Executive director and Bishop’s professor Dr. Jessica Riddell discusses university collaboration
Dr. Jessica Riddell, the executive director of the Maple League, came to Mt. A last Wednesday to host a town hall about the consortium of universities in Eastern Canada. At the event, Riddell explained in depth what the Maple League is, what Mount Allison’s role is in this institution and how collaboration across universities is valuable.
The town hall began with Mt. A’s President Jean-Paul Boudreau explaining that the Maple League is a collaboration between four schools in Atlantic Canada: Bishop’s University, Acadia, St. Francis Xavier and Mt. A: schools that are “small – about 5,000 students – primarily undergraduate, liberal arts education, largely from rural or small towns, and autonomous – i.e. not part of a larger institution,” said Boudreau.
Boudreau then explained the mission and values of the Maple League. “The mission is really about fostering relationships between institutions and ways that we like to say, ‘How can we build something strong, unique and powerful together that we might not be able to do alone?’ ” he said. “The values are around collaboration, student experiences, resilience … and community engagement and global citizenship.”
According to Boudreau, the Maple League universities collaborate on the core themes of teaching, extracurriculars, research, professional development and advocacy. “I think the Maple League is increasingly being looked at as a model for thinking about ways to bring our vibrant community of learners and scholars together,” said Boudreau.
Riddell, who is also a professor of early modern literature at Bishop’s, then spoke about her work. Riddell told the crowd about the campus tours she went on last year to explore what collaboration looks like from differing disciplinary professional lenses.
“The two central questions that emerged through my conversations and consultations were … ‘What can we do together that we can’t do on our own? And then how does working together actually make our own institutions or our own practices better?’ ” said Riddell. She acknowledged that not all disciplines benefit from collaboration: “It’s somewhat disruptive in some professional practices to collaborate. As a Shakespearian, I don’t usually research with other people. So, collaboration in research is disruptive for me from my disciplinary lens.”
Several grants available for researchers through different Maple League committees were announced at the event. These included $10,000 for an innovative pedagogies fund, $30,000 for a Maple League research fund, $10,000 for an international field study fund and $25,000 for online learning courses. All funds are accessible to students and faculty through application. Riddell also gave a brief overview of the new student fellow positions that the Maple League has funded.
The town hall showcased some examples of collaboration across the universities, including last year’s debate tournament, shared speakers, and shared lectures over telepresence.
Dr. Dave Hornidge, a physics professor at Mt. A, participated in one of these collaborative classes. “I taught, last fall, three weeks of a course on time from a physics perspective but we also had religious studies, biology and music,” he said. “We each had three weeks and we each gave an exam and assignments and then there was a big, wide-open term project at the very end where we used our fancy telepresence rooms to interact so it wasn’t just one person lecturing; we actually had discussions across four campuses. All in all it was a very positive experience and I hope that we can continue doing this.”
Riddell ended the town hall session by explaining the best way to keep up to date with Maple League announcements and opportunities for faculty and students is to follow the Maple League’s social media pages, or to email firstname.lastname@example.org.