Mac students, meet Macademics.
It is the newest service under the McMaster Students Union umbrella, approved at an Executive Board meeting on June 16, 2016. The MSU is aiming for a launch in September 2016.
Blake Oliver, Vice-President (Education), spearheaded the project.
“It was something that was on my platform when I ran for this position. I wanted to look at the teaching awards committee as it is currently and the course wiki, which has never fallen underneath the scope of an actual service,” said Oliver.
The course wiki is an MSU initiative to create what is essentially an “anti-calendar”: a student-sourced website that provides feedback about courses offered at McMaster. Until now, the course wiki was a shared responsibility between the Vice-President (Education) and the University Affairs Committee. Macademics will be the group responsible for promoting and maintaining the Wiki project.
According to Oliver, there is a lot of overlap between the course wiki and teaching awards committee.
“[The course wiki] deals a lot with the same ideas as the teaching awards committing: looking at quality of education, promoting excellence in teaching,” said Oliver.
Macademics will capture other areas of the MSU’s education and advocacy work. Course evaluations and looking critically at pedagogy in education at McMaster will be part of the new service’s mandate.
To fund the service, the MSU will use the budget of the teaching awards committee and reallocate money from other arms of the organization that are working on education. Since Macademics is formalizing the MSU’s education work, it is really just shifting money from one budget to the new service.
Money spent on other education issues comes from the “educational initiatives budget.” The MSU plans to track what is spent and then reallocate for a Macademics budget next year that reflects what the service actually needs to operate.
A Part-Time Manager will be hired to manage the service. There will be an executive team to help the service meet its goals. One executive will be the chair of the teaching awards committee. There will also be a course wiki director, a promotions executive, a research coordinator and logistics coordinator.
Oliver began working on the project at the start of her term and she is eager to see the service start up.
“What I like the most about [Macademics] is that it is the first space the MSU has had that focuses solely on quality of education and pedagogy. For a lot of students, that is their main post-secondary issue,” said Oliver.
“I hear from students all the time, from having a bad teaching assistant to having a professor that doesn’t do a good job teaching … as the MSU we don’t have a centralized location for students to go to voice those concerns. What’s nice about this service is we can grow as an organization and make sure that excellence in teaching is a priority from year to year.”
The launch is not without some concerns. Oliver says the biggest challenge will be promotion and getting volunteers. She expects to overcome that obstacle by relying on a strong executive team.
The Vice-President (Education) is hopeful to have the service operational by September 2016.