User Tools (skip):
If McGill students look happy (or even moderately at ease, in this time of March academic madness), thanks are due at least in part to the Office of the Dean of Students, which strives to ensure their well-being and success through its many services and initiatives. Bruce Shore, Dean of Students, discusses how his office tries to keep students smiling.
How much demand is there for services offered by the Dean of Students' Office?
The better known we are, the more students come to us - and we've worked hard to become better known. We see a growing demand in mental health services and health services, and as we increase the number of students from developing countries, we also increase clientele for dental clinics. We are also trying to anticipate needs for students with disabilities and for Aboriginal students, for instance. These services and others have seen a ramping up of demand that is much more rapid than the annual increase in enrolment.
In terms of specific initiatives, your office has been busy creating awareness of academic integrity. How has that been going?
The numbers of cheating and plagiarism cases has dropped for two years in a row, which we think is at least partly in response to our initiatives. Last year, the kit that all new students receive included a brochure that was very clear about what plagiarism is and how to avoid it. By the end of the year, it will be translated into several languages, so that all students, no matter where they are from, will have a clear statement they can understand.
The 2005 Fiske Guide to Colleges gave McGill high marks but was less enthused about academic advising. What is being done?
Academic advising is the responsibility of individual faculties but, as Dean of Students, I chair the Senate Committee on Student Affairs, which also includes all Associate Deans, Student Affairs. Last year we proposed a conceptual framework differentiating levels of advising into faculty advising, departmental or program advising, and personal-assistance advising. The university calendar now includes these distinctions and gives information on where to find the appropriate advisors. We are now discussing the idea of professionalizing program advising as much as possible to make it more consistent and accurate. Professional advisors - such as those currently working in psychology and biology - would know all the details of the undergraduate program. If you are studying microbiology, and you want to know "What does a microbiologist do out in the world?'" you would ask a professor. But a question like "What course do I have to take?" is something that could be referred to a professional advisor.
What other needs do you see developing?
We have a very well-defined, coordinated structure for academic programs, but we don't have a similar structure for the rest of the activities on campus. We are just starting a conversation with administration about the creation of a structure for these other interactions between staff and students - not to control them, but to coordinate information more effectively. This structure - I like to think of it as a collegium - could have an office, a coordinator, a website and a small budget. One motivation for this plan is that students are having trouble finding professors who know them well enough to write references because they haven't had that level of interaction. Graduating students need these letters for jobs and graduate school. We're looking for ways to create relationships outside the classroom, rather than leaving that part of the students' education to random forces.
My first regular full-time permanent job was as a secondary mathematics teacher, but as a student I had jobs ranging from camp counselor to putting clutches on the shelf at the Chrysler warehouse. Getting to know children from the other side at the summer camps was related to my later work in education; putting clutches on a shelf also prepared me for my first real job because it sent a very solid message that work isn't play but that you should try to have fun as much as possible. I've enjoyed all my jobs, including this one.