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Innovation at Carleton: 3 Qs with Janice O’Farrell

In September, the 10K crew went on location to the 2017 Ontario Universities’ Fair, to interview a dozen higher ed leaders about trends in innovation.

Janice O’Farrell is the Associate Vice-President Enrolment Management at Carleton University, and has 24 years of experience in higher education. In this special bonus episode, Ken asks Janice to answer 3 key questions about higher ed innovation.

Innovations at Carleton?

Janice starts with several examples of Carleton’s commitment to community engagement and community-based learning opportunities for students, bringing the classroom to the community. This year, Carleton held 75 “Campus to Community Days” in which students went out to serve local agencies, and students and faculty went abroad on the “Alternative Spring Break” program to construct a school in central America, and work on water conservation efforts in Alberta. Carleton is also considered a Canadian leader for its Residence Curriculum programs, which help students develop self-awareness and positive relationship skills. And Carleton has been developing new programs to meet industry needs, like the Bachelor of Media Production and Design, which combines creative writing with technical skills. Carleton also has several collaborative programs with Algonquin College, like the Bachelor of IT in Photonics and the BIT in Information Resource Management. Students are simultaneously admitted to both the university and the college, take courses at both institutions, and graduate in 4 years with a degree and an advanced diploma. Even more innovative is Carleton’s partnership with dot-com company Shopify, in which Comp Sci students work full-time for 4 years, take courses onsite at the company, and earn $160,000 in salary, tuition, and perks. Carleton has also developed its “Degree Audit” to a 3-colour scorecard to help students determine if they are on-track to graduation.

The Decade Ahead?

Janice predicts greater emphasis on preparing students to address societal challenges like mental health, homelessness and poverty, and more opportunities to bring the classroom into the real world, through partnerships with industry and community service learning opportunities. She expects we will continue to see more diverse program delivery methods and program lengths, stacked and laddered credentials, and more transfer options between college and university and vice-versa. Collaborative degree programs are a great opportunity for colleges and universities to play together nicely “in the same sandbox.”

Culture of Innovation?

Janice believes that universities are drivers of change in science and society, but “not necessarily for ourselves.” To nurture a culture of innovation on campus, leadership needs a compelling vision, needs to be open and transparent, and needs to engage the campus community. There must be an allowance to try new things, to take some risks, and to think outside the box – and there also have to be adequate resources available. Since 2012, the “Carleton Leader” program has brought together faculty and admin staff from “the sidelines, the front lines, and the cutting edge” to work together for 6 months on a “wicked” problem like student engagement or the value of a university degree. Janice believes the cross-campus representation on those task forces provide the key benefit to drive innovative ideas. She concludes by observing that this is an exciting time for universities, and that we need to embrace the opportunity to do new things creatively, rather than being fearful of change.


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