VIEW FROM ACADIA - 1995
Changes in the expectations of entering students and changes in funding formulas from government are forcing universities in Canada to look seriously at what they are doing and how well they are doing it. Within Nova Scotia, the gradual push toward the amalgamation of the various Halifax-area universities has tended to shift the spotlight away from Acadia. However, within the university, changes to the established order and new initiatives kindle controversy, as always. On campus at the moment is a very lively debate on the need for and role of computers in undergraduate education. All students at Acadia have computer accounts, with access to the Internet and the World Wide Web - however the demand for that access is understandably enormous, and has reached a point where the university system has trouble satisfying it. As the use of computers as instructional tools continues to increase, the university has been exploring possible ways to provide them. One proposal is to have every student and faculty member "wired" (as if we weren't wired already!) to a much upgraded internal system, and all using a common note-book computer model. The cost would be immense, but so is the demand, and Acadia appears ready to establish an example in the application of computers to university education in Canada.
Changes are also prominent in the Geology Department this year, as Jack Colwell steps down as department head. For nine years, he has coerced students into Maths, Physics and Chemistry (generally against their will!) and cajoled faculty to go easy on the students (so what if they can't understand or remember 100% of what we told them when they write their exams!) Nine years in the same office results in the accumulation of a lot of paper - maybe there is something to be said for a mandatory switching of offices every five years. Jack spent much of the spring and early summer sorting, filing, throwing and organizing, until finally in one fell swoop everything left was moved into his new office along the corridor. Rob Raeside, who took over as head, then spent six weeks resorting, refiling, and reorganizing. They don't train professors to file, so probably neither of them got it right!
The new Environmental Science program started up at Acadia this year - with some immediate effects on the Geology department. Only twenty new first-year students were initially accepted into the program, although the demand was much greater. However, many students already at Acadia had been planning their degree on the proposed B.Sc. in Environmental Science, and were ready to switch into it as soon as it was approved. One student was so organized that he will likely graduate (with Honours) at the spring 1996 convocation. The impact on the Geology department is an immediate increase in enrolment in the first-year majors course (now up to 98 - the highest in 14 years), and in the areas of geomorphology (which was closed at 30 registrants, although we managed to squeeze 36 in), terrane analysis techniques (a descendant of the air photo and remote sensing courses, which will require two lab slots) and sedimentary geology.
Students in Geology (as always) seem very concerned about gaining as much experience as possible at Acadia that will benefit them after they graduate. Two new ventures this year have helped to serve this need. The Geology department now offers a co-op program, whereby students can take a work term of four months with an industrial or government partner. So far, Geology students have worked at the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources, Bedford Institute of Oceanography, and Parrsboro Geological Museum, with prospects at the Potacan potash mine in New Brunswick. The co-op work terms are not for academic credit, but within the department a second venture for credit was the establishment of an internship program for senior students. This course was conceived and organized by Nancy Van Wagoner, and involved a class of five students working with an industrial partner (Earth and Ocean Resources) to develop a geological-land-use-hydrological data base of Kings County, and to isolate specific land-use concerns in the area. Senior Geology and computer science students were involved in the course, which ended with a very professional presentation of findings to interested parties.
We were fortunate to welcome several visitors to the department this year - Dr. A. Mahtab of GEODATA (Turin, Italy) told us about an undersea-tunnel solution for linking Brier Island to mainland Nova Scotia, John Waldron (St.Mary's University) discussed the geology of the Port-au-Port Peninsula in Newfoundland, Mike Rushton (Aquaterra, Halifax) showed us some techniques in hydrogeology, Les Fyffe (N.B. Department of Natural Resources) discussed the tectonic evolution of the New Brunswick Appalachians, and Simon Jackson (the 1995-95 APICS distinguished lecturer) introduced us to the laser-ablation-microprobe-induced-coupled-plasma-mass-spectrometer and the feats it can do to analyze trace elements in minerals. In the fall term, our first visitor was Dr. Paul Olsen of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, who has been investigating the dinosaurian fossils of the Minas Basin area. Wayne Goodfellow from the G.S.C. was the Geological Society of the CIM visiting lecturer and spoke on the Middle Valley hydrothermal system in the Juan de Fuca Ridge, and on the genesis of ancient Pb-Zn deposits, and Guy Narbonne (Queens University - GAC Robinson Lecturer) spoke on the global correlations, tectonic reconstructions and evolution of early animals in Neoproterozoic rocks of the Yukon and NWT. Most recently, we welcomed Marcos Zentilli from Dalhousie University, who described the formation of the giant Chuquicamata copper ore deposit in the Andes. We really appreciate these visitors, and would welcome alumni who have experience that they might wish to share with students still here.
Also visiting us this year is Laura Grecco, from the Universidad Nacional del Sur, in Bahia Blanca, Argentina. While at Acadia, she is working with Sandra Barr on granitic rocks from Argentina and on similar rocks in the Cape Breton Highlands. She is here with her husband, Eduardo Gomez, who is based at the Acadia Centre for Estuarine Research, and her three daughters, who are enjoying their first experience of winter with snow.