Robert Raeside

One year ago, as we were preparing to send out the newsletter to our alumni and alumnae, we were also preparing our "self-study document" for a review of the Geology program at Acadia.  It was conducted as part of a "cluster review" of Geology, Biology, and the burgeoning field of Environmental Science.  You can say what you like about the selection of the cluster (we certainly have!), but the fact is that since the introduction of the Environmental Science program four years ago, more and more of our teaching effort has been directed toward that side of Geology.  As part of the review process, the committee requested not one, but two, sets of comments from graduates of the last ten years, so many of you may be wondering what came of these comments.

First of all, we thank those who responded for the volume and careful preparation of their comments. The review committee remarked several times that it was impressed by the comments from graduates, that it put considerable weight on them in their assessment of the programs, and that your comments were by and large very positive about your experiences at Acadia.

The review team consisted of a geologist from Queen's University, a biologist from the University of New Brunswick, and a chemist from the University of Guelph.  They spent two very full days on campus, after reading our lengthy submissions, which documented every conceivable aspect of how we operate. We were very impressed by how insightful the reviewers were about the strengths as well as the problems and issues that exist at Acadia.

We won't bore you with all the details of the assessment, but we think you might like to get a flavour of the sorts of comments the department received from the reviewers. They wrote, "All our meetings, whether with faculty or with students, displayed evidence of excellent faculty-student interaction.  This was very much a two-way street; the faculty's commitment to the students was matched by an excellent, even fervent, appreciation by the students of the professors' hard work on their behalf.  This is something of which the University should be justifiably proud, and should do everything possible to foster and maintain. It comes about in large measure because of Acadia's strength and reputation as a small mostly under-graduate university, with small classes allowing strong faculty-student interaction."  Elsewhere they wrote, "The Geology Department has consistently provided an interactive undergraduate education emphasizing breadth in geology and utilizing the varied geology of Nova Scotia as a natural laboratory .... The quality of the graduates of this program is well recognized by both industry and graduate schools across Canada, and is reflected in one of the highest placement rates of any geology program in Canada .... This is a department in transition as it attempts to combine its traditional strength in solid earth sciences with emerging opportunities in environmental geology."

The major recommendations arising from the review, with relevance to Geology, are to continue to offer the program, to investigate hiring future faculty in the area of hydrogeology or environmental geology, to maintain research and increase funding to the graduate program, and to formalize a Geology option in the Environmental Science program.

Our experience has been that positive reviews, like this one, change things slowly, while negative reviews are acted on quickly to the detriment of the unit concerned.   The review statements are currently being considered by the University Senate, and as yet no specific changes have come about as a result.  However, some small things we have noticed, which might be a result of the very positive tone of the review, include a greater acceptance of Geology as a valid academic program on campus, the allocation of money toward the graduate program this year, and (so far) no threats to cut back on funding to Geology in the current financial crisis of the University.