“People will look at universities as muesums”

March 29, 2012
This article was published more than 2 years ago.
Est. Reading Time: 2 minutes

Kacper Niburski

Assistant News Editor


Take an intense focus on science, a small class size and a genius of new-age pedagogy, and what comes out is the brainchild program Integrated Science – often referred to as iSci.

In its third year of existence, the program recently held its first ever symposium Synthesis, a nine-day event intended to celebrate the culmination of the academic school year, as well as an attempt to host an open invitation to people across the University to experience iSci.

Among the many things planned was an open forum discussion with president of McMaster University, Patrick Deane, centralized on his letter Forward with Integrity, and how it applies to the iSci program.

The forum focused on three aspects: how to generalize the iSci experience to all disciplines, how to integrate iSci into the broader Hamilton community and how to ensure that a research-based model is maintained during undergrad.

The first, of course, is naturally contentious. As delineated in Deane’s letter, the current of education is to move away from the antiquated model, and slowly evolve into a hybrid of interdisciplinary and experiential learning. If implemented, class sizes would shrink, students would have a more conducive relationship with professors and the material taught would be proportionally more difficult.

While the last bit may make some students cringe, the hypothetical proposal has merit. No longer would the Humanities house lectures of four hundred or more students. Chemistry students wouldn’t have to squeeze into their classes uncomfortably like a bunch of anionic electrons.

Under this progressive model – which is still ages away from being implemented – students would not feel like yet another number.

Yet this raises the obvious question of feasibility, especially considering the funding model of McMaster, where much of the tuition pays for University services.

Adamant as always, Deane stressed that, “under the current model, yes of course it is impossible. Yet we act like the model was decreed. It was a model that has lasted 120 years and worked relatively well. But is it the model for the next 120 years? I firmly believe it is not.”

For this reason, Deane looked to the pioneering work of the iSci program for motivation. Students offered their opinions on the program as a whole, as well as their concerns for its future. Some lauded the skills gleaned in the program such as scientific literacy, while others were more hesitant to praise, noting that the program is still too juvenile to adequately analyze its successes.

Regardless, the forum – and the iSci program itself – is an attempt to make University relevant. “If we don’t change now, people will look at universities as museums,” said Deane.

To that end, the symposium itself is a palliative for educational paralysis. In its fullest form, it is a moment of massive change.

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