U of A celebrates dynamic teams that 'Dare to Discover'

(Edmonton) Three dynamic teams of faculty, students and staff are being honoured for their work in supporting the cornerstones of the University of Alberta’s vision.

Teams from the Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences, the Rhodiola Rosea Commercialization Project and the U of A Office of Student Judicial Affairs have won the 2012 President’s Achievement Award “Dare to Discover.”

The team award was created to inspire and engage members of the university community, and honour their achievements in support of the university’s goals.

The teams will be recognized at the Celebrate! Teaching, Learning, Research event being held at the Myer Horowitz Theatre Sept. 27.

Learning, Discovery and Citizenship:
Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences Student Engagement Team

The ALES Student Engagement Team of 14 faculty and staff has worked for the past three years to deepen experiential learning opportunities for its students, both locally and abroad.

“It makes their entire university experience more positive, engaging and diverse,” said team representative Shannon Clarke, student engagement co-ordinator for ALES.

The team has developed several service-learning programs in India, Mexico and Cuba, as well as study tours in Japan, allowing more than 50 students in the last year to examine issues of food security, poverty, human rights and sustainable agriculture. Through these and other programs, more than 600 hours of community service have been given by students, staff and faculty locally and globally.

The team also worked to provide students with mentorship and peer-based leadership opportunities, in the form of a Peer Helper Program and ULead, a year-long certificate program. “These enable ALES students to develop skills and gain meaningful experience they can use in their future careers,” Clarke said.

“The students also become role models and positive leaders with the ALES and university community.”

Ultimately, the team hopes that students graduate from the U of A with a deeper understanding of themselves and their potential to contribute to positive social change, Clarke said.

“They have a role as global citizens, and the time they are spending in university does have applications to the real world. If students begin to think critically about social issues and find ways to weave that experience into future plans, we know that they’ll leave us as people who will take action to provide solutions to global challenges.”

Connecting Communities:
The Rhodiola Rosea Commercialization Project, led by the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry

For this cornerstone, professors, staff and students from several U of A faculties, led by the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, teamed up with collaborators to develop a commercialization project for Rhodiola rosea, an Alberta-grown plant that can be turned into a remedy to treat fatigue.

“We created a good network of people to go from the field to the medicine cabinet,” said professor Raimar Loebenberg of the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, speaking for the 28-person team, which also included U of A alumni and external researchers from Norway, Sweden and Finland.

Experts from the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, the Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences and the Faculty of Nursing worked with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, the Alberta Research Council, Alberta analytical and engineering firms and farmers, to establish a template for clinical trials as part of the commercialization process for future products.

The Rhodiola Rosea project, which was begun in 2004, marked the first time that the Drug Development and Innovation Centre—based in the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences—provided clinical trial materials for testing the product, a process that is usually done at the company level. But when venture capital is modest and clinical trials costly, “we can keep things in the university environment for longer,” said Loebenberg.

“There are not many facilities that can do it, and the U of A showed we can go from an idea up to a clinical trial, and this is unique within Canada,” said Loebenberg. “Now there is a template for how this can be done.”

Transformative Organization and Support:
Office of Student Judicial Affairs

At first glance, the two-person team of Deborah Eerkes and Chris Hackett may not be an obvious choice for providing a transformative, uplifting university experience for students—but in many ways, they do just that.

“What we try to do is make the University of Alberta a good place to be for students, and our little piece of that is student conduct,” said Eerkes, director of the Office of Student Judicial Affairs. She and Hackett, as discipline officer, deal with issues related to the U of A’s Code of Student Behaviour, but strive to be proactive in finding ways to help students.

These initiatives include the Truth in Education academic integrity program and website, which educate students about issues such as plagiarism. “The program can help students recognize academic misconduct when they see it.”

Over the past few years, Eerkes and Hackett have also created other supportive and educational initiatives, including a restorative justice program to help students deal with misconduct in a positive way, and a Coalition for Action on High-Risk Drinking, which involves collaborating with several groups across campus.

Though the tiny team of two is busy, it is rewarding work, said Eerkes.

“We get to work with all kinds of people on campus—faculty, staff and students. It’s gratifying to have that reach within the university.”

Celebrate! Teaching. Learning. Research

Everyone is invited to attend the Celebrate! Teaching, Learning and Research event, which begins at 4 p.m. Sept. 27 in the Myer Horowitz Theatre. There is no cost to attend, but please RSVP to the Academic Awards and Ceremonies Office at 780-492-2449.