For a copy of the complete submission please contact Lydia Martone.
McGill Arts Graduate Student Travel Awards (Arts GSTs): A travel grant program with great returns
The Faculty of Arts Graduate Student Travel Awards is a competitive awards program designed to support graduate student travel (both M.A. and PhD. Students) for research (archival research or field work) or the dissemination of research (conferences and talks). An innovative idea originally proposed by the Associate Dean and supported by the Dean, the program has developed from its initial stages of dispersing nominal funds, to a well-supported program now funded by the McGill Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Office. As detailed below, unique aspects of the program include its broad accessibility, its hands-on approach to helping students express themselves and write successful applications, and its emphasis on learning from peers.
In addition to providing funding for student travel, the program is designed to help students learn to successfully obtain grant support by teaching them to write persuasively and passionately about their work. Upon returning from their travels, students are required to write a one-page summary about their experiences. The students’ passion and drive to excel following their trip is well demonstrated in these summary reports. Time and again, students report making meaningful connections with peers in their discipline, improving their public speaking and writing skills, and broadening their understanding of their selected field work topics.
While student travel has always been encouraged, this program’s broad accessibility facilitates travel for students who may not have otherwise had the opportunity to do so. All Faculty of Arts graduate students are eligible regardless of their discipline and of whether their supervisor has money to support travel. The program underscores the importance of field work in education.
Any student whose application is not successful has the opportunity to meet with the Faculty of Arts Liaison Officer who explains the selection committee’s comments and suggests additional sources of funding. In the majority of cases, students who improve their applications accordingly, succeed with a subsequent submission. Students can also take advantage of the travel funding information sessions that are attended by successful Arts Graduate Student Travel Awards recipients who provide valuable advice and tips to their peers.
Web-Based Application for Distribution of Committee Meeting Documents: Utilizing WebCT Vista to a new level
The Office of Investments has developed an innovative way to disseminate administrative committee materials through WebCT Vista, a learning management system. WebCT Vista is used primarily at McGill University for student course work, but we have successfully adopted it as a secure application for the communication and distribution of confidential, lengthy meeting documents. Posting committee packages on WebCT Vista, a central and password-protected space, promotes documentation delivery to a maximum number of committee members within a minimum amount of time. In addition, documents may be archived on the site as required.
The use of WebCT Vista arose in response to a University committee’s request to receive meeting materials in an efficient and expedient manner to allow adequate time for pre-meeting preparation. In 2008, members of a University committee suggested that lengthy managers’ reports should not be transmitted via email as they tie up the system (i.e. large file sizes, difficult to sort/organize, etc). Due to the time sensitivity of these reports fostered by the economic crisis, the Office of Investments took the initiative to find a tool that would enable online posting of these confidential reports in an effort to better serve its committee members. An important criterion in the decision to select this tool is its accessibility to both internal and external committee members. WebCT Vista’s flexibility allows guest access for external committee members, while internal University committee members access the application with their existing McGill credentials. At the same time, this solution addressed the reality of shrinking budgets given the economic climate by reducing work time, eliminating paper, and saving courier costs.
As a direct result of adopting WebCT Vista, we have decreased the number of hard copy committee packages, reduced paper costs and saved printing and courier charges. In addition, the application is user and environmentally friendly and also trims the administrative time required to distribute documentation. Our successful implementation of this tool has encouraged another University unit to successfully adopt WebCT Vista for their committee work. Considering the mass volumes of documents that are currently disseminated by mail, courier, email, and those distributed on site in administrative meetings, the University-wide potential savings in both time and money are formidable.
Transformation of the McGill Library’s Walter Hitschfeld Geographic Information Centre: Enhancing Student Life and Learning
As part of its ongoing efforts to deliver on its motto of Information, Innovation, Service, the McGill Library recently executed a dramatic transformation of the Walter Hitschfeld Geographic Information Centre (GIC), one of the Library’s thirteen branches.
The GIC is McGill’s primary resource for geospatial information, and it was determined that this space must be updated to address shifts in student needs. These paradigm shifts occurring in information transmission, pedagogy and research activity are transforming the role of the University in teaching, learning and research and of teaching and learning spaces to support new learning styles. Changes made to the GIC include creating a physical space that is more welcoming and inviting; ensuring that specialized software is available on all computers, while increasing the total number of computers and power outlets for laptops; rearranging shelving with ergonomic principles in mind, promoting ease of use and maximization of space; adding printers and extra large scanners for student use; improving group study space; and creating an integrated service point to allow for the best possible interaction between staff and students.
Since the project’s completion, usage of the space had increased dramatically. In the three most recent full months, traffic increased by 43% versus the same time period last year. Technical questions received by staff increased by 11% over the same period, indicating that students are making use of the new technology. The facility includes an Active Learning Classroom, which promotes active and collaborative learning. Based on student feedback, extensive research, planning, and input from the McGill community, the classroom provides active engagement with course content, collaborative learning, and enhanced interaction with the faculty.
Considering the fact that that the GIC is now an attractive, functional, and innovative hub for learning and research, and also considering the quantitative measurements that confirm the students’ interest and satisfaction, we can determine that this initiative is a terrific success.