What distinguishes Guelph, writes SHARON DOYLE DRIEDGER, is a strong sense of community and a pervasive belief that undergraduate learning is inextricably linked to research
SHARON DOYLE DRIEDGER,
THE AMBIANCE is more trendy restaurant than residence cafeteria. Creelman Marketplace, the quaint, country-kitchen eatery at the University of Guelph, offers such student pleasers as made-to-order pizzas and quesadillas, gourmet vegetarian fare and a sixmetre salad bar. Prefer a more substantial meal? The chef will cook up one of his specials—chicken Caesar or mussels linguine, perhaps—on the spot. What if the stew is too spicy? The tofu a mistake? In a move
that might bankrupt most food operations, students are guaranteed a refund if they don’t like what they’re served.
Clearly, Guelph—the top-ranked university in the Comprehensive category—takes pride in catering to students in every aspect of academic life, from the caf to the classroom. Created in 1964, the university is re-
nowned for its life sciences, a strength that springs naturally from its roots in the 140year-old Ontario Veterinary College. Dedicated faculty members, many of whom are involved in innovative research, are advancing the university’s reputation as they push the boundaries of knowledge in genetics, proteomics, biotechnology, aquatic and environmental sciences and other emerging fields. Recent discoveries: a new form of ice touted as a breakthrough for
organ preservation; a component in red wine that could fight breast cancer; using tobacco to produce disease-fighting antibodies.
Impressive achievements, and ones that benefit the learning environment. “We believe strongly that there is an inextricable link between learning and research,” says president Mordechai Rozanski, “and this must be brought into the classroom.” Consequently, the university is taking deliberate steps to ensure that students have a chance to become involved. One such initiative, the Summer Undergraduate Research Assistantship Program, provides opportunities for more than 200 students to get handson experience in the field or the lab. As well, there are some 500 fulland part-time opportunities during the school year. Even firstand second-year students can be involved in conducting a fish census, extracting DNA from tissue samples or measuring hormones. Meanwhile, first-year students in the new four-year bachelor program in arts and science will get a close-up view of the inquiry process in small seminars.
Guelph is often stereotyped as an agricultural school. “We’re proud of that tradition, but we’ve moved beyond it,” says Rozanski. In fact, more than a third of the university’s 13,000 full-time undergrads are enrolled in arts, humanities and social sci-
ence programs. The English and drama departments boast such distinguished names as playwright Judith Thompson, awardwinning authors Thomas King and Janice Kulyk Keefer. Meanwhile, Stephen Henighan, a profin the department of languages and literature, was recently nominated for a Governor General’s Award for his provocative When Words De?iy the World.
In every discipline, Guelph places a high priority on ensuring students’ academic success. Jeffrey Ramkellawan, a first-year environmental engineering student from Toronto, remembers how his mother often warned him that he would get little personal attention. “My mother went to a big university and she would say, ‘You’re going to be all by yourself.’ ” But Ramkellawan, who has taken advantage of late-night tutorials led by senior engineering students— one of several programs set up by the Centre for New Students—says his mother need not have worried.
With more than 40 per cent of students living on campus, Guelph is a highly residential, tight-knit community. The Academic Clusters program, which assigns students to dorms with up to 20 classmates, speeds up the bonding process and makes group studies more convenient. Ramkellawan, on the other hand, chose Arts House—one of four
Living-Learning programs—so he could associate with others who shared his creative interests. “I didn’t want to be totally immersed in engineering,” says Ramkellawan. “There are a lot more experiences out there; university is the place to do it.”
What distinguishes the Guelph experience for many, however, is the sense that students come first. All of them. “Coming to university was my first independent experience,” says Chad Riopel, a fourth-year student with cerebral palsy. “I wasn’t sure how it was going to work out, but the faculty has been very accommodating. They’ve pretty much eliminated the barriers.” Last year, Riopel, a marine and freshwater biology major, was able to participate in a threeweek tropical ecology field course in Australia, with the support of faculty who applied for a grant to cover the cost of a personal assistant. At one point, a faculty member literally piggybacked the student—who relies on a scooter to move around campus-over rough terrain. “We spent two weeks on this gorgeous remote island on the Great Barrier Reef putting together a research project,” says the 22-year-old from Kincardine, Ont. “It was one of the best experiences of my life.” When it comes to their experience at Guelph, many students would say exactly the same thing. HI
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