Celebrating Ken Seiling's legacy in regional and university governance
The municipal election on October 22 marked the end of an era in governance for both the Region of Waterloo and the University of Waterloo, as Ken Seiling completed a 10-term, 33-year run as Regional Chair and as a sitting member of the University of Waterloo’s Board of Governors.
Seiling was elected Chair of the Regional Municipality of Waterloo in the fall of 1985 and began attending meetings as a governor in early 1986. According to University bylaws, the regional chair is among the Board of Governors' ex officio members, meaning there is a seat on the governing body reserved for the chairholder.
It’s a record of continuity in governance that is not likely to be broken, says University historian Ken McLaughlin.
“Seiling joined the Board when Douglas Wright was in his first term as president following the tenure of Gerry Hagey and Burt Matthews,” writes McLaughlin. “Following Doug Wright’s years as president Ken then participated in the presidency of both James Downey and David Johnston and has been on the board throughout Feridun Hamdullahpur’s time as president.”
During the era of David Johnston’s presidency, some had come to call Seiling the “Dean of the Board of Governors.”
“This is a remarkable record and some remarkable insights into the changes of both the University of Waterloo and the Region of Waterloo,” writes McLaughlin. “It’s hard to believe that it is either the same university or the same region that Ken Seiling encountered when he attended his first board meeting in 1986. And Ken has had a major influence on both.”
McLaughlin cites Seiling’s initiative, and that of the Region, in transforming the University of Waterloo’s north campus, including establishing the David Johnston Research + Technology Park, with its array of stunning new buildings, research initiatives and the much-vaunted Accelerator Centre, as well as playing fields, the Schlegel initiative in aging and wellness, and myriad other buildings.
“Nor would the major initiative to build a medical and health complex along with the University of Waterloo School of Pharmacy and the attendant growth of the Tannery and Innovation Centre have come about in the same way without a major precedent in a financial contribution from the Region of Waterloo,” writes McLaughlin. “Similarly, without support from the Region, led by Ken Seiling, the much-praised move of the School of Architecture from its over-crowded centre on campus to the spectacular setting on the Grand River in Cambridge might have not been possible.”
At the University’s Board of Governors meeting on October 30, Chair Cindy Forbes honoured Seiling and presented him with a gift on behalf of the University community thanking him for 33 years of service, pointing out that he is possibly the longest-serving board member at a post-secondary institution in Canada.
Seiling spoke briefly at the Board meeting. “Reflecting on the relationship of the Region and the University, it’s borne great fruit,” said Seiling. “We did a lot of great things together.”
Seiling gave the governors a brief history lesson about the impact that the community and the University had on one another, citing the industriousness of the community in kickstarting the development of an institution that reflected the region’s culture of reinvention. “I always enjoyed my time here, I’ve enjoyed the hospitality,” Seiling said. “Thank you for all being friends and colleagues and I know this University is in good hands for the future.”
“Seiling’s presence on the Board of Governors and his attendance at University functions brought the University and the community together in ways that went beyond brick and mortar to capture a remarkable sense of community to the benefit of both,” McLaughlin concludes. “Seiling’s quiet, attentive, insightful, far-seeing and soft-spoken manner created a symbiosis that seemed so appropriate to this community. This was not a university setting off on its own, but one that could play a vital part in who we are as a community. For our success in this we are all in Ken’s debt.”
Student Course Perception Survey pilot: improving how courses are evaluated
by Anne Galang.
A new survey for students to evaluate courses will be piloted across campus this fall.
Students can complete the Student Course Perception Survey (SCPS) along with the existing course evaluations through the online Evaluate system for each course they are enrolled in this term. The new survey asks students to assess their learning experiences, and includes 10 core questions rated on a 5-point scale.
Faculty and course instructors are encouraged to provide class time for students to complete the new survey, though students can access it anytime while official course evaluations are available. It should take approximately 5 minutes to complete.
Courses using paper evaluations will not be part of this pilot.
The Student Course Perception Survey was developed to better measure factors that align with the University’s goals and to provide a more reliable and useful tool for evaluating courses and teaching. The pilot will help assess the survey’s performance and provide important Waterloo-specific data before implementing it as part of a new course evaluation tool.
“The research literature about student assessments of teaching is really contentious, but one thing that seems clear is that results vary a lot depending on context. It’s important to see how the questions actually perform here at Waterloo,” says Sonya Buffone, the researcher coordinating the Course Evaluation Project.
Currently several different student course evaluation questionnaires are used across campus. The new survey was developed by a committee that carefully considered the research literature and consulted with the campus community, and was designed to avoid some common pitfalls. For instance, the SCPS focuses only on things that students are in a position to have an informed opinion about, and avoids questions that are more likely to generate gendered responses.
Data from the pilot will remain confidential and will not be used for faculty performance reviews or tenure or promotion considerations. Once the results are analyzed, a report will be submitted to the University, but the results will be reported only in ways that preserve confidentiality.
The Course Evaluation Project team will use the pilot data collected to assess various technical aspects of the performance of questions in the SCPS and examine how certain factors might impact course evaluation responses and scores. For instance, recent research at the University of Toronto has shown that class size can significantly affect evaluation scores there, with larger classes tending to receive lower scores than smaller classes. By examining Waterloo-specific data about how class size and other potential biasing factors affect evaluations, the project team can create guidelines that alert instructors and department chairs to these types of biases and advise how to interpret the results.
“Student surveys are a key mechanism in allowing students to have an appropriate voice in their education.” says Dave DeVidi of the Department of Philosophy, the chair of the Course Evaluation Project Team. “This project will help us use them more appropriately, and to better understand what the results are really telling us.”
DeVidi also stresses that student surveys are only one aspect of evaluating teaching. “Other parts of good teaching need to be evaluated by other means. That’s why the University also has a committee investigating complementary methods for the evaluation of classroom teaching.”
For more information, visit the pilot FAQ page.
Celebrate International Education Week with Dr. Marianne Larsen
In celebration of International Education Week, the University of Waterloo and Renison University College will be hosting Professor Marianne Larsen who will join the campus community on Wednesday, November 14 at 3:00 p.m. in Davis Centre 1350 to discuss the opportunities, challenges and barriers of internationalization and academic mobility. Registration is now open for staff, faculty and students. Doors will open at 2:30 p.m.
Larsen is an Associate Professor at Western University whose research pushes the boundaries about how we think about the effects of globalizing processes within educational contexts. In her keynote, she will speak about some of the findings from her new book, Internationalization of Higher Education: An Analysis through Spatial, Network and Mobilities Theories, which explores global processes of higher education internationalization. The keynote will conclude with a question and answer session.
International Education Week (IEW) runs from November 12 to 16. Dr. Larsen’s keynote is part of a series of activities, programs and events hosted by campus partners throughout the week highlighting the benefits of international education. We hope you will join us in celebrating and learning.
Please reserve your ticket on Ticketfi.