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Lakehead University Magazine Fall/Winter 2008

What's Special about Studying in Orillia?

Hands-on, Interdisciplinary, and Inquiry-based learning

By Jill Ventura

Anthropology students excavate a mock architectural site in downtown Orillia

When attending any university, you expect to hit the books hard during your first year, and not stop until it's time to graduate.

Being at Lakehead University Orillia Campus is no different. The institution expects discipline and determination from its students. However, in addition to writing essays and reports, students get the opportunity for some hands-on, interdisciplinary, and Inquiry-based learning.

A good example of hands-on learning is Professor Tim Kaiser's second-year anthropology class, where his students excavated a mock archaeological site located in a vacant lot behind the downtown campus at Heritage Place, 1 Colborne St., West. It was an exercise he nicknamed Sandbox 101.

"The course was originally designed to be a book- and-lecture-taught survey of archaeological method and theory, but the small class size inspired me to take my students out into the dirt," says Kaiser.

He began by hiring a back-hoe to excavate a trench which he filled with layers of soil. In each layer, he created a variety of archaeological features such as broken pottery and stone tools. The class was divided into eight groups and each was assigned to a one-metre square. Working in groups of two, they took turns trowelling, sieving, recording, and making detailed maps of their finds. The unanimous conclusion was that, as a project, Sandbox 101 beats a term paper, any day.

Lakehead University Orillia Campus offers academic programs in Arts and Science, Education, Business Administration, and Social Work. In the first and the fourth year of both the Education and Arts and Science programs, it is mandatory that students take a year-long Inquiry class designed to encourage students to think "outside the box." This gives students a feeling for the exciting process of discovery and gets them responsible for their own learning, says Professor Alice den Otter, Chair of Interdisciplinary Studies.

Last year there were six professors in Orillia who team-taught the Inquiry classes: Derek Irwin, Daphne Bonar, Timothy Kaiser, Alice den Otter, Sreekumari Kuriserry, and Reg Horne. In 2005-06, the students chose to investigate the subject of sexuality in the winter term. Last year, the subject was war. Through intensive research, problem solving, and readings of works from different viewpoints, Inquiry students are taught to ask the "right questions" to get answers that others may miss.

Linda Rodenburg
Linda Rodenburg
"Inquiry-based learning enables the professor to function as a facilitator of lifelong learning," says Linda Rodenburg a Lakehead graduate and a Professor of English. "I love the challenge of helping students ask questions and make connections between their courses... by learning how to tackle an issue from a few new angles, university graduates will be better equipped to solve problems and come up with new ideas once they are working in the field of their choice. As well, they will be able to better understand and work with others from different fields in order to provide an optimum result," she says.

Rodenburg completed an HBA and a BA/BEd (Concurrent) at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay in 1999 and went on to conduct postgraduate research at the University of Guelph (MA) and the University of Otago in New Zealand. Like most of the Orillia Campus professors, she is heavily involved in academic and community events. She facilitated a novel writing marathon, serves as chairperson for the Mariposa Folk Arts Forum, is a founding board member of the Friends of the OPP Museum, and is a Leacock Associate, involved with other volunteers working to promote the annual Stephen Leacock Award for Humour. Orillia students recognized her contributions to the campus and community with the "Spirit of Lakehead" award last year.

Her colleague, Alice den Otter, spent 10 years teaching in the Department of English at Lakehead University Thunder Bay Campus before moving to Orillia in 2006 to take on the role of Coordinator of the Arts and Science program.

Now Chair of Interdisciplinary Studies, Professor den Otter is a true believer in the merits of combining study of the arts and the sciences, saying that if such a program had been offered when she was an undergraduate, she would have taken it!

Don Napierala
Don Napierala
Don Napierala (BA'72, BEd'74, BSc'74) is an Education graduate who returned to work for Lakehead after retiring from the Thunder Bay District School Board. Since September 2007 he has been the Acting Director of Concurrent Education in Orillia, making sure that Lakehead's Concurrent Education students will have job placements with school boards during their professional year. Napierala is thrilled to be part of a new and growing university environment where he gets the opportunity "to shape things the way you think they ought to be." He shares an office with three professors in the Department of English and is busy developing partnerships between the Faculty of Education and the community. He believes Lakehead has one of the best Education programs in Canada, and he thinks Lakehead University Orillia Campus - where 70% of students are enrolled in the Concurrent Education program - will only serve to enhance its reputation.

Now in its third year of operation, Lakehead University Orillia Campus has 444 students and 22 full-time faculty members. Ask anyone what the biggest challenge is, and they will likely tell you it is the lack of space, a problem that will be rectified by moving to the permanent campus facility in 2010. Despite this, the mood on campus is warm and friendly, and staff, faculty, and students are working together in a congenial way.

Imran Mukhtar graduated from the one-year Business Administration college transfer program in June 2008. He says students starting their education at Lakehead University Orillia Campus are fortunate. Mukhtar began his degree at another university in southern Ontario where, he says, professors had no time for anyone. "You either had to look for help elsewhere or you were out of luck. The professors at Lakehead University Orillia Campus have always been happy to help me out when I needed it. I've never had professors like that before."

Jill Ventura is a student in the second year of the Honours Bachelor of Arts and Science Program at Lakehead University Orillia Campus.

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