Saint Mary’s will build on its tradition of being a university that is learning-centred. All members of our University community are learners and we strive to support life-long learning for our students, faculty, staff, and alumni. We are a community of scholars. A learning-centred environment brings faculty and students together in a complementary pursuit of learning – it lays a foundation for a broadened and more meaningful faculty and student interaction.
Being learning-centred also means that we place a high value on the process of research and innovation, as a student, as a professor, as a researcher, ensuring that we are not simply transferring knowledge but creating it – the distinguishing feature of a high-quality university. Everything that we do should be about discovery. We have a practice of seeking ways to support faculty talents and community interest in order to develop research programs that meet the needs and interests of the community and of our students.
As university educators we are being challenged to take our teaching beyond a transmission of information. As a result, experiential learning opportunities are emerging in many program areas. Experiential learning takes various forms – co-ops, internships, research, community engaged service learning, and other educational activities that encourages students to learn by doing. As a result, students will have a more profound learning experience which can enhance their understanding of the world and ability to participate in society.
Saint Mary’s University must continue to focus on assisting students in developing networks and learning communities that help them take responsibility for their own learning. We have a great reputation for this but what is our next step?
During the President's consultation sessions in October and November 2015, these questions were posed to the participants:
- How do we enrich the learning experience on campus?
- What are your ideas around a learning centered environment?
Key themes and ideas
- Foster collaborative spaces and events for different cultural and student groups to come together
- Create a mentorship/buddy program
- Assign class groups with diversity in mind - encourage a mix that includes different perspectives
- Create more collaborative classroom layouts and experiential teaching spaces
- Build on entrepreneurship opportunities across faculties
- Establish the university as a community inside
- Create a learning culture for both faculty and students
- Co-op programs and LEAP should be available for all students – even those that struggle academically
- Support student faculty engagement vs one-way teaching
- We need a balance between focus on critical thinking and practical, transferable skills
- We must try to understand how students from different cultures and countries learn
- More online courses/ distance degrees should be available for working and mature students
- Meet students where they learn: web courses and the utilization of technology
- Capitalize on opportunities where international and domestic students are working together
- Support Saint Mary’s students who wish to study abroad for a term/year
- Create customized support services
- Better access to academic advisors
- Classes should be more interactive
- Improve study and classroom spaces
- LEAP and Co-op programs make us unique
- Further build on LEAP – learning communities
- Support pedagogical development for faculty
- Create a pan-campus First-Year Experience Program for all incoming students
- Build on foundation of experiential learning
- The University’s outreach to the community should be a key focus
- Build on our strengths in community-engaged research
- Help students define their future
- Create a culture of teamwork and partnership of faculty, staff, and students