A tribute to Dr. Carey Bissonnette

Carey BissonnetteThe faculty, staff and students of the Department of Chemistry are mourning a great loss this year, that of our dear friend and devoted colleague, Dr. Carey Bissonnette.

Carey was the very first Lecturer in the Faculty of Science, appointed in 1995, and quickly established his reputation as an outstanding instructor and mentor for students and colleagues alike. He was awarded the University of Waterloo's Distinguished Teaching Award in 2005, after several teaching awards within the Chemistry department recognized his talent and passion for teaching. He was a tireless advocate for students and their learning, serving as an Academic Advisor for Chemistry over the last 20 years, as our Teaching Fellow from 2012-2016, and since then as the Senior Teaching Fellow for the Faculty of Science.

Carey had an intense drive to make education better and dedicated much of his time doing so. In his quiet way — taking no accolades for himself — he has been a key driver behind every transformational (and future transformational) change in teaching and learning at Waterloo.

He worked on many important initiatives that support student learning, both in Science and across the University. Carey was a driving force in the creation of the 2011 task force report on deep learning, a report that spurred a permanent shift in the attention paid to teaching and learning at Waterloo. He advocated for the development of learning spaces that would support group work and team-based learning, and the current development of a pilot flexible classroom space is, in large part, due to Carey’s influence.

He advocated for, and helped adjudicate, the first Teaching Initiatives Fund grants, sponsored by the Dean of Science, to improve both learning, and collaboration in learning, across the Faculty of Science. He was a key player in most undergraduate-focused initiatives, serving on task forces and undergraduate councils within the Faculty and across the University. Those who worked with Carey on these initiatives knew that all efforts were improved by his honest, tactful and constructive contributions.

His other efforts to improve student learning included the development of online resources for first-year university and high school chemistry students and implementing and promoting innovative teaching practices and a scientific, data-supported approach to pedagogy in Chemistry, Science and subjects beyond. He served as Lead Author on the last two editions of the widely used textbook, General Chemistry – Principles and Modern Applications, by Petrucci, Herring, Medura and Bissonnette, and helped bring the first Maple TA and then Mobius platforms to Science courses at Waterloo, in partnership with the Faculty of Math. He was invited to conferences across North America to highlight approaches to teaching and learning he had championed and implemented at Waterloo, providing a huge profile to the University of Waterloo at the forefront of science education.

Beyond these broad efforts, he spent as much time on individual students, as an instructor, advisor and mentor, seeing each of them individually through their own challenges, of navigating programs, switching courses, or finding their own directions to fulfilling careers. He was tireless in all these pursuits, still worrying about student advising and transfer credits even as cancer stole him away from us at the end. Even with his overwhelming workload, he always had time to help his colleagues, to provide guidance or share a good joke, to get each of us through our days a little easier. Carey Bissonnette was a man of wisdom, insight, compassion and humour and he will be greatly missed.