New breed of university faculty puts focus on teaching over research

When York University begins advertising to hire new professors this fall, the job descriptions will have an important distinction: The new hires will focus on teaching, and will not be required to do research like their colleagues, reported The Globe and Mail Sept. 4. York’s plan to bring in about 200 such faculty over several years is one of the most expansive of the initiatives at Canadian universities over the past several years to introduce a new breed of faculty member – the teaching-focused professor. Under growing pressure to improve teaching quality, due in no small part to constrained funding and swelling class sizes, more than a dozen schools of all sizes across Canada, with some notable exceptions, have gradually created a permanent teaching stream. Professors have long been expected to spend about 40 per cent of their time teaching, 40 per cent on research, and the rest doing committee or community work. Teaching-stream professors spend up to 80 per cent of their time teaching, with little, if any, research obligation. Many faculty associations say a teaching stream erodes the identity of the university teacher and creates a harmful class system among colleagues. But for students, the promise is clear: Teaching-focused faculty can be more attentive, and share best practices with colleagues. “There can be greater flexibility in how we distribute the workload, so that it really plays to people’s strengths,” said Rhonda Lenton, York’s provost. “And that has to be good for everybody.” In bargaining for a new collective agreement with faculty last summer, York’s top administrators pushed for the right to create teaching-stream jobs, up to a limit. It was time, Dr. Lenton said, given widespread scrutiny of university teaching and “an interest that York had … to address the increasing reliance on [contract-based instructors].” Read full story.

London doctor Tarek Loubani and filmmaker John Greyson met with Egyptian prosecutor
It appears London doctor Tarek Loubani and York University film Professor John Greyson will be stuck in an Egyptian jail for at least a few more days, reported the London Free Press and others Aug. 31. The Egyptian district prosecutor met with two men, along with their lawyers and Canadian consulate officials, on Friday, according to a blog post written by friend and fellow York University Professor Justin Podur….The Egyptian prosecutor said his own investigation was continuing and he was waiting for additional information, which he expects in another few days, before deciding whether to release the two men. Read full story.

Standing out from the crowd
When Susan Uthayakumar enrolled in the Kellogg-Schulich executive MBA program, she was thinking about the next step in her career, reported the Toronto Star Sept. 5. Uthayakumar, who graduated in June 2012, credits the program with guiding her transition from her finance-focused job as CFO to vice-president of Schneider Electric Canada’s power business, part of the global energy management company’s operations in more than 100 countries. The Toronto-based joint program between York University’s Schulich School of Business and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management allows students to take between four and eight electives at partner schools in Hong Kong, Israel and Germany, in areas such as international strategy and luxury brand management. Read full story.

Building partnerships, from Ontario to India
When Kairvee Malik, an Indian-trained IT manager working for a non-profit in Mumbai, decided she wanted more education to further her career, she enrolled in York University’s Schulich MBA program in India. She graduated with her MBA in 2011, and has since worked in Toronto for Loblaw as a brand analyst. Malik is emblematic of the kind of students Ontario universities are recruiting to MBA programs through exchanges and partnerships with institutions in India, reported the Toronto Star Sept. 5….Schulich had a three-year partnership with Mumbai’s S.P. Jain Institute of Management & Research, graduating 35 students a year. But Schulich is relaunching its MBA in India program this September in Hyderabad, collaborating with the GMR Varalakshmi Foundation. Read full story.

York University students paint WoodGreen seniors building
WoodGreen Community Services teamed up with 140 York University students to paint the hallways of one of its seniors homes recently. The students painted the 22-storey building at 444 Logan Ave. in roughly four hours….“At an educational institution such as York, there’s not a large population of the elderly, so this is an opportunity to connect with a part of the community that we don’t usually get to connect with,” said Ashley Grenville, a York University Residence Life coordinator, in the Beach Mirror Sept. 5. York hired some professional painters for the day to teach the student volunteers the proper way to paint the walls. The volunteers also received donations of paintbrushes, rollers and paint. Read full story.

Reality check: Is the ‘freshman 15’ myth or reality?
The “Freshman 15” is the term used to describe the alleged trend of first-year university and college students putting on a little weight – 15 pounds to be precise. But the jury is still out on whether the notion is myth or reality….“Some people go up and some people go down but, on average, it’s only a couple of pounds,” said York University kinesiology and health sciences Professor Christopher Ardern in Global News Sept. 4. “The idea that everybody’s going to gain 15 pounds is really a bit of a myth and isn’t supported by literature.” Read full story.

Professor Laurence Harris, director, York University’s Centre for Vision Research
York University’s Centre for Vision Research (CVR) is one of the premier centres in the world investigating the mechanisms and applications of vision in the broadest sense, reported International Innovation Health Sept. 2. York Professor and CVR Director Laurence Harris offers a snapshot of its pioneering work that covers a wide range of health issues from stroke to autism. Read full story.

The dilemma of Syria and the responsibility of progressives
“No matter where one stands, one can’t help but agree with those who point out that practical solidarity with the Syrian people suffering under Assad is sorely lacking among progressives in North America,” wrote York University PhD candidate Jordy Cummings in Sept. 4. Read full story.

Four sure-fire signs that you’re ready to export
“Entrepreneurs who are just starting out often hear the advice, ‘Take it one step at a time.’ The same is said even more frequently to owners of young firms who are considering doing business beyond their domestic borders. The logic seems sensible enough: Get established in your home market first before taking the plunge into a foreign one,” wrote Schulich School of Business Entrepreneurial Studies program Director Eileen Fischer in Sept. 4. “The only problem is that this isn’t always the right way to think of cross-border expansion. For some firms, it’s not only possible, but indeed beneficial, to enter selective foreign markets at start-up or relatively soon thereafter. Read full story.

Book explores retirement trends in Korea
A recently published collection of academic papers explores retirement trends in the Korean job market, focusing on the impact of forced retirement at a young age – mid-50s for most workers – and how it affects individuals, reported the Korea Herald Sept. 5. Coedited by York University Professor Thomas R. Klassen and chief editorial writer of the Korea Herald Yang Yun-jeong, the book, titled Korea’s Retirement Predicament: The Aging Tiger, comprises a total of 10 academic papers regarding retirement issues in Korea and overseas, including income security for the elderly, retirement pension plans and immigration. Read full story.

Securities fraud still largely undetected in Canada and the U.K. – CFA Institute study
If investors think they’re less likely to get bilked by investing in companies traded on Canada’s main stock exchange, they should think again. A soon-to-be published study commissioned by the CFA Institute and conducted at York University’s Schulich School of Business has found that there were more litigated securities fraud cases involving TSX-listed companies than there were for companies listed on the TSX Venture Exchange between 2005 and 2011, reported Business Vancouver Sept. 3. Schulich Professor Douglas Cumming, one of the study’s authors, said he was surprised that there were fewer frauds detected on the junior exchange compared with the senior market. “That was definitely not what we expected in Canada,” he said. Read full story.

The Jewish future of Germany and Poland
I was poised, in last month’s column, to begin a four-week journey with a tri-national group of students in Poland and Germany under the aegis of York University’s Mark and Gail Appel Program in Holocaust and Anti-racism Education: Learning from the Past, Teaching for the Future. Now, on an airplane returning, I’d like to share some impressions, wrote Sara Horowitz in the Canadian Jewish News Sept. 5. Read full story.