips and poutine! This year students brought food items in from their home culture, as well as what could readily be found in nearby bakeries and grocery stores. What is important is that everyone contribute. The added benefit is that there is almost always food left over, and this results in the sharing continuing even after class finishes. I see the potluck as a key outcome of the course. Students will engage with each other (and me!) around the potluck table in some wonderfully engaging ways.
The poster fair is a great match for any class in which a major project is completed. I have done it for my Research in Education Class, a first-year graduate level class in which students prepare a research proposal. Students in my Theories of Individual and Collective Learning, an undergraduate course in our Minor in Organizational Learning and Teaching, also prepare posters. During the poster fair, students listen to each other’s poster presentations and provide peer review at the end, including an opportunity to engage collectively in a topic of the individual students’ choice. It is a great reflective experience that provides students with a truly authentic learning experience.
The loads of fun part comes as we engage each other, take a class photo, and then assemble an end-of-class mind map on the class topic. Lots of moving around, wonderful smiles, and a chance to put the course into practice.
You might think this approach is best with one type of student or class. Actually, it works for undergraduate and graduate classes. Size matters, with the best results being when the students know each other. But my guess is it could also work in a larger class. Maybe I will try that next year!