Past Presidents

Read the personal reflections or biographies of each of the Society’s past presidents.

  • Christopher Knapper

    University of Waterloo
    1981 to 1988

    “It was in 1981 that a group of us (Mei-Fei Elrick and Don McIntosh from Guelph, Alan Blizzard and Dale Roy from McMaster, Harry Murray and Colin Baird from Western, Ron Sheese from Toronto, and myself) decided to launch STLHE. We had no financial assets, no idea of the potential interest, and only a vaguely formulated set of goals and activities. What we did have was a tradition of annual conferences in Ontario devoted to teaching and learning in higher Education. The latter were excellent social and professional occasions, but were attended primarily by instructional developers, and we felt a real need to involve “rank-and-file” faculty—the university and college teachers who spend a large amount of their working lives in the classroom. Our hope was that the creation of a societylike STLHE would provide a focus for those professors who regard teaching as their major commitment, who are anxious to explore ways to enhance teaching and learning and wish to share their own ideas with colleagues.

    – Christopher Knapper, May 1987

  • Alan Blizzard

    McMaster University
    1988 to 1995

    The Society saw considerable changes during Alan’s presidency, many of which he initiated. These included a considerable increase in membership, establishment of the STLHE listserv, the “new initiatives” program for funding small instructional development projects, the institution of “travelling workshops” in different parts of the country, the encouragement of annual conferences outside Ontario, and the gradual democratization of the Society’s procedures. Alan participated enthusiastically in running the Society, hosting one of the conferences, and publishing the newsletter. Until recently, we were unable to afford any assistance with these tasks, and the President bore the main brunt of the work with help from whatever colleagues he could cajole into volunteering.

    Principal among these was Dale Roy, who served as the Society’s Treasurer, unofficial secretary, and general booster throughout Alan’s tenure. Dale also helped plan and run what is perhaps STLHE’s most successful achievement, the 3M Teaching Fellowships Program.

    – Alan Blizzard, June 1995

  • Pat Rogers

    York University
    1995 to 2000

    When Alan Blizzard left office, he had already begun the process of expanding the Steering Committee to include representation from all regions across the country. Another step in this inclusion process was taken two years ago when the annual general meeting ratified our first Constitution—one we carefully wrote to reflect current practice while providing enough flexibility to adjust and adapt to changing circumstances. This year we tested a new procedure for electing regional representatives to the Steering Committee, a procedure we hope will make appointment to this body more transparent. As a means for encouraging and supporting local initiatives, and increasing participation from across the country, we also began to hold the annual winter meetings of instructional development officers in different locations each year.

    Some of the exciting initiatives undertaken recently by members include: Positive Pedagogy, pre-conference workshops for instructional developers, our listserv, regular meetings of Ontario IDO officers, and an electronic directory of 3M Teaching Fellows.

    We have recently initiated the Alan Blizzard Award, a worthy new venture coupled with a promising partnership with McGraw-Hill Ryerson–Higher Education Division. We have produced our own Green Guide series of publications on teaching and learning. Our Ethical Principles in University Teaching hasbeen distributed in both official languages across Canada and has been reprinted in numerous newsletters, journals, anmd other publications. It isastounding that there are people who still do not know who we are or what we stand for. What strategies then might we pursue to increase our influence and hence our ability to contribute to the improvement of teaching in Canadian higher education?

    – Pat Rogers, June 2000, Excerpted from TLHE, No. 29

  • Gary Poole

    University of British Columbia
    2000 to 2004

    One of the often-heard buzz phrases when I became President was “national voice,” as in “we must make STLHE a national voice for teaching and learning in higher education.” Thus, we embarked on a Strategic Planning exercise which has taken over two years of work. Over this time, have we become that “national voice” people were talking about? Not yet. However, we are now poised to take this on. We have four strategic goals that define the Society, and we have new structures in place that clearly define the working relationships with such groups as the 3M Teaching Fellows and the Educational Developers Caucus. Representatives from these groups now sit on our Steering Committee, and each is engaged in a range of activitieswith great potential.

    And there is the emergence of the Institute for the Advancement of Teaching in Higher Education, with which STLHE is forging an important new relationship. With careful planning, STLHE will be able to work with the Institute to provide valuable support for effective teaching in Canada and around the world. Another important step has been the establishment of a permanent office for our secretariat. Up to this point in our history, the administrative work of STLHE has been handled on a volunteer basis by some very dedicated people. This will allow us to manage membership-related work more efficiently, as well as our publications and other projects to come.

    My survival in this position is attributable to virtually everything else I have talked about—the people who have stepped forward to make a difference—those who have hosted conferences, written articles, made plans and presentations, attended long and demanding meetings, summarized those meetings and written reports, given up countless hours travelling across the country, taken on major positions within the Steering Committee, and on it goes.

    – Gary Poole, June 2004, Excerpted from TLHE, No. 37

  • Julia Christensen Hughes

    University of Guelph
    2004 to 2007

    It was truly an honor to serve as President of STLHE and to have had the opportunity to work with such an outstanding group of people; members of the Society and colleagues around the world who care deeply about teaching and learning in higher education. Through the efforts of many, and in keeping with our strategic directions, much was accomplished between 2004 and 2007:

    We advanced the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL). Along with the Educational Developers Caucus, we hosted a number of national events bringing clarity to what the SoTL is, why it is important, how it should be assessed and supported, and why increased government funds are needed for this important work. Our annual conference, publications and awards programs provided important opportunities to disseminate and celebrate the SoTL. In support of this, our newsletter—Teaching and Learning in Higher Education—took on a whole new look and focus. We advocated for the improvement of teaching and learning practice. STLHE became much better known on the national stage. Members of the STLHE Board of Directors became increasingly invited to speak on behalf of the Society at national conferences and think tanks, and to comment on noteworthy events and initiatives (such as Ontario Government’s “Rae Review.” Projects by the Council of 3M National Teaching Fellows, such as the publication of Making a Difference/Toute la Différence, helped profile issues of importance to Society members.

    We became a more inclusive organization attracting increased numbers of faculty and educational developers from the College sector, as well as students and administrators. Two Special Interest Groups (SIGs) were established; one representing the interests of writing centre professionals and the other the interests of librarians. We also introduced a new portfolio that will champion graduate students and TA development issues. And, we continued to develop ideas to help us better meet the needs of our francophone colleagues.

    We strengthened our partnerships. The work of the Society was advanced through our long-standing partnerships with 3M Canada, McGraw-Hill Ryerson, the International Consortium for Educational Developers (ICED) and the Professional and Organizational Development (POD) Network. We also forged important new relationships with the Institute for the Advancement of Teaching in Higher Education (IATHE), MacLean’s, and Magna Publications.

    In addition to all of the above, we made considerable progress on the administration and financial management of the Society. Sylvia Avery accepted a three-year contract as Administrator, all Board members made progress within specified portfolios of responsibility, and our administrative processes became much more transparent (through, for example, open nominations and elections for the Board of Directors). We also made significant progress towards incorporation. These accomplishments were made possible, in part, by our extremely successful institutional membership campaign. Attracting over 50 institutional members in 2007, the Society’s financial position was considerably strengthened.

    As I step down as President, I am delighted to be able to pass the baton to Joy Mighty in whose leadership I have every confidence. I look forward to seeing how the Society will continue to evolve in the year’s ahead.

    Julia Christensen Hughes

  • Joy Mighty

    Queens University
    2007 to 2010

    I am honoured to have been given the opportunity to serve not only the hundreds of STLHE members, but also the thousands of students all across Canada who are the ultimate beneficiaries of the work that we do in the STLHE. When I was elected President I made a commitment to the STLHE vision of enhancing the effectiveness of teaching and learning in Canada’s institutions of higher education. I believe that during my term we made enormous progress towards the achievement of the strategic goals that stem from this vision.

    For example, we continued to advance the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL). In particular, we launched the Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (CJSoTL), a bilingual electronic journal devoted to the dissemination of quality peer-reviewed scholarship that systematically addresses the teaching and learning interests of universities and community colleges across Canada. We also launched Collected Essays on Learning and Teaching (CELT), an anthology of peer-reviewed papers written by presenters at the Society’s annual conference. In addition, we established an STLHE SoTL Advisory Panel to help us move the SoTL forward as a national initiative, and partnered with Mount Royal University’s Institute for Scholarship of Teaching and Learning to host the 2010 SoTL Leadership Forum, a gathering of Canadian academic leaders committed to understanding and improving student learning and faculty teaching through systematic scholarly inquiry and classroom research. Earlier, we collaborated with the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) to organize and facilitate a symposium that brought together an international group of educational experts to take stock of the existing research on teaching and learning in higher education with a view to determining what is still unknown, and therefore what new research needs to be done, as well as what new policies and practices need to be put in place to enhance the quality of education in our universities and colleges. Presentations from the symposium subsequently formed the basis for a book entitled Taking Stock: Research on Teaching and Learning in Higher Education which I was delighted to co-edit with my predecessor, Julia Christensen Hughes.

    Another highlight has been enhancing the Society’s reputation nationally and internationally. We fostered and strengthened strategic alliances with federal and provincial government agencies and granting councils, national and international professional associations, postsecondary educational institutions, and private sector organizations in order to create institutional, provincial and national environments that both enhance the effectiveness of teaching and learning and promote the research, teaching and learning nexus. In particular, we strengthened well-established relationships such as those with 3M Canada, McGraw-Hill Ryerson and Magna Publications who are, respectively, sponsors of the 3M National Teaching Fellowship, the Alan Blizzard Award and the Christopher Knapper Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2010, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of our partnership with 3M Canada. In addition, we consolidated our relationships with Maclean’s Magazine and University Affairs. We also strengthened our relationships with some of our sister organizations in other parts of the world including the US-Based Professional Organizational Development (POD) Network and the Higher Education and Research Development Society of Australasia (HERDSA), agreeing to publish in the respective newsletters of these organizations what has become known as the “International Column” that is written by each President in turn. We re-affirmed our membership in the International Consortium on Educational Development (ICED), and established new partnerships with “younger” organizations whose objectives and values are consistent with ours. Such organizations include the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (ISSOTL) and Academics for Higher Education and Development (AHED), agreeing to collaborate with the latter on projects aimed at improving the capacity of institutions of higher education in developing countries.

    Our enhanced national and international reputation resulted in numerous invitations for STLHE Board members to speak at conferences or for the STLHE to collaborate with our strategic partners on various projects. For example, at the national level, we collaborated with the Canadian Association of Graduate Studies (CAGS) and the three major federal granting agencies (the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council – NSERC, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council – SSHRC, and the Canadian Institute of Health Research – CIHR) on an initiative to identify the most important professional skills as learning outcomes for graduate programs in Canada. This collaboration has had several implications for the development of graduate curricula and was a significant step toward enhancing the quality of graduate education across Canada.

    At the international level, I was invited to speak at the “Making University Teaching Count” conference in Germany hosted by the Canadian Embassy in partnership with the German academic exchange organization DAAD, the British Council, the Fulbright Foundation and the Australian Group of Eight. Other international projects have included speaking about the work of the STLHE to an emerging network of educational developers in Beijing, China, presenting on educational development issues in Canada at an international symposium in Sendai, Japan, and delivering the keynote address at the annual conference of one of STLHE’s sister organizations, the Higher Education Learning and Teaching Association of Southern Africa (HELTASA). Clearly, such initiatives and collaborations are a testament to the vital, influential role that STLHE is playing in post-secondary education in Canada and in the rest of the world.

    During my term, we also extended the concept of inclusivity, adopting it as a guiding principle that underlies everything we do. In this regard, we took action to include in our membership all types of institutions (e.g. colleges, university colleges, polytechnics, universities) and people (e.g. educational developers, educational librarians, faculty, students, administrators). As a result, we maintained and increased our levels of institutional and individual memberships respectively, despite the severe economic constraints facing our sector. We continued to encourage the formation of Special Interest Groups (SIGs) to ensure that members’ diverse interests and needs are met. We now have three SIGS: one for people in writing centres and others interested in developing student writing; another for persons interested in teaching and learning in the college sector; and a third for persons interested in the advancement of teaching assistants and graduate students. In the meantime, our two constituencies, the Council of 3M National Fellows and the Educational Developers Caucus, continue to thrive with several successful initiatives each year. Other efforts to be more inclusive include the establishment of two new at-large positions on the Board of Directors, one representing regular members and the other representing students, as well as the appointment for the first time of co-editors of our newsletter, one expressly for the purpose of increasing Francophone submissions.

    We also streamlined and stabilized our administrative and financial services. We renewed Sylvia Avery’s contract in the position of Administrator, adopted new By-Laws and finally became officially incorporated as a not-for-profit organization. Other achievements include the establishment of a new award recognizing innovation in teaching and learning, and the STLHE Poster Prize which simultaneously honours Pat Rogers, a former STLHE president, and recognizes a poster of exceptional quality. We also created a new STLHE logo that imaginatively captures the dynamic and collaborative spirit of the STLHE community.

    None of the accomplishments highlighted above could have been possible without the commitment of the many members of STLHE who selflessly volunteer their time and expertise in countless ways to advance our mission of enhancing teaching and learning in higher education. I thank especially the members of our Board of Directors for their continuous support and extraordinarily hard work.

    Finally, I was delighted to pass the presidential baton to Arshad Ahmad who has made a significant contribution to the STLHE in various capacities over the past two decades and I look forward to working closely with him in his role as STLHE President.