On November 10, members of the Bishop’s University JUMP mentorship program attended the Canadian Club luncheon at which the formal naming of the ‘Maple League’, an alliance of four small, primarily undergraduate post-secondary institutions in Eastern Canada, was announced.
“We are public universities committed to providing the best possible education for undergraduates from across Canada and around the world.” These words, spoken by Michael Goldbloom, Bishop’s University President and Vice Chairman, form a de facto mission statement for the league that includes Bishop’s, Mount Allison, StFX and Acadia.
Accustomed to competing for new students and faculty as well as on the sports field, the Maple League Universities realize that the model of the small, residential, undergraduate university in Canada is rare but highly desirable. Each of the schools has fewer than 4,500 students, resulting in an intimate learning environment that promotes regular and direct student-teacher interaction not seen at the larger universities. In addition, all four are residential universities meaning that students are more likely to become part of, and contribute to, the local communities. A Global worldview is also supported as over 40% of students are from out of province and international students on each campus represent more than sixty countries from around the world.
The formal naming of the “Maple League” results from the successful three year collaboration between the universities which have held joint academic conferences and lectures, as well as student competitions and, just this year, are introducing classes hosted by one university in the league which students at the other universities will be able to take without leaving their campus.
A key goal of the ‘Maple League’ is for professors to serve not only as teachers, but as mentors, something that is unlikely to happen at larger institutions with typical undergraduate classroom sizes of 300. In fact, this collaboration addresses the deterioration of undergraduate education in Canada driven by a funding model that incents universities to grow undergraduate enrolment while dedicating resources to graduate programs and research opportunities.
The JUMP group in attendance listened with interest as Bishop’s University’s President and Vice Chairman told them that recognition of the value of leaving home to attend a residential university is declining. As Mr. Goldbloom noted:
“Two-thirds of Canadian university students live within 20 kilometres of their university. And only one in ten of them go to university out-of-province. So we have work to do to help Canadians understand that we have a different and highly-regarded model of undergraduate education. We believe that we can be most effective in raising awareness amongst prospective students and their families if we work together. We know that four voices speaking in unison are better than one.”
The final question posed during the Q &A asked what the Maple League was doing, or planning to do for students in terms of career counselling and preparation for post-graduation “real” life. Members of JUMP in attendance shared a wry smile hoping that our work and conversations to date will translate into a synchronized effort between the universities and alumni of the other schools to build an expanded and robust network of mentorship programs.