October 5, 2007
Teams are behind presidential awards
New awards recognize group efforts
by Richard Cairney
The teams behind three different campus initiatives were honoured recently, earning the University of Alberta’s inaugural President’s Achievement Awards.
The awards were established to recognize faculty and staff members who embrace the spirit of the university’s vision and mission - those who set high standards for achievement in learning, discovery and citizenship.
The recipients of the awards are the Community University Partnership, an interdisciplinary centre that matches the research needs of the community with expertise on campus, the Facilities and Operations team behind Enterprise Square, the U of A’s new downtown campus, and the Faculty of Education’s Master’s of Education in Education Studies program team.
Earning an award in the Overall Achievement category is important recognition, said Jeff Bisanz, director of the Community University Partnership team. Defining who represents the centre is a difficult task, he said.
“CUP isn’t a unit on campus - it’s more than that. It transcends campus and the community.”
The centre, which operates under the university’s Health Sciences Council, empowers its community partners, said Gloria Chalmers, a co-director of the centre and director of programs with Edmonton Public Schools.
Community agencies “have always had researchers coming to us and having ideas about how they should research us,” but have had “very limited opportunities in setting a research agenda,” said Chalmers.
“But now, we’re at the table. We’re partners. And as partners, we are much more inclined to use what we learn through research because we understand it in a way we didn’t before.”
Members of the Master’s of Education in Education Studies program, who were presented with the award in the Talented People category, likewise fill a need in the community.
Program director Jim Parsons says the Faculty of Education established the program for educators who want to earn a master’s degree but are unable to take time off work to do so.
Established in 2004, the program has seen nearly 100 students convocate.
“We had to create a program that was of high standards yet flexible enough so people could come in and continue to work at the same time as they finished their master’s degree program, and we tried to offer that program,” he said. “And we just decided that we wouldn’t be very slick, but we would give very good personal service. That personal service has had a huge impact on the program.”
The program creates a sense of family among its students, said Natasja Larson, one of the course’s administrators.
“It’s all about the community that we create. Everybody just becomes a family - they really feel that, and it’s nice because they’re in settings where they can talk to their colleagues, and word gets out about the program.”
Parsons recalls that in the program’s first year, students were contacted and personally welcomed to the program by Larson, who wanted to make sure the students had everything they needed ahead of time.
“They were just astounded that someone would call them and say ‘welcome to the program.’ The reaction to that was amazing, and we have tried to keep that same level of personal service since the beginning - it isn’t rocket science.”
The program’s high graduation rate, he adds, is due to the sense of family and high academic standards. Students are set up in teams “and they just will not let their colleagues not finish. They just pull for each other - they are asked to really work as a team.”
“The other part of it is the rigour of the program. We just haven’t blinked on that. We’ve heard our program is really rigorous in comparison to some others, and we want our students to be proud of the work they have done.”
The team behind the $90-million project to turn the abandoned Bay building in Edmonton’s downtown core into the U of A’s new campus earned its award in the Transformative Organization and Support category.
“If you put together a list of all of the people who were involved in this project, it would look like the credits at the end of a movie,” said U of A architect Len Rodrigues, one of the award’s recipients.
Rodrigues said that when the U of A took possession of the building less than two years ago it was starting at square one, still deciding who would move into the building and exploring architectural possibilities and construction techniques to meet the needs of its tenants.
Construction manager Barry Temple says the history of the 1939 building, its connection to the city and the building’s impact on the future all combine to make it a jewel in his career.
“In any construction project there are challenges and crises, but there is no one individual who solves them. It’s a team effort, and that is what is great about this award - you can only be successful with a team.”
“This was a complete surprise,” he said of the award. “We’ve got 100 other things in front of us, and one day the phone rings and someone says ‘Guess what?’ It’s great.”