Print Edition: January 22, 2014
After four days in her new position and a week in the Fraser Valley, the new UFV director of teaching and learning Maureen Wideman has barely scratched the surface of what she can do in the role.
“It’s a challenging time for sure with all the budget cuts and the restraints,” she says, “but there’s lots of opportunity, too, to do things in a different way … that’s why I’m here.”
Wideman was brought in from Ontario where she was the manager of disability services at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology and the faculty services development consultant for over 10 years.
She also has experience working with faculty and students with disabilities to make technological and online learning more accessible. She steps into the directing role at UFV following Wendy Burton’s retirement in December.
“My job does include both faculty and students … I kind of look at it like a mechanic shop. So you know when you have a car and you’ve got a rattle under the hood … you take your car to a mechanic,” she says. “With a lot of teachers they have tremendous expertise, but they have expertise in whatever field they have … It’s like a service department, you bring in your problem, your rattle under the hood, and we’ll take a look at it.”
The position holds a steep learning curve, especially for someone coming in from another province. However, Wideman is eager to get to know the landscape of UFV and develop some concrete ideas for the direction to take teaching and learning on campus.
“I’m still learning the landscape. I have some ideas, but I’m not exactly sure yet. Some of the best ideas I’ve had on ways to improve teaching and learning have come from students,” she says. “It takes a collaborative approach — you need to get out there and you need to talk to people … sit down and chit-chat and explore ideas and see where the opportunities are.”
While she has only been in the province a few days, Wideman is already getting used to the West Coast.
“It was -37 C when I left Ontario and now it’s 10 C or 12 C [here]. It’s just magnificent,” she says.
She adds that part of joining Fraser Valley culture and taking on this position is embracing UFV’s loyalty to the surrounding community.
“As a school, we have to be able to provide what employers are asking for,” she says. “What we want is to be supportive of the community that’s out there.”
Wideman also notes the fine line between demands on students and demands from the government for a school to be successful.
“Things are not going to stay the same,” she says. “Things are changing, and they’re changing rapidly. You have to put yourself in a position where you can react to change.”