Wisdom from Quest faculty and staff

16 03 2011

Thus far, I have met with many faculty and staff members to discuss and organize my ideas. In the two months prior to Question block, I spoke to many faculty members to varying degrees to organize my ideas as well as brainstorm potential directions. (Check out our faculty bios here..they are pretty spectacular!) In addition, I have also shared some of my preliminary ideas with a few former colleagues and personal contacts. I have deliberately cast this wide net in order to make sure I am gaining diverse perspectives from a range of academic fields as well as personal backgrounds. I feel very fortunate that the faculty is so accessible to students as these meetings (both formal and informal) have been incredibly helpful as I try to find an academic focus of my own.

Most recently, I scheduled meetings with Andre, Jim, Court, Steve as well as a second meeting with Eric. I went into this second round of meetings with much more focus than my preliminary sessions, and was even able to propose possible Questions, such as “How can we facilitate collaboration effectively?”

  1. Focus – What is an appropriate balance between breadth and depth? How can my Question be broad enough to encompass a wide range of curricular and co-curricular interests and to provide adequate flexibility and freedom during my Concentration years? However, my Question needs to be narrow enough to offer sufficient academic focus and direction?
  2. Integration – How can I acquire a well-rounded education that integrates concepts from different disciplines in a meaningful, multidisciplinary way? To what extent is it possible or even desirable to pursue both arts and sciences with equal rigour?

My goals for these meetings were to:

  • Gain perspective on the importance of focus and integration when forming a Question.
  • Receive constructive feedback on the wording of my Question
  • Identify some relevant sources of information that would aid further independent research, such as search words, topics, disciplines and possible readings

During these meetings, I gained a lot of insight about some possible areas that I would like to further explore as well as some specific courses that might be relevant to my anticipated academic journey. I was pleasantly surprised by the meaningful links I was able to identify between seemingly different fields, all occurring within the scope of my Question. For example, Court identified parallels between natural resource management and human resource management. Furthermore, population models used in the life sciences could inform human population models. On the other hand, Andre and Jim highlighted the importance of first defining the terms that I am using, such as management and collaboration, to make sure I mean what I am saying, after all definitions can be subjective. In addition, Andre suggested that I also define the anti-theses of these terms. Rather than strictly thinking about the motivations for collective action, he suggested it might also be useful to look at individualism.

Also, out of pure coincidence, I also began talking to Steve, our new international admission counselor. I described the nature of my Question, and then asked about his academic background. As it turns out, he has an Honours degree in Sociology, a discipline that Eric had directed me to during our meeting a day earlier. Sociology is defined as “the study of the development, structure, and functioning of human society.” Steven has also worked in varying capacities within the field of institutional organization. According to Steven, I am destined for a career in human resources. I have fully processed that notion quite yet, but I’ve accepted it for now. Similarly, I learned that Vanessa, our university librarian, is currently undertaking graduate studies in leadership. She is currently writing a strategic plan for the library, which serves both her responsibilities for work as well as one of her courses. Coincidentally, I plan on writing a strategic plan for the Quest Students’ Representative Council (SRC) as experiential learning over the summer, so she will be an incredible resource. Melanie has also been extremely helpful in the past couple months as I attempt to integrate both my curricular and co-curricular activities. Once again, I am completely intrigued by the professional and personal backgrounds of the staff and faculty at Quest, and their willingness to take time out of their daily work to exchange ideas with students.

Also, Eric proposed a few more possible Questions: i) “What is the role of collaboration in political and social organization?”, or more broadly, ii) “How do institutions transform themselves?” Alternatively, in consideration of David’s suggestion, I could merge the two to read, “What is the role of collaboration in institutional transformation?” As you can tell, each of these versions has a slightly different focus. I’ll keep all three for now.

My next step is to start the next round of research, based on the keywords that I received. A long day in the library for me, but luckily, I am so interested and excited about my Question that it won’t even really feel like work. I was hesitant and overwhelmed at first, but I think I’m going to like this whole Question thing after all.


The wait is over

27 11 2009

Every time, I log into the course webpage, I curiously study the thumbnail-sized photos to try to unlock the mystery and wonder behind the smiling faces. It looked a lot like Adventure Pursuits from Cornerstone, but much bigger. If I questioned carefully, I might hear an exciting anecdote from a second or third-year student. Yes, I had waited patiently since September for this day, left unknowing of when it would exactly come. But as promised, I knew it would and all my curiousities would cease to exist. I am referring to Community Day, when all students are exempt from classes to participate in activities as a whole student body and give feedback on our experiences. So, not only do the day’s events allow you to become a closer community, but also help make Quest a better place. After all, we are building the university!

Although the tradition is strong, no community day is the same, especially as the student body expands exponentially each year. For starters, we were let out of class a half hour early, rather than completely exempt. Also, for logistical reasons, it is less of a surprise and some of us knew about a day or two in advance. Read about one tutor’s reflections on a past community day here. But despite the rain that caused us to move indoors and the fact that for the first time, over 200 students were present, we started by forming a huge tight circle, then simultaneously sitting down. The person in front of you is supported by you and you are supported by the person behind, so, as Toran  says, “we are all supporting each other.” We do a series of other team-building activities, such some making impressive human towers, which forces first, second and third years as well as staff and faculty to fully integrate by working together. With free pizza and snacks as a blatant incentive, we stick around and discuss our favourite features about Quest and suggest improvements. We are told that our suggestions really matter, and I am convinced because I know of a few from previous days that have already been implemented. Then, there are a serious of optional breakout discussions and students can choose to participate in those that interest them…health and wellness, volunteerism in Squamish, scholarships and financial aid, residence, classes and so on.

Why just attend a university when you can help build one?