Kaija Belfry Munroe Book Published

University of Toronto Press has published Quest Social Sciences Tutor Dr. Kaija Belfry Munroe’s book, Business in a Changing Climate: Explaining Industry Support for Carbon Pricing. The publication is the first book to ask major pollution emitting industries in Canada what their preferences are with respect to climate change. Kaija shared some insight about her book.

Q: Congratulations on the publication of your new book! What questions did you start with when you began your research?

KM: My initial question was why Canada had done so little when it came to climate change. My bias as a political scientist was that it must be a business/government relations problem. The 2008 National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy released a report calling for carbon pricing. The media immediately slammed the report calling it a carbon tax, and Stephen Harper’s government sharply denounced it. However, the Canadian Council of Chief Executives and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers came out widely in favor of carbon pricing. My question then changed to why they made that decision and how do businesses decide what to lobby for with the government.

Q: What was your research background, and did this new question require different methodological tools?

KM: I came from a political science background and applied a very scientific method to look at what causes variation in organizations’ preferences for policy outcomes. I realized during my interviews with CEOs that they didn’t see the question the way I did. None of my hypotheses covered their most basic concern, which was about risk. In political science there is an equation (probability x consequences = risk). I was speaking a different language because CEOs understand risk as the possibility that you won’t achieve your expected return on investment. I had to learn about risk and business methodology on my own. If you consider that businesses have 40–50 year amortization periods and investor demands for consistent returns, then it becomes clear why they would favor the stability and certainty of a carbon pricing system, even over the possibility of increased costs.

Q: Did any new questions arise while writing the book?

KM: The question of what risk was in a business context arose, but also how does that relate to a political context. In the political environment, the government creates the rules and regulations under which businesses operate. Change makes it difficult for them to make accurate investments, when risk is seen as uncertainty, rather than increased costs.

Link to press: www.utppublishing.com

Songwriting & Recording Class

In December, Quest students participated in a Songwriting and Recording class offered by Dr. Jeff Warren, tutor of Music and Humanities. The course explored the role of song in societies past and present, the techniques and creative process of songwriting, and the process of recording in a digital studio. By examining song throughout history, students learned about the creative process and developed compositional approaches to songwriting. Working in the campus recording studio, students extended the compositional process from the composition of a melody and chordal accompaniment to the creation of completed recordings.

Sample some of the students work below.

 

 

 

Dr. Glen Van Brummelen, Mathematics Curriculum Coordinator and Founding Tutor at Quest University Canada, has won a 2017 3M Teaching Fellowship. The public announcement will be made soon by Maclean’s. Glen is the first faculty member from Quest to claim this honor.

Each year since 1986, 10 university and college professors from across Canada are chosen for a combination of their excellence in classroom teaching and their educational leadership to join the 3M National Teaching Fellowship. This fellowship, cosponsored by the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE) and 3M Canada, has a 30 year history of recognizing university and college faculty who have had the greatest influence on their students, on their colleagues, and on the direction of teaching in higher education. It is the premier award for higher education in Canada.

Glen joins a fellowship of over 300 dedicated teachers and leaders; he becomes a lifetime member of STLHE, and in November he will participate in a four-day teaching and learning retreat at Chateau Montebello with the other nine new fellows.

Glen’s mantra is “I don’t teach mathematics; I teach students.” He engages his students utilizing provocative questions, student-centered activities, and discovery-based methods. His approach is warm and open, and “he is phenomenally sensitive to the perspectives needed for the appropriate development of mathematics in the lives of our students.” His empowering approach to education has had a phenomenal impact on his students and propelled them to great heights, as in one example from his Spherical Trigonometry class. This undergraduate class of first-year students was so engaged in the material and so unencumbered by traditional approaches to inquiry that they were able to discover a logical flaw in a fundamental theorem proof that had stood since 1807.

Glen is one of the founding tutors of Quest University Canada. He helped create the principles for this revolutionary approach to education, an interdisciplinary, block-based model. A mentor to fellow faculty in this unique curriculum, Glen supports innovative and groundbreaking instruction. Indeed his impact can be felt in the comment of one of his former students: “Glen opened my eyes to this whole world of possibilities of mathematics and what incredible things can be done with it.”

Quest sends its heartfelt congratulations to Glen for this outstanding achievement.

More information about the fellowship can be found at www.stlhe.ca/awards/3m-national-teaching-fellowships


Press Release

Last month three Quest math tutors presented at the Canadian Mathematical Society’s 2016 Winter Conference which took place in Niagara Falls, Ontario from December 2­–5. Glen Van Brummelen gave the Education plenary, History for the Future: Heavenly Storytelling in the Mathematics Classroom. Also presenting were Sarah Mayes-Tang, Betti tables of graded systems of ideals and Richard Hoshino, Inspiring Change Through Linear Algebra and Solving Quadratic Optimization Problems using the Cauchy-Schwarz Inequality.

Birder Data to be Flocked

Quest Life Sciences Tutor, Kimberly Dawe, was featured in The Chief. She recently signed a letter of agreement with the Squamish Environment Society to begin analysis of the massive Squamish Estuary data that the Squamish Birders have collected every month since 1991. The multi-layered data has never undergone expert analysis, but that is about to change. Kimberly will apply for funding to help with the project, plans to hire a Quest student, and to involve her classes in the project.

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Photo: Jennifer Thuncher

Thank you to the Whistler community for your wonderful surroundings and venue. It was a pleasure to host Saturday evening’s event on Innovation with The Walrus Foundation.

Quest alumnus Andrew Luba and Quest tutor Rich Wildman are pictured presenting to the audience. Andrew discussed ideas about the current power imbalance in the technology industry, while Rich spoke about his unique philosophy on grading and narrative review. Their thought-provoking talks received a warm welcome, and we thank those who attended this special event.

For more information on the event please visit: www.thewalrus.ca/the-walrus-talks-innovation-whistler/

From Left to right: Ahalya Satkunaratnam and Bianca Brigidi (Quest Tutors), Frances Westley (The J.W. McConnell chair in social innovation), Alice Guss and Gina Corpuz (Directors of Aboriginal Education of the Squamish Nation), and Negar Elmieh (Quest Tutor).

Quest University Canada received a LabWISE Training Grant from the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation and the Waterloo Institute for Social Innovation and Resilience (WISIR).
This grant will allow Quest faculty to immerse in a rigorous and effective lab process to address a complex social challenge: a meaningful proposal for a First Nations Education Initiative at the university.

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Quest Tutor, Kimberly Dawe, has signed a Letter of Agreement with the Squamish Environment Society (SES) Bird Watch Program to begin an analysis of 25 years of data collection. Kimberly and her students will review the data, focusing on the impact of birds and climate on our Squamish Estuary.

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Sand Dune Restoration

The Political Ecology class, run by Dr. John Reid-Hresko, took a block trip to Tofino, BC for 8 days to study human-environment interactions and the politics and power that shape those interactions.

While in Tofino they spent the week meeting with diverse stakeholders – tourism companies, the mayor of Tofino, First Nations people, residents, biologists, environmental non-profit managers, and fish farming companies.

One of the highlights of the course was with Parks Canada, where they discussed the parks system of conservation and restoration, and helped the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve with restoration work by removing invasive species of grass on the sand dunes.

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Although 30 of 37 of the most significant dune sites on the coast are under some sort of protection, they have greatly declined over the last 100 years. Less than 1% of British Columbia is covered by these dunes. This rare ecosystem has shrunk by 56% across coastal BC. Sand dunes are fragile environments and Parks Canada is working hard to ensure their long-term survival.

Sand dunes are home to unique plant species tough enough to survive in very harsh conditions. Dune plants get blasted by sand that scours off branches and needles from spruce trees, yet they survive and thrive.

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Some have roots that reach metres into the sand for moisture, while others have waxy leaves to prevent water loss and can survive regular burial by sand movement. Despite their hardiness, these plants do not have the capacity to compete with the invasive beachgrass species and subsequent encroachment of forest land.

By removing invasive beachgrass species, Parks Canada is protecting sensitive plants that rely on the sand dune ecosystem. With the help of committed staff, scientists and volunteers, Parks Canada is working to restore the open, dynamic sand dune ecosystem so that it can support a variety of indigenous plants and animals.

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(Photo Credit: Photo: Devon Francis)

Quest device tracks climate change

Quest University Canada student and member of the LEAP program, Kyle Martin, was featured in The Squamish Chief for creating a device that may help inform scientists about climate change and pollution. The device is a subsurface current drifter that works on a small scale and can be used in rivers and lakes. He has successfully tested it in Howe Sound, and hopes to leave it behind when he graduates to allow for other Quest students to study and develop.

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Quest University Canada will join with other schools to participate in an innovative research project with the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO). Amid concern that today’s postsecondary graduates are lacking critical employability skills, an international test on literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving will be given to first-year and graduating students at 11 colleges in Ontario in October 2016. A similar pilot for other universities, including Quest, will follow in 2017. The Essential Adult Skills Initiative (EASI) pilot project by the HEQCO marks the first time in Canada that core skills, considered foundational to success in work and life, will be evaluated at the postsecondary program and institutional level.

 

Using the internationally recognized Education & Skills Online assessment from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the first phase of the EASI pilot will test 350 first-year students at each of the participating colleges in October 2016; the second phase will test a similar number of graduating students from the institutions in February 2017. The students are drawn from specific programs at each institution, ranging from sciences and business to humanities and applied arts. The college final report, to be available by fall 2017, will evaluate the practicality and validity of the test and provide an initial sense of whether students have enhanced core skills in literacy, numeracy and technology-enabled problem-solving over the course of their postsecondary studies.

 

The 90-minute online test consists of a series of questions or tasks based on everyday scenarios, examining how the student comprehends and applies numeric and textual information. Students receive individualized reports on their skills proficiency and can compare their scores with OECD international data. Participating colleges and universities will have an evidence-based window on the entering and exiting skills of their students. The results for each college and university will be revealed only to the institution and will not be included in the study reports. “The initial goal is that colleges and universities use these results as instruments for quality enhancement,” says Harvey Weingarten, HEQCO president and CEO.

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J.W. McConnell Family Foundation Grant

J.W. McConnell Family Foundation Grant

On August 16th, 2016, Quest University Canada applied and received a LabWISE Training Grant from the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation and the Waterloo Institute for Social Innovation and Resilience (WISIR). This grant will allow Quest faculty to immerse in a rigorous and effective lab process to address a complex social challenge: a meaningful proposal for a First Nations Education Initiative at the university. This highly selective grant was developed using the WISIR Social Innovation Lab approach with the participation of the Waterloo Institute for Social Innovation and Resilience and the MaRS Solutions Lab, and with the support of the Rockefeller Foundation and the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation.

Quest faculty member Bianca Brigidi will serve as lab leader and will be joined by two other Quest faculty members, Negar Elmieh and Ahalya Satkunaratnam, as well as the former Directors of Aboriginal Education of the Squamish Nation, Gina Corpuz and Alice Guss, to initiate the program on October 18th, 2016 at the Musqueam Cultural Centre and Museum in Vancouver, BC.

The team will gather and collaborate to research, design, consult, and share a proposal for Indigenous cultures and education as part of Quest students’ learning experiences. This Lab process is divided into three distinctive phases: the Lab Methodology Phase, the Research and Workshops Phase, and the Preparation for Implementation Phase. The team will be running and facilitating workshops and discussions with the entire Quest community in order to ensure a participatory framework as part of the process.

The team of collaborators is eager to deepen the traditional territorial acknowledgement of our institution which is situated on First Nations’ lands. We do this by learning from the Squamish Nation’s history as lived and experienced locally. As Quest University Canada begins its second decade, our community moves forward to embody our ethical responsibility to be an active participant in building present relations with the Squamish Nation, the First Nations, and other indigenous communities. We see this work as part of the commitment to transform higher education institutions across Canada. Quest is known as a unique student-centred liberal arts university, and our receipt of this grant and commitment to this discovery process communicates to the world that we are invested in the perpetual work of creating a diverse and inclusive community of learners.

The Wildlife Society: Kimberly Dawe

Kimberly Dawe, a Wildlife Ecologist, Life Sciences Tutor at Quest University Canada, and the lead author of the recent study in Ecology and Evolution, was interviewed by The Wildlife Society based on her recent publication. Her study is proposing that the primary reason for the deer population expansion and migration is due to irreversible warming of Earth’s climate.

Summer Fellows: Aaron Slobodin

Aaron Slobodin, one of this year’s Quest Summer Fellows, has flourished in studying both pure mathematics and applied mathematics. His summer fellowship is on pure mathematics, and he just returned from the Canadian Undergraduate Mathematics Conference in Victoria where he spoke on his research in algebraic geometry. For his success in applied mathematics, earlier this year Aaron created an integer optimization program for employees of a restaurant in Victoria managed by his sister, and he presented on this work at the Canadian Undergraduate Computer Science Conference in Burnaby last month.
Recently, Aaron completed another milestone, implementing an optimal scheduling system for the Zephyr Cafe, arguably the most popular hangout in Squamish. Aaron’s program—which takes into account 2205 variables, up to 2900 constraints, 3 different job and shift types—now produces weekly schedules for the up to 30 staff hired at Zephyr.

Conservation Biology

Second year Quest student Elijah Cetas and Social Sciences Tutor Maï Yasué recently had a paper accepted for publication by Conservation Biology, one of the highest impact factor conservation journals. Their paper looks at “a systematic review of motivational values and conservation success in and around protected areas.” Elijah was a Quest Summer Fellow at the end of his first year during which time he researched and wrote the proposal—a new topic for him—reading close to 200 articles to complete the project. “This really is a testament to what a student can produce through the very close working relationship/mentoring that Quest students receive from faculty,” said Maï, who served as faculty host for Elijah’s fellowship.

Conservation Biology is a bimonthly peer-reviewed scientific journal of the Society for Conservation Biology, published by Wiley-Blackwell. It covers the science and practice of conserving Earth’s biological diversity, including issues concerning any of the Earth’s ecosystems or regions.