The 3M Teaching Fellowship – Making a difference Arshad Ahmad

The 3M Teaching Fellowship – Making a difference

Arshad Ahmad
1992 3M Teaching Fellow and Program Coordinator

n 1986 John Myser, President of 3M Canada, worked with members of the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education to develop this unique program which he had conceived to aclmowledge what teachers had given to him and to give recognition to the importance of teaching.

Christopher Knapper, who played a key role in the creation of STLHE, and Dale Roy, who coordinated the fellowship program for fifteen years, recently recorded, on the STLHE / SAPES website, a discussion concerning the beginnings and development of the Society and Fellowship.

The original vision and leadership of 3M Canada have been maintained by Mike Calhoun, Greg Snow, and most recently by Sue Romyn. Greg Snow’s commitment is such that he has met every one of the almost two hundred 3M Teaching Fellows.

As well, both Ian Hargrove, President of 3M Canada and W. James McNerney Jr., Chairman of the Board and CEO of 3M Worldwide, have very recently demonstrated interest in and support for the program.

It is 3M Canada’s culture of personal concern and attention to the last detail that have ensured the success of the fellowship program.

On behalf of many in the Society, I would also like to recognize Sylvia Riselay and Diane Pagnuelo-Boyle for their commitment to our work and also to thank the STLHE and its past Presidents, Christopher Knapper, Alan Blizzard, Pat Rogers, Gary Poole and its cuurent President, Julia Christensen Hughes, for their assistance in the development of the program.

In May 2003 a think tank was held in Toronto and was attended by representatives of 3M Canada and forty-two Fellows. It was on this occasion that the Council of 3M Teaching Fellows was conceived-an organization dedicated to making a difference in the quality of teaching at all Canadian universities. This book is one of the Council’s projects.

The Council’s executive leadership has been provided by Guy Allen, Alex Fancy, Clarissa Green, Claude Lamontagne, Anna Lathrop, Michael Moore, Sylvia Riselay and myself.

Each fall, the magic of the Montebello retreat elicits the collective ideas of the 3M Teaching Fellows. In 1991, the Fellows issued a challenge to university administrators to put more emphasis on undergraduate teaching (a matter of concern for the Smith Commission). The cohort of 2001 re-emphasized this concern and issued a communiqué calling for action to improve undergraduate education.

Our Fellowship continues to produce initiatives large and small. Tim Pychyl transformed an idea into a trajectory called facultydevelopment.ca which has metamorphosed into a national Institute for the Advancement of Teaching in Higher Education; Gary Poole and Lee Gass are founding members of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning; Ron Marken and Michael Moore created a syllabus for teaching in higher education; Don Woods built a module on problem-based learning; and Mark Weisberg is leading reflection activities at Banff. These initiatives are changing the landscape of higher education.

Each spring, the Selection Committee members arrive from across Canada to undertake the very difficult process of deciding who will be recognized at the June STLHE conference as 3M Teaching Fellows. They also reflect on how to improve the nomination process, and craft citations for the winners. Consider for example, Shannon Murray’s citation which captures the essence of the 2004 cohort:

From placing interdisciplinary health management teams in Albertan Aboriginal communities, to instilling a passion for music throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, the ten 2004 3M Teaching Fellows are changing the world, one student at a time. Here are ten good news stories about university teachers who are reshaping medical education, inventing new ways to use technology in the classroom, bringing the space shuttle disaster into accounting classes, placing nursing students in Guatemala and Ghana, and inventing human rights codes for the classroom.

Each year the June STLHE conference and associated activities provide new opportunities for making a difference. As well, there are calls for participation at other conferences where the voices of 3M Teaching Fellows are heard.

One of these venues is the successful McGraw-Hill conference series where 3M Teaching Fellows continue to keynote and participate. Thanks to individuals like Joe Saundercook, Patrick Ferrier and Marlene Luscombe the fellowship has found new friends and relationships.

The 2003 cohort (which included an associate dean, a dean and a university president) challenged the STLHE to re-position itself by seeking new alliances with the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, thus strengthening its role in making a difference on the national scene.

The 2004 cohort, understanding the power of such alliances, has embarked on a series of public announcements acknowledging the contribution students can make to the improvement of university education. After all, students are the reason why the Fellows received recognition in the first place. What will be the theme this coming November?

It is a privilege to be involved with the 3M Teaching Fellowships Program and to work with so many who are making a difference.