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Jo Stewart, Brock University, Canada

JoStewart.jpgCollaboration is a word we use in higher education practically on a daily basis.  Collaboration can be defined in two ways.  “1…the act of working with another or others on a joint project”, and “2. something created by working jointly with another or others” (Farlex, 2011). Bennis and Beiderman (1997) argue that “one is too small a number to produce greatness.”  I propose that if academic advisors around the world foster greatness in our students, then they will in turn generate great things. No one can do this alone; we must collaborate within and between departments and institutions if we are to bring a well-rounded education to our students.

Here at Brock University, we collaborate with colleges in the province of Ontario to provide students with educational experiences with both a strong theoretical and applied base of knowledge. In the province of Ontario, most higher education institutions are public; there are two types of public institutions – traditional degree-granting universities and colleges that offer a variety of diplomas, certificates and applied degrees. Our university degrees are typically four-year degrees, with the liberal arts degrees offering students a broad range of theoretical knowledge. Our colleges, on the other hand, offer technical training and applied/practical diplomas and degrees.  As I often tell Brock University students, our university programs teach students the five “W’s” – what something is, when it occurred, who was involved in it, where it happened, and why it took place – but do not teach students how to do it.  Teaching the “how” is left to our colleges. An example is the discipline of psychology where students come to university and learn what psychology is (the “what”), when major theories were developed (the “when”), the theorists who conducted the research in the discipline (the “who”), the country/lab where the research took place (the “where”), and what led various researchers to develop their theories (the “why”). 

However, if the student wants to be a counselor, the five W’s offer no training. On the other hand, Ontario’s colleges do offer innovative and outstanding diploma, certificate, and applied degree programs that allow students to learn the techniques involved in effective individual and group  counseling (the “how”).

About ten years ago, it became apparent that many Brock students wanted to obtain the applied/practical experience that would give them an edge when entering the job market. Many arrived at advising sessions a few months before graduation with one big question – “Now what do I do?”  In school for as long as they could remember, many suddenly realized that the light at the end of the educational tunnel was getting brighter, and felt they did not have marketable skills in their chosen field.  After these “just-before-graduation” advising sessions, students often decided to pursue the practical knowledge and training they needed by attending one of our provincial colleges for a diploma or certificate. This meant additional years in school and additional tuition dollars to receive the training they felt needed to succeed in the work place.

Sasson (2011) noted that “collaboration saves time and maximizes curriculum.” In the Brock University Faculty of Social Sciences, we realized that our liberal arts approach to education was not providing our students with all of the tools needed to successfully enter the work force. Advisors and faculty members realized that our students were interested in learning about the who, what, where, when, and why of their discipline, but also needed to learn the how; thus many headed to our provincial colleges upon completion of their degree studies. Given the primary mandate at most universities does not involve providing applied knowledge, we realized that collaboration with the colleges in Ontario would allow us to develop unique educational programs to give our students not only a strong theoretical base of knowledge but the applied/practical knowledge the colleges provide.  A maximization of the curriculum would provide students the opportunity to gather information from the five W’s plus the H.  We also recognized that students’ time and money would be maximized in collaborative programs.

For example, one very popular collaborative program was developed for Film Studies majors.  Brock’s Film Studies degree program is very theoretical with no film-making opportunities. Students in this program indicated a strong interest in learning film production techniques, so a collaborative program was developed with the Advanced Film-Making program at Fanshawe College.  Interested and qualified students are accepted into the collaborative program at the end of their first year of studies. At that point, one year’s worth of upper-year elective credits are removed from the students’ degrees, and the fourth-year required courses are shifted to years two and three. This frees up one entire year for students to attend Fanshawe College where they receive advanced standing and complete the program in a year.  Upon completion of the Advanced Film-making program at Fanshawe College, students receive one year’s worth of elective credits at Brock University and complete a university degree and a college certificate program in only four years.

Besides the Fanshawe College program, we have an additional 13 collaborative programs with ten different Ontario colleges in such areas as Police Foundations, Public Relations, Behavioural Science Technology, Emergency Management, Paralegal, Geomatics, and Social Service Work.  Besides providing practical/applied training, these programs allow students to network in their chosen field as they complete their field placement requirements. This often leads to their first job upon completion of their studies.

The collaborative programs we have developed are a true “win, win, win, win” situation.  Brock University wins because these programs bring very good students. The colleges win because collaborative program students bring critical thinking and research skills that provide leadership in their classes. Parents win because the tuition they pay for their children is drastically reduced. Most importantly, the students win because they receive an education that will allow them to reach the greatness to which they aspire. Fostering greatness in the next generation is possible because of the collaboration that takes place across so many Ontario institutions.

Jo Stewart
Administrative Officer
Faculty of Social Sciences
Brock University
jstewart@brocku.ca

References

Bennis, W.G., and Biederman, P.W. (1997). Organizing genius: The secrets of creative collaboration. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley. 

Farlex (2011). The free dictionary.  Retrieved from www.thefreedictionary.com/collaboration

Sasson, D. (2011) “Should you collaborate? The benefits of collaboration for new and seasoned teachers”. Retrieved from http://ezinearticles.com/?Should-You-Collaborate?-The-Benefits-of-Collaboration-For-New-and-Seasoned-Teachers&id=2519655

Cite this article using APA style as: Stewart, J. (2011, September). Collaboration: A win, win, win stuation. Academic Advising Today, 34(3). Retrieved from [insert url here]

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