When Atlantic Canada’s universities collaborate, even small institutions deliver Ivy League-style services to their students. Below are examples of how our Atlantic Universities focus on providing services to students.

For this prof, Science Atlantic just adds up

In the 1980s, when Robert van den Hoogen was an undergrad at Saint Mary’s University, one of his professors sent him off to a Science Atlantic (then known as the Atlantic Provinces Inter-University Committee on the Sciences) student math conference at Mount Saint Vincent University.

It was a eureka moment. Dr. van den Hoogen realized there were other people like him – math lovers – studying in the universities of Atlantic Canada. There he was, among his peers, in an environment that suggested a career in mathematics was possible.

Today, Dr. van den Hoogen teaches mathematics at St. Francis Xavier University (StFX). In his research, he probes the reasons the universe is expanding at a rate that Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity did not anticipate. (If van den Hoogen comes up with a plausible hypothesis about why gravity doesn’t work as forecast in the heavens, the cosmos will be his oyster.)

Shortly after beginning his career at StFX, Dr. van den Hoogen co-organized an Undergraduate Math and Computer Science conference (the same conference he attended as a student) as the university’s Science Atlantic math representative. He is still involved with Science Atlantic, recently serving as the organization’s Chair of the Board, Chair of Strategic Planning, and Chair of the Governance Committee.

Science Atlantic has been helping students, faculty, and others enrich their opportunities and experiences in science education and research since 1962 by connecting faculties across its network of 18 post-secondary institutions. It plays a role in co-ordinating academic conferences, lecture tours and faculty workshops. It has conducted one-on-one interviews with professors and teachers across Atlantic Canada to gain an understanding of what inspires and challenges them.

All that work is important, but van den Hoogen says the “jewel in the crown” at Science Atlantic is the sort of subject-specific student conference he attended almost four decades ago. For example, it may be easy to bring 100 physics students together at the University of Toronto, he said, but the smaller universities in Atlantic Canada create communities of student physicists through Science Atlantic’s annual conferences.

Dr. van den Hoogen underlines the importance of these conferences by telling a story about a student he once took to a conference in Newfoundland and Labrador. The student had never been on an airplane and rarely left Nova Scotia soil. Today, his former student is an internationally recognized scientist working overseas. Science Atlantic sent the young scholar out on a journey that led all the way to science superstardom.

CAAL – Lowering the cost of learning, but not the value

Guess what – textbooks no longer have to be heavy, expensive, and difficult to edit. Thanks to the support of the Council of Atlantic Academic Libraries (CAAL), professor can create write digital textbooks that are free to students – and sometimes developed in collaboration with them.

Support for free and open digital textbooks (OERs) is just one of many CAAL programs. This regional network of Atlantic Canada’s public university and college libraries has a broad mandate to leverage community and collaboration to advance scholarship, innovation, diversity, and accessibility in teaching, learning, research, and student experiences.

Today, OERs are already saving students hundreds of thousands of dollars, says Cynthia Holt, CAAL’s Executive Director. By March of 2023, digital textbooks had saved students in the region $335,000 (and counting), money they can use on other things, such as rent and food. One OER text, Introduction to Marketing, has by itself saved students in Atlantic Canada $68,210. That number will grow each semester as additional students use the text.

At St. Francis Xavier University, Dr. Erin Mazerolle and her colleagues used a CAAL grant to update an open textbook, Introduction to Psychology and Neuroscience. And they did so as a result of a virtual hackathon at which students reviewed the textbook and suggested improvements. Dr. Mazerolle says the result was the development of a text that was more inclusive, more accessible, and more relevant to students as an open educational resource.

CAAL also collaborates with its members in the collective licensing of electronic journals, ebooks, streaming media, and other materials. By joining together to license these resources, member universities and colleges realize significant savings. Other CAAL resources, such as the Cochrane Library (a health information database), are freely available to all residents of the Atlantic region. Clearly, the value of CAAL’s licensing service goes beyond just faculty, staff, and students.

EduNova’s Worldly Ways

EduNova Co-operative Ltd. takes Nova Scotia to the world, and brings the world to Nova Scotia.

EduNova has been doing this since 2004, when it was founded to recruit international students to the province through trade missions and recruitment trips abroad.

The non-profit association of education and training also brings students to Nova Scotia through familiarization tours for agents, counsellors and students.

At the same time, EduNova understands that it must continuously adapt to attract new students to the province. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it worked closely with its members to adopt new technologies and deliver international student recruitment events online.

As a result, Nova Scotia’s welcome messages now travel farther afield than ever. Students who may not have had the opportunity to travel to in-person recruitment events in the past can now learn about opportunities to study, work, and live in Nova Scotia at the click of a button.

The association understands its success is based in the strength of the educational institutions it serves. For 200 years, Nova Scotia has been a centre of educational excellence, and it’s no accident that the province is now recognized as the learning capital of Canada, with more academic institutions per capita than any other region of the country.

International students who travel here know they can study in French or in English, obtaining affordable education that is globally recognized.

Many also choose to stay in the province, bringing with them the youthful energy, educability and talents Nova Scotia needs.  

Since 2016, EduNova Study and Stay™ program has attracted 400 international students to the province, 86 per cent of whom have stayed here to build their lives and careers.

Many alumni from the free 10-month program – designed for international students completing their post-secondary studies in the province – help attract new Study and Stay scholars and mentor them while they’re here.

Success builds upon success. This has been the EduNova way since the organization was founded 19 years ago as an association of 16 PSE institutions. Today, membership is comprised of 10 universities, the 13-campus Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC), the public K-12 schools through the Nova Scotia International Student Program (NSISP), independent schools and private language schools.

CATNS – a navigator for the PSE journey

Planning for university and college can be an overwhelming experience, but the 11 universities and colleges that make up the Council on Admission and Transfer for Nova Scotia (CATNS) collaborate to make the process easier.

Visitors to MyNSFuture.ca, for instance, can chart their path through the PSE sector . They will discover that students and families should start planning their post-secondary future as early as Grade 10.  They can also review the education options available in Nova Scotia; connect to each university or college; and find information on financial assistance.

Students applying to university or college can also benefit from an efficient admissions process. Applicants no longer have to mail paper copies of transcripts. MyTranscripts enables them to send their records through a secure electronic network that allows universities and colleges to make admission decisions quickly and fairly. 

CATNS also manages programs to make life easier for post-secondary students.

MyTransferCredits can help students make the most of learning they have already completed. If they decide their best opportunities for academic success lie at a different university or college, they can use this tool to investigate whether they can transfer credits for a single course, multiple years of previous work, or an entire college program. In some cases, students who have completed a diploma at the college level can then complete a degree in two years at a university.

MySpring&SummerCourses can help a student complete a degree or obtain extra credits through spring and summer courses offered at any of Nova Scotia’s universities or colleges. A student heading home to Halifax for the summer, for example, could select an eligible course at Saint Mary’s University that the student can transfer back to the next semester at Acadia.

All of CATNS’ tools deliver on its mandate to develop and manage collaborative systems that support student enrolment, student mobility and data portability. Its mission is to get better and better at delivering on this mandate, as new opportunities to help students arise.

Read the full article: Atlantic Canada’s Universities: Collaboration that works for the region