Hello to everyone.
I subscribed to this list about 4 months ago and while I haven't yet
participated, I've enjoyed many of your discussions from the periphery.
I'm now joining in as a neophyte to ask for some advice and assistance
on the development of a job description for a writing/learning
counsellor. This is basically a new position at my college, so even the
title is a little undefined. A little background on our situation might
For the past two years, I've been the Assistant Dean of Academic Studies
at the Ontario College of Art and Design. For much of that time I have
been part of a College-wide group of people lobbying for the
establishment of a learning/writing support centre, staffed by a
full-time position. We now have the support of the administration to
begin this work in earnest, along with a small budget of $70,000.
OCAD has about 1900 students, an increasing number of whom are ESL, as
well as the usual assortment of students who experience academic
difficulty for any number of other personal, systemic and institutional
reasons. While we have had a very good support service for students with
special needs in place for a number of years, we have had only a very
small service for other students in need of additional learning support.
Running for six years, this programme has been staffed by a part-time
Literacy Coordinator and funded by a charitable foundation. Prinarily
providing peer tutoring, this service has suffered greatly from minimal
funding, lack of institutional commitment, isolation from the
curriculum, and a litany of other stuff that I'm sure will be familiar
to most of you. The service has been better than nothing, but it is in
great need of expansion and development.
At the same time, OCAD has been going through a kind of institutional
educational/cultural paradigm shift: the percentage of academic
requirements for graduation have increased over the last five years.
Now the College is applying for degree-granting status which would mean
a further increase in academic requirements. Traditionally, academics at
OCAD have been the poor cousin, inverting the historical relationship
between studio and academic curriculum in what might be termed
text-based post-secondary institutions: my programme (encompassing
curricula in social sciences, humanities, art/design history, theory,
criticism) has always been under-resourced and considered by many to be
"not very important", even unnecessary for students training to be
visual artists and designers. As a result, students have effectively
been discouraged from developing traditional academic skills, including
oral and written communication and research skills. Another symptom of
the traditionally marginal status of academics at this College is the
fact that my position, which administers 20% of the College curriculum
is a half-time position, and is identified as an assistant dean, rather
than dean or equivalent. Needless to say, all of this has combined to
hamstring students' academic success and frustrate faculty no end.
I realise that I've gone into a fair bit of detail. I hope you are
bearing with me. What I am looking for is ideas on the development of a
job description for this new position which will be part teaching, part
supervision and training of peer tutors, part program development, part
liason/advisory with curriculum managers and faculty. Structurally, it
will report to my own position, so as to anchor the programme to the
curriculum. It will also be supported by a standing advisory committee
composed of reps from studio and academic areas of study, as well as
Student Services, Special Needs and Admissions. We are hoping to post
asap so as to have someone in place by the end of July to begin planning
programming and develop a mission statement for the Learning Centre,
etc. Because we are looking to the expertise that such a person would
bring to helping us develop a long term plan for programming, financial
support, mission statements, structural issues, and etc, this will
initially be a one year renewable term. The plan is that it will become
a permanent position at the end of the first contract.
Questions include title, situation vis. the faculty association, salary
ranges, experience and professional qualifications. We want someone who
can develop a programme for students working within a visual art and
design curriculum, and who has experience and qualifications in adult
learning and ESL. What are reasonable expectations of such a position? I
am particularly concerned that this not turn into an impossible workload
for one person to carry. (Although I am pretty sure that we need a real
dynamo!) Would it be possible to get copies of comparable job
descriptions at your institutions? Any ideas, feedback, suggestions on
setting up this programme would be very much appreciated.
The other issue we are struggling with is assessment. We have been
administering an writing sample as a part of the Admissions process, but
have cancelled this because of its all around questionable value. We
will be looking to the person who fills this position to advise the
College on this issue.
I hope that all of this does not seem an impossibly tall order. I think
that it could be a very exciting opportunity for the right person.
Looking forward to your responses.
Bronwen Cunningham - [log in to unmask]