York scores high in key Globe survey categories

York students gave their University a high B+ for the overall educational experience in The Globe and Mail’s annual “University Report Card” published Nov. 2. Students surveyed for the listing were asked to give marks for teaching quality, class size, faculty availability and student interaction, among other things. Among large universities (more than 25,000 students), only the University of Western Ontario got a higher mark in the category, an A. York also got a B+  for overall satisfaction from its students and an A- for technology. The Globe repeatedly listed York among universities that had made key improvements since the survey was launched in 2002, including for technology on campus, labs/research equipment, sense of personal safety and security on campus, food services and, especially, school spirit.

The Globe based its report on a voluntary, online survey of more than 26,000 students at 37 Canadian universities in June. Approximately 1,480 York students completed the survey. Unlike Maclean’s annual Canadian university rankings, this report is based totally on undergraduate student feedback, the value of which, the Globe noted, is recognized by universities. For instance, York University uses the Report Card as one of the inputs to allocate resources. Rob Tiffin, York’s vice-president students, told the newspaper: “The University Report Card was very helpful to us as it is perceived entirely from the student’s point of view. By definition students are our largest audience so what they think matters. It has also been very useful in helping us understand how best we can target our resources to improve those areas of the student experience that are under our control.”

Another feature in the package focused on new ways of teaching. Clickers. Blogs. Electronic office hours. Live on-line chats. With students demanding more for their high tuition fees, technology is starting to transform the classroom, especially the larger ones, as universities grapple with how to improve the overall educational experience of their students, said the story. Bob Gagne, chief information officer in computing and network services at York, said many professors are increasingly looking to technology to supplement what they’re already doing in the classroom. “I don’t for a second think it’s a panacea. You can’t say technology is a single answer to changing what the student is going to think about quality of teaching,” Gagne said. “You can teach very badly with technology. It’s not a solution. It may be part of the solution some of the time.”

Like other schools, York is using clickers in its law school. About half the University’s classrooms are e-classrooms, with computer and display technology built in. And a few professors are even capturing lectures on audio and posting it online later, Gagne said. “There is an increasing expectation from students to have more technology involved. It’s one more tool to be able to do something a little more easily than you could before to engage students.”

What SARS can teach us about bird flu

York environmental studies professors Roger Keil and S. Harris Ali wrote an opinion piece for the The Globe and Mail Web site Nov. 2 detailing insights from their research on the SARS crisis, as applied to fears of an avian flu pandemic. Among them, they said, was that “there is no place on Earth where safety from emerging infectious disease can be assumed.” They concluded by noting that the ravages of HIV/AIDS and malaria in Africa are far greater than SARS or bird flu, and of proportions yet unknown in Asia, Europe and the Americas: “Yet think again: when H5N1 mutates into a virus that can be transmitted among humans, there seems to be no barrier for it to have exactly the same ravaging effects as those other pathogens – in combination with poverty. Africa probably will be the continent where the avian flu will find most of its first victims. The disease will be everywhere, but the suffering and dying will be a function of poverty, urbanization, injustice, lack of health care, and underdevelopment. As we know from the sad experience of tainted water on our native reserves, these conditions are not far from our doorstep.” 

Accountants woo Gen Y: Business school grads offered parties, packages, perks

Although several months will pass before Sonia Gandhi receives her KPMG Valentine’s Day gift package, the Schulich School of Business senior is not shy about sharing with classmates her good feelings about her future employer. As one of the accounting giant’s 93 “campus ambassadors,” Gandhi left a summer job with KPMG for her final year of classes, armed with branded knapsacks, coffee mugs, Post-it notes and other giveaways, recruiting information and pre-loaded coffee cards with which to entertain prospective student recruits. She was part of a team that selected a topic dear to her employer’s heart in a competition last summer, “Recruiting and retaining Generation Y,” which put her in the spotlight for becoming an ambassador.

With demand for accounting graduates at an all-time high due to stringent corporate governance requirements in the wake of the US-imposed Sarbanes-Oxley legislation and Canada’s copycat reforms, accounting firms and other large employers are waging highly competitive campaigns to recruit the best and brightest. The 21-year-old Gandhi, who begins a full-time position at KPMG’s Toronto office in September, 2006, says she is proud to act as KPMG’s “eyes and ears” on campus, although she won’t be paid for it. She will also gather competitors’ recruiting material and mail it to her employer in pre-paid envelopes. “[Students] know they are in hot demand,” Gandhi says. “Just to get into the Schulich School of Business, you need a 90 per cent average.” However, it is hard for many students to gather unbiased information from professional recruiters, she says, adding that as a peer, she is more approachable. “All of the firms are very nice to you, but some students are very uncomfortable asking questions of recruiters,” she says. “It’s a two-way street. You have to let the students get to know you.”

Ethics now critical in advertising sector

A Canadian Press story Nov. 2 published in the Peterborough Examiner and The Ottawa Sun looked at the impact of the sponsorship scandal on the advertising business. The Gomery report “is just a new colourful example of a big wave that’s washing over corporate Canada,” said Ruth Corbin, CEO of business analysis firm Corbin Partners and adjunct law professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School. “What it will affect is the importance of ethics in senior leadership in this sector. So there’s no more ‘nudge-nudge, wink-wink’ versions of doing business.”