Arden Henley, principal of Canadian programs at CityU in Canada, enjoys pondering provocative questions affecting humankind. Like ethics and ecology, both of which factor in a big way into the master’s degrees of counselling and education and bachelor of arts in management offered at the downtown Vancouver campus.
In a phone interview with the Georgia Straight, Henley points out that ethics is integral to the work of counsellors, educators, and managers. “It’s fundamental,” he says. “It has to do with how you construct relationships with others in the world.”
But it’s sometimes hard to maintain relationships, which are at the core of ethical interactions, when people are scurrying around like hamsters on a treadmill. Henley himself finds that he’s incredibly busy in his job, sometimes having up to eight or 10 tasks to perform in a single day. It could range from coaching a dissertation student, attending a leadership-team meeting, dealing with a property manager, or even speaking to the media. And that can take a toll.
“It’s a tremendously condensed and challenging schedule sometimes,” he admits.
When Henley looks at the natural world, he sees a different story unfolding at this time of year. The days are growing shorter and plants are falling back into the earth. But as less energy is being expended in the environment, human beings in metropolitan areas never seem to slow down.
He suggests that people’s engagement in work and work-related activities may be at an all-time high as they try to cope with increasing complexity and a demonstrably higher rate of change.
“From a certain point of view, the ethical issue is: are we harming ourselves by this sort of unequivocal obsession with productivity even though the rhythm of the [natural] world, if we were to look at it and experience it, would tell us otherwise?”
The implications of the mania for efficiency could have different outcomes for men and women, according to Henley. He leaves the question open as to whether or not this 21st-century rat race is actually a form of discrimination. “Are we sort of driving women to fit into and behave in a world that’s biologically suited for men but perhaps not so suited for women?”
This, in turn, has caused him to wonder if university administrators have a responsibility to consider these issues in how they construct their institutions and communicate their insights to the broader community.
“Many people in their day-to-day lives simply do not have this opportunity or privilege,” he points out.
At CityU in Canada, Henley and the faculty try to cultivate a sense of community for students with an inclusive and welcoming approach. It’s an ethical counterweight to the blistering pace and shortcuts that people sometimes feel they have to take to meet modern-day imperatives.
By relying on the cohort model, CityU in Canada creates a “minicommunity of practice” for its counselling and education students. This enables them to learn together and from one another while creating a supportive network.
“They feel connected,” Henley says. “They feel like they belong. They feel like they’re a person. Then what that does is give them an opportunity to see education not only as mastering certain skills but evolving as a human being with other human beings.”
As he mentioned at the outset: “It has to do with how you construct relationships with others in the world.”
This approach manifests itself in the way master’s students of education present their capstone project. At CityU, it takes the form of a portfolio presentation, similar to what one might expect at an arts school but not so much at a professional school.
“One of the things that students over and over again talk about is how the learning has impacted their own evolution as a person and their relationships,” Henley says, “and how that evolution, in turn, is important for the practice of the competencies and skills as an educator.”
CityU in Canada’s newest offering, its bachelor of arts in management, emphasizes social and environmental responsibility. To Henley, this should not be seen as an afterthought when managers need to demonstrate greater sensitivity to societal challenges.
He emphasizes that building community within academic institutions has very pragmatic benefits and it shouldn’t be written off as new agey. “If people evolve personally, they actually do a better job.”
CityU in Canada will hold an information session on its bachelor of arts in management degree from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday (November 15) at its downtown Vancouver campus (789 West Pender Street, third floor).More