Stacey Ritz has got it going on

Alex Florescu
October 22, 2015
This article was published more than 2 years ago.
Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

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Students from the Bachelor of Health Sciences program welcomed Prof. Stacey Ritz with a performance of the restructured lyrics to Fountains of Wayne’s “Stacey’s Mom” this past Welcome Week. The McMaster alum joined the Bachelor of Health Sciences faculty as the new Assistant Dean on Sept. 1, replacing the faculty’s first Assistant Dean, Prof. Del Harnish.

Prof. Ritz has an extensive background in science and health, with a Bachelor of Science in biology and a Ph. D. in Molecular Immunology, Virology and Inflammation, both completed at McMaster. She then went on to complete a post-doctoral fellowship in Clinical Immunology and Allergy from the University of California and has more recently finished a Masters of Education from the University of Western Ontario.

Prof. Ritz not only knows her way around McMaster, but she also knows her way around the Faculty of Health Sciences. In the past she has been a first-year Inquiry professor and co-developed and taught a fourth-year course in “Science, Culture and Identity.”

“I was in the environment where the BHSc program was starting and evolving and so it was really interesting to me because I had always loved teaching, I had loved being a TA, so seeing the way that the inquiry pedagogy was being used in the classroom from the faculty perspective was really valuable,” she said.

“The year one inquiry facilitators had a breakfast together early one morning every week and talked about what was going on in the classroom ... It helped me understand what I wanted to be as a teacher.”

A lot has changed since Prof. Ritz last saw the McMaster campus, namely the size and spread of the faculty, which includes the addition of the program’s specializations. On the other hand, leaving the Northern Ontario School of Medicine , where she worked from 2010 to 2015 as an associate professor, was like leaving behind her family.

“It was a really special experience to be involved in a brand new medical school, and building it from the ground up and seeing it come to fruition. I would have been happy to stay there for the rest of my career,” she explained.

Yet Prof. Ritz knew that her time with Health Sciences faculty was unfinished, and she has many plans for the future.

In order to look towards the new, Prof. Rtiz is turning to the old  –  the current faculty in the program, many of whom have been at McMaster for years.

“It is exciting to see teachers who are so excited about teaching, so committed and interested. I really want to capitalize on what their insight has been in terms of what the program needs.”

The goal is to gather their input on what they value in the current state, where they can see improvements or what direction they would like to see the program go in.

Prof. Ritz hopes to gain an appreciation for the essence of the program without shaping it with her own ideas – at least not yet. She is wary of colouring other people’s perception and is holding back in order to see how her vision combines with those of existing faculty and students.

Her predecessor in the role, Prof. Del Harnish, was outspoken about the need to assess the value of grades, an aspect of education the Prof. Ritz wants to continue looking into.

“We need to think about what we can do as educators so that getting good grades and learning deeply and well and in a satisfying way match up. If you have a system where what you want for students and what you are assessing students for isn’t aligning well, they are going to [focus] on the assessment. It is always a challenge to look at the hidden curriculum of what your assessment is doing.”

When asked about someone who inspires her, Prof. Ritz names her grandfather.

“He is 90 and although he never graduated from high school, he is one of the most educated people I have ever known. He is the absolute paradigm of what it is to be a self-directed learner. At age 90, he has learned to cook, he is trying new cuisines, he is writing a new book. I think a lot of people could learn from his example in terms of what it means to tap into your own curiosity.”


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