By Ryan Mallough - Monday, February 11, 2013 - 0 Comments
“It really makes your day when you get a compliment…Sometimes I think it saves people’s sanities.”
Four Queen’s students chatted in the house they shared, lamenting the end of summer. “We were depressed school was starting again, there was lots of work to do, the weather was getting cold,” says Rachel Albi, a 20-year-old history major who spent her summer working at Disney World. The foursome wanted to do something together to feel better—but without moving. “We wanted to stay inside,” she laughs.
Just 10 minutes later, and inspired by her little sister’s efforts toward a similar project at her high school, Albi and her roommates—music students Jessica Jonker and Erica Gagne, and English major Amanda Smurthwaite—took to Facebook. Their creation, Queen’s U Compliments, launched on September 12th.
The premise is simple: “Basically, we made a profile, of a person not a page, so that we can tag people,” explains Jonker. Users, friends or otherwise, message compliments to Queen’s students which are tagged and posted anonymously. “That way, the compliment shows up on our wall and their personal page,” she says. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, October 3, 2011 at 12:10 PM - 2 Comments
He’s no Adrienne Clarkson or Michaelle Jean, but the Governor General believes a quiet and steady manner suits him, and his job
Standing on the steps of Parliament Hill, behind a thin wooden podium, David Johnston is delivering his 123rd speech as Governor General. The occasion is the Canadian Police and Peace Officers’ 34th Memorial Service. He speaks carefully and deliberately. “I would like to pay tribute to all of the men and women in uniform who made the ultimate sacrifice to keep our communities safe throughout our history,” he says, his words echoing off the buildings of downtown Ottawa. “On behalf of all Canadians, I am grateful for all that you have done for this country.”
He returns, walking purposefully, to his seat. Later he will lay a wreath and afterwards he will greet family members of the fallen, visit briefly the memorial behind Centre Block and then slip inside for a reception in the Hall of Honour. The next morning he will fly to British Columbia, the 10th province to officially make his acquaintance (having been to the Yukon and Nunavut, he has only yet to visit the Northwest Territories). On Oct. 1, he celebrates his first anniversary as the Queen’s representative.
It has been a quiet start to his term. Though that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, presented with a chance to rebut that adjective, he declines. “I don’t have any rebuttal,” he said in an interview last month. “I regard myself as a quiet person. As a university president for almost 27 years, [I learned that] quiet and steady and robust in the importance of the institution are good approaches.”
By Martin Patriquin - Thursday, September 15, 2011 at 1:30 PM - 0 Comments
A new program finds kids who have neither the privilege nor the money to become doctors
Ridge Cross-McComber is about as blasé as your average overachiever when it comes to his laundry list of goals for the next few years and beyond. He’ll finish his year at Montreal’s Dawson College, move to Vanier College for either nursing or pure and applied science, then go to medical school to become a surgeon. After that, he’ll practise medicine in Kahnawake, his hometown. “I want to be a role model for my community,” says the 17-year-old, sitting in a café in the native reserve near Montreal. “It’s something I want to do for my town and my people. I want to show that I can do this.”
As far as medical school goes, history and statistics are stacked against Cross-McComber. Wealthy students tend to be overrepresented in the field, for one. According to a study by the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada, nearly 45 per cent of medical students come from families making over $100,000 a year. (Only about 26 per cent of Canadian families are in this demographic, according to the AFMC study.) And while medical schools are decidedly less uniformly Caucasian than they used to be, the AFMC study indicates that many visible minorites continue to be under-represented.
McGill’s faculty of medicine wants the situation to change, starting with students like Cross-McComber. Last year, the faculty instituted “Towards Health,” a program aimed at actively recruiting from outside the traditional student pool. Towards Health is what is known as a pipeline program, in which the university recruits at underprivileged Montreal-area high schools in hopes of inspiring minds to come its way in the future.
By Julia Belluz - Friday, May 6, 2011 at 12:05 PM - 8 Comments
Lawsuits are shedding light on the dubious relationship between medical researchers and pharmaceutical companies
When Barbara Sherwin, a McGill University psychology professor, became embroiled in a ghostwriting case in 2009, many wondered how an esteemed academic—one who dedicated her life to researching the relationship between hormones and cognition—could be accused of attaching her name to an article she didn’t write.
Her alleged transgression came to light in a class-action suit involving 8,400 women against the drug company Wyeth (now part of Pfizer). Lawyers representing the women, who claim they were harmed by their hormone replacement therapy (HRT) drugs, discovered that scientific research papers extolling the virtues of the treatment while downplaying potential harm appeared to have been written, not by the academics who signed their name to the papers, but by writers hired by the pharmaceutical company. Continue…
By Erica Alini - Thursday, February 17, 2011 at 10:04 AM - 0 Comments
Later-in-life schooling ‘is not just growing, it’s growing exponentially.’ Boomers are the latest cash crop.
When David Prosser, 64, graduated from Ryerson University in June of last year, it was his third time there in a cap-and-gown ceremony. In 2005, after ending a lifelong career at Kodak Canada, he enrolled to train as a fundraising manager at Ryerson’s G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education, and now works as a development director for a Toronto-based mental health charity. “It was a big change to get from the corporate world to the non-profit,” he says—but his alma mater was there to help.
Prosser is one of an increasing number of students who are trotting back to campus decades after their first graduation, and changing the face of universities across Canada. Mid-career and mature professionals going back to the books are fuelling a boom in adult education that goes well beyond colleges. At the Chang school, enrolment rose by 49 per cent since 2001; at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies (SCS), it’s up 75 per cent since 2007; at the University of Ottawa, it nearly doubled between 2000 and 2009, growing 28 per cent this academic year alone; and at McGill University, it grew by around 6.5 per cent since 2009-2010. When Simon Fraser University (SFU) advertised a free workshop called “Later in Life Career Transitions” around Christmas last year, the 70-spot event was fully booked before New Year’s, and when the school decided to make another 100 seats available, they sold out in a week. “I think it says a lot about the hunger for learning and career options later in life,” says SFU’s dean of lifelong learning Helen Wussow, who added that enrolment at the school was up this year.
By Cathrin Bradbury - Thursday, November 18, 2010 at 10:00 AM - 3 Comments
On choosing McGill, flirting with Queen’s and snubbing Saskatchewan. ‘I got that so wrong!’
In 1987, Linda Frum travelled across Canada to write The Guide to Canadian Universities. She was 24. The book was funny, political and personal and an instant bestseller. Fast forward 23 years: Sen. Frum is about to see her twin children launch their own university careers.
Q: Your book may be 23 years old, but it’s still right on. A lot of it is about how you make the right choice for you. You chose McGill.
A: My mother and my father had one rule only, which was that I wasn’t allowed to stay at home. I graduated from high school in 1981. It was just a terrible time in Quebec’s economic history and, as a result, in McGill’s history. The place was completely decrepit. It was in a struggle with the provincial government; they were trying to choke it to death, just get rid of any remnants of English society, and my mother thought that I would learn a lot from witnessing this death struggle in person. I just worship my mother, and if she thought it was a good idea . . .
Q: Did you do the tour before you went?
A: No, I didn’t. I don’t think I was unusual. I did not visit any school. As a result, a parent’s advice had such influence, because what else would help you make that choice?
By Kate Lunau - Wednesday, October 14, 2009 at 8:10 AM - 4 Comments
Employers are forced to get inventive to lure—and retain—the best and brightest
After the video game development studio where Geoff Coates was working abruptly shut down, the Vancouver-based art director found himself looking for a new gig. He heard about another local company, Next Level Games Inc., from a friend. “The more I talked to these guys, the more I wanted to work here,” says Coates. The firm’s positive office environment, as well as the collaboration he saw, appealed to him. After spending more than 10 years in the industry, the 40-year-old says, “it became more about the people than the job title.” He took a job at Next Level Games—one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers—three months ago, and he hasn’t looked back.
Attracting and retaining highly skilled workers is crucial, especially during a recession when “you need your best and brightest,” says Richard Yerema, managing editor of Mediacorp Canada Inc., which compiles the list of Canada’s Top 100 Employers. With all the company closures and layoffs of late, there’s no shortage of unclaimed talent on the market. In good times, prospective employers could afford to offer fat signing bonuses and generous benefit packages to lure the best of them, but in today’s tough economic climate, firms have to be more inventive. By offering things like in-house training, volunteer opportunities and flexible work hours, companies on the Top 100 list are proving it’s possible to offer perks that people want, without breaking the bank. Continue…
By Martin Patriquin - Thursday, October 1, 2009 at 2:00 PM - 19 Comments
Tuition will jump next year by 1,663 per cent—from $1,500 to $29,500
“You need to spend money to make money.”
It’s an old business adage that McGill University’s Desautels Faculty of Management is taking to heart. Next year, tuition for its two-year M.B.A. program will increase to $29,500 per year. That’s a massive hike—as much as 1,663 per cent—from the current rates of just over $1,500 for Quebec residents and $4,675 for out of province students (international students already pay upward of $20,000 per year). The increase means the school will become entirely self-funded, making it one of the last M.B.A. programs in the country to do so.
The tuition bump has been in the works for several years, and was introduced in part to enhance McGill’s international reputation. Desautels ranked third among Canadian business schools in a recent Forbes survey, behind York University’s Schulich School of Business and UBC’s Sauder School of Business, both of which are self-funded. (Université de Montréal’s HEC, which offers a highly regarded one-year M.B.A. program, remains publicly funded.) Higher tuition fees will mean the school can afford to hire world-class teachers. Continue…
By Paul Wells - Thursday, October 1, 2009 at 10:40 AM - 2 Comments
These discs capture the sounds of both the original instruments and performance spaces
When Tom Beghin, a Flemish pianist, joined the music faculty at McGill University in 2003, he already had plans to record all of Joseph Haydn’s keyboard sonatas. Haydn wrote more than 50 pieces for solo keyboard instruments over nearly 30 years, from 1766 to 1794. “This was to be my ‘masterwork,’ ” Beghin says, “not in a romantic or self-glorifying way, but in the 19th-century sense of being accepted to a guild.”
Beghin’s comment reflects both his intellectual ambition and his self-effacing manner. Which may help explain why it is Haydn’s music that has become the focus of his life, because that’s what Haydn was like. The Austrian composer died 200 years ago this year, so his prolific output has become the focus of new attention. His music’s flawless logic is being appreciated anew. His cool, often witty emotional detachment, which led earlier generations to dismiss him as a cold fish, now seems suited to our own skeptical era. Continue…
By Michael Petrou - Thursday, September 17, 2009 at 11:00 AM - 2 Comments
How a McGill prof helped teach Iran’s opposition about non-violent protest
Payam Akhavan was working in The Hague as a legal adviser to the prosecutor’s office of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia when students in his homeland of Iran took to the streets in numbers that had not been seen since the early days of the Islamic Revolution. The July 1999 demonstrations began as a peaceful protest against the closing of a reformist newspaper, but when the government responded by sending the Islamist Basij militia to raid a university dormitory and throw students off upper-floor balconies, it escalated into a confrontation between the guardians of Iran’s theocracy and those who wanted to reform or overthrow it.
Akhavan, whose family left Iran in 1975 and who is now a professor of international law at McGill University, had long believed there was a desire for democratic change in Iran. He and other exiles frequently discussed how this might come about and whether they could do anything about it. But there appeared to be little momentum coming from within Iran, until that July. “We awakened to the fact that what we always knew was an undercurrent of discontent in Iran had finally spilled over,” he says. “And from that point onward there was some consideration given to how can we begin to help these people.”
A year later, another uprising in another part of the world gave Akhavan hope and direction. In October 2000, a non-violent revolution forced the resignation of Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, who was subsequently turned over to the tribunal in The Hague. Within less than a year, the man who had brought so much death and destruction to the Balkans went from governing a nation to pacing a jail cell and facing charges of war crimes and genocide in a UN-backed court. Barely a shot had been fired.
By The Editors - Thursday, September 3, 2009 at 10:20 AM - 5 Comments
We should award our research dollars based on a school’s merit, not its reputation
Should Canada’s university system be more elitist? The country’s ﬁve largest universities think so.
Last month, Maclean’s readers got a ﬁrst look at a controversial proposal from the presidents of the University of British Columbia, the University of Alberta, the University of Toronto, McGill University and Université de Montréal. In an exclusive round-table discussion with senior columnist Paul Wells, they outlined a plan that would see their schools receive favoured government funding to promote their world-class research and graduate student education. The remaining 100-odd schools in Canada would become primarily undergraduate institutions, with commensurately reduced budgets and expectations.
Since our three-part series, furor over this idea has spilled across newspapers and onto online discussion forums. The idea of picking favourites within Canada’s post-secondary school system strikes many as unfair. Continue…
By Paul Wells - Wednesday, August 5, 2009 at 11:20 AM - 0 Comments
Here’s streaming video of the National Youth Orchestra of Canada, playing Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, a new composition by a Canadian composer, and Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring on Sunday in McGill’s very high-tech CIRMMT music room (pronounced “Kermit” and built with a $6.5 million CFI grant).
The National Youth Orchestra of Canada’s annual summer tour wraps up this Thursday in Kitchener and Friday in Toronto. The Toronto program matches the one I heard when I caught the NYOC last week at the National Arts Centre. It was the first time I’d heard an edition of the orchestra in concert; it won’t be the last. Continue…
By Paul Wells - Monday, August 25, 2008 at 6:16 PM - 0 Comments
Five days after the Université de Montréal didn’t get the $100-million Canada Foundation for Innovation grant it was counting on to build its new teaching-and-research hospital, a poll of the proposed hospital’s medical staff finds that a majority believe it will never open. The first piece of news isn’t necessarily fatal — the UdeM can simply re-apply for the next granting round, as applicants often do. The second piece of news isn’t fatal either, as long as all those doctors are wrong. One presumes there is more to this story…
By Paul Wells - Thursday, August 7, 2008 at 3:55 PM - 0 Comments
The 2008 Academic Ranking of World Universities, from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, is out. The “Shanghai rankings,” as they’re called, are watched very closely by university administrators and easily-distracted nationalists around the world, as a prime indicator of countries’ ability to compete in the global knowledge race. (Which isn’t to say the methodology is beyond reproach, only that everyone loves a list.)
How’d Canada do? Quite well. U.S. universities had more than half of the top 100, the UK 11, Germany 6. Four Canadian universities — Toronto, UBC, McGill, McMaster made the top 100, with two more, Alberta and Université de Montréal, in the second tranche from 101-51. Germany and France, with much larger populations, had 6 and 3 universities, respectively, in the top 100.
But with one exception, Canadian universities have been holding steady in the past five years’ rankings, neither advancing nor falling back. That exception is…
By Kate Lunau - Tuesday, May 6, 2008 at 4:10 PM - 2 Comments
Have you ever been grocery shopping when you’re hungry, and bought way more stuff…
Have you ever been grocery shopping when you’re hungry, and bought way more stuff than you intended? Understanding the reasons for this may give us some clues to the obesity epidemic, new research suggests.
People generally eat for two reasons: because they’re hungry (hormones in the brain tell us to eat to maintain a constant body weight), or because we’re tempted by delicious food (so-called “hedonistic consumption”). But it could be these two urges are more interconnected than we previously thought: researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University say they’ve discovered that ghrelin (one of the hormones that prompts us to eat when we need more calories) might also make us want to consume food for pleasure.
“Our study demonstrates that ghrelin actually activates certain regions of the brain to be more responsive to visual food cues, thereby enhancing the hedonic and incentive responses to food-related cues,” neurologist Dr. Alain Dagher, principal investigator in the study, says in a press release. “Ghrelin is a hormone that triggers hunger, and is secreted by the stomach [when it is empty].”
This supports the view, the press release notes, that “obesity must be understood as a brain disease and that hunger should also be looked at as a kind of food addiction,” as obese people might be overeating largely due to an uncontrollable hunger.
Researchers found ghrelin actually acts on the same reward and motivation areas of the brain implicated in drug addiction, which could potentially have profound implications: “If food is thought of as potentially ‘addictive,’” the press release says, “this would support action to limit or ban fast food from schools and junk food advertisements geared towards children, in the same way that results proving nicotine to be addictive spurred the current public policy towards nicotine.”