|Descriptive Title of Proposal:||Fostering a dynamic ecosystem for experiential learning at McGill's Macdonald Campus|
|Person(s) Responsible for the Idea||
|Name of Institution||McGill University|
|Office Address||Macdonald Campus of McGill University
21111 Lakeshore Road
Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec H9X 3V9
|Name (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution)||Yves Beauchamp|
|Title (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution)||VP, Administration and Finance|
|Office Address||845 Sherbrooke Street West
Montreal, Quebec H3A 0G4
The Office of Student Academic Services (OSAS) was created in 2011 to foster a dynamic, student-centered ecosystem for experiential learning at the Macdonald Campus of McGill University. OSAS was fused by the acceleration and successful collision of four co-dependent mandates in the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences to achieve: i) outstanding academic advising in the Bachelor of Science (Agricultural and Environmental Sciences) programs, ii) transformative internship opportunities; iii) meaningful outreach programs; and iv) exceptional innovation and entrepreneurship resources for students. Since inception, OSAS has developed enviable administrative efficiencies and unwavering devotion to encourage and support Macdonald Campus students in their experiential learning pursuits.
Public- and private-sector organizations depend on university students and graduates to succeed. During the height of the recent economic recession, drastic budget compressions in many organizations led to hiring freezes or unpaid internship listings. Such barriers to the job market meant less opportunities for students to combine academic skills with work experience. Consequently, students were not gaining necessary work experience to advance in their chosen profession, thereby worsening an increasingly weakening economy. Barriers to experiential learning opportunities affecting our students became the problem OSAS would solve.
OSAS was established as a “living lab” experiment – maintaining firm accountability but with administrative flexibility to respond to emerging needs. Managed by a dedicated team working intimately in-tune, OSAS has unparalleled abilities for helping Macdonald Campus students develop and navigate transformative experiential learning journeys. We offer tailored academic advising to help over 350 students achieve the full extent of our academic programs, more than 25 financial awards annually to support student internship experiences, outreach programs to bring local and international visitors to our campus, and mentoring aspiring student entrepreneurs to grow new startups and create jobs.
OSAS implementation was performed in two phases. In phase one (2011) we successfully harmonized the internship, academic advising, and outreach mandates into one unified experiential learning mandate (prior to 2011, these were independent offices). Institutionalizing the Faculty’s innovation and entrepreneurship program was completed in the second phase (2015).
We have received $1.2 million to date from our alumni who believe in our mandate.
|Criteria||Please submit one paragraph describing how the proposal fulfills each of the evaluation criteria.|
A fundamental aspect of this project that can be applied at other institutions is the value we place on teamwork to make things happen. We are a small office but we are very dedicated to improving the quality of our institution, our programs, and the student life experience in a safe and open space. We create as many synergies as possible with multiple units across our campus and the university to share ideas, resources, and opportunities. We work with University Advancement in our campaigns for philanthropic support, with our industry contacts to establish valued internship opportunities for students, and our teaching staff to ensure our academic programs remain relevant to societal and industry needs. We interact with our business community to grow our entrepreneurial ecosystem, and with local and international counterparts to welcome visitors to our charming campus. We believe many of our sister universities operate in a similar landscape; we want to share with others our experiences of what has worked well, and what circumstances required us to pivot our business strategy and tactics.
We feel many students develop greater conviction and purpose in their academic program by experiencing experiential learning opportunities. Our operations are improving the quality of our programs, and we observe this through their enthusiasm when students meet with us in our office to talk about their summer internship experience, goals after university, or ideas about the start-up they want to build. Our most comprehensive qualitative outcomes are published in our annual internship viewbooks, in which students summarize their internship experiences and then have the opportunity to present their experience at our annual internship poster event (see www.mcgill.ca/osas). Moreover, our student start-up co-founders are winning more prestigious entrepreneurship competitions each year. In 2015 and 2016, our teams claimed first prize in both the Food Product Innovation competition and Sustainable Solutions for Developing Countries competition at the premiere USA International Food Technologists (IFT) annual conference. 2014 was also noteworthy; our team won third place in the Food Product Innovation competition, representing the first Canadian university to land on the podium in nearly twenty-five years. In 2016, one of our students emerged as one of five winners of Accelerate2030, a global Impact Hub program created by Impact Hub Geneva in partnership with the United Nations Development Program. Another of our start-up teams claimed first prize (small-medium enterprise track) at the 2016 McGill Dobson Cup start-up competition, McGill’s flagship entrepreneurship competition. Their success has gained media attention, being featured in multiple television and radio interviews, and featured in the Montreal Gazette.
OSAS was created in 2011 in response to overcome the barriers students were facing in achieving experiential learning opportunities. Since 2011, our academic advising portfolio has nearly doubled to over 350 students – one of the biggest academic advising portfolios in the Faculty. We have placed and overseen more than 300 students in transformative internship experiences across Canada in addition to 85 international placements. Summer 2016 represented our biggest internship cohort, with 80 students completing an internship over the summer, compared to 15 students when we started the internship program in 2010. Through more than 25 internship awards each summer we administer, we have disbursed upwards of $250,000 in internship awards to deserving students, helping them achieve their experiential journey. Since 2015, we have also supported the growth of 10 early-stage start-ups and have awarded over $100,000 in seed-funding to help students develop and test innovative prototypes and services in food, agricultural, engineering and human health sectors. By 2015, OSAS operations had grown significantly, which led to the creation of a new full-time positon to maintain the quality of services and carry out our mandate with purpose, confidence, and direction.
We believe that establishing OSAS as a “living lab” experiment has been truly innovative in the context of higher education administrative models. We maintain firm accountability to our Dean and alumni supporters, since OSAS operations are sustained by philanthropic generosity. However, we operate within a flexible administrative structure that allows us to test new concepts and ideas with safe-guards in place to manage risk. We operate at equal arms-length from our academic units so that students have equitable access to our services, regardless of their academic program. Furthermore, our harmonized mandate to foster a dynamic, student-centered ecosystem for experiential learning allows us to support our students via multiple contact-points and in ways that may not be possible in other Faculties. For example, our team is able to leverage resources to support a student who, during their life as a student, wants to pursue an internship, undertake a field study semester overseas, and become an entrepreneur or help grow an existing business venture. In 2016, we began work on developing pathways to better integrate experiential learning opportunities with McGill’s co-curricular student record. Thus, we believe our “living lab” experiment to foster a culture of experiential learning differentiates our project from similar initiatives previously submitted to the Quality and Productivity Awards Program.