U4 League attempts to gain focus

League appoints executive director to develop initiatives

On Feb. 22, Katie Edwards, professor of English at St. Francis Xavier University, was appointed executive director of the U4 League.

In 2013, Mount Allison joined Acadia, St. Francis Xavier and Bishop’s universities to form the U4 League. The alliance was initiated with the long-term intention of promoting the value of small, Canadian liberal arts-based universities.

Edwards said her responsibilities will be to pull the project together and to make sure tasks are accomplished. She said in an age where collaboration is deeply valued, the alliance has enormous potential. The appointment of an executive director is an effort to enhance the initiatives of the U4.

Mt. A President Robert Campbell said some funding for the project has been raised externally from a McConnell Foundation grant. “As a broad generalization,” he said, “each university will be paying about an eighth of [Edwards’s] salary and the rest will be coming from the foundation.

“The sum total of what we’re putting into U4 in this university would be somewhere in the $50,000 a year area.” This amount, Campbell said, is coming from the school’s general revenues.

“My hope from all this is that as we do things better. As we share ideas, as we improve our services and give our students more opportunities, there will be a greater understanding and awareness of the value of schools like ours,” said Campbell.

So far, the U4 initiative has been active in St. Francis Xavier’s annual Leaders Summit, attended by Leadership Mount Allison and Bishop’s University’s Up for Debate event.

Chelsea Thompson, a fourth year-student and the student co-ordinator for Leadership Mt. A, says she thinks there is a lot of potential in the U4. “We’re four relatively small liberal arts schools coming together to build something better,” she said. Thompson said the Leaders Summit allows students from the four schools to work collaboratively and share ideas about different aspects of their experiences.

Elizabeth Wells, professor in music department at Mt. A, has been involved with the U4 since its early development. She was the chair of the U4 academic committee until the provosts from each school became more involved. Now that an executive director has been appointed, said Wells, the original committees are being resurrected.

Wells said there has so far been no student consultation on the U4 committees. “I don’t know what the student role is within the U4,” she said. “It would be great to have students involved.”

Campbell said that right now the U4 is still in the process of development, but students will likely become involved in the future.

Wells said there was a consultation process for faculty in the early stage of the initiative. “We started at the point of looking at who is actually delivering the services,” she said. “Maybe we should do one for students. I wasn’t sure whether students were aware of it or were interested.”

Wells said the focus of the academic committee has been research partnerships between faculty and students from different schools, as well as team-taught courses through technology classrooms.

Campbell said, “One of the things we want to do is network the four schools together electronically. We hope to offer a suite of courses that will increase the course offerings that are available to the students.”

Campbell said he thinks students want both a high-quality and hands-on academic experience.

Wells said that in the past, the committee has had some students coming to them looking for funding. “There’s supposed to be some funding behind the U4, it’s just not clear to me how much it is, how it’s accessed, where that’s going.

“I would love [the funding] to be used to fund real interdisciplinary projects that have student impact between the schools that would give people something they can’t get otherwise,” she said.

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