Something new is in play at Memorial.
October 1st, 2010

Something new is in play at Memorial. It’s called the Co-Curricular Record, or the CCR.  The initiative comes to us via the office of Student Affairs — and I like it. Essentially, the CCR is an official way of accounting for out-of-class learning. The record has the same formal signifiers as an official academic transcript, with all the fancy seals and stamps of legitimacy, but it documents a student’s involvement in campus activities throughout the year. The CCR works for undergraduates as well as graduate students, and everyone should be paying attention to its benefits. We are among the first in Canada to be adopting the CCR, possibly because Memorial has always had a very high rate of volunteerism and extracurricular activity among its student body, and possibly because the culture of the province has always put a high value on the kind of service the CCR is meant to identify. Some would call it well-roundedness.

As any self-respecting student knows, learning happens as much if not more outside the classroom, and it’s an encouraging sign of the times that a CCR was invented in the first place. As its proponents point out, if a student knows there is an expectation to fill out one of these enhanced résumés, then s/he might start thinking more creatively about what s/he has, indeed, been learning beyond the seminar, what sorts of social and intellectual skills have come along with the textbook and lab-learning experience. It might even encourage students to start thinking about broadening their activities.

I wish such a record had been around when I was a youngster. In fact, the kinds of activities in which I was involved as a grad student were considered either frivolous or diverting—such as organizing colloquia or heading the departmental grad student society, maintaining the lounge, keeping the coffee warm, sending out newsletters, and so on. Today, those responsibilities, which I earned by election, would be considered valuable and important to a potential employer. Ok, maybe not keeping the coffee warm, but I can tell you no task was considered more important or more appreciated at the time—and especially by the faculty, who gratefully poached our brew.

The CCR is a timely initiative. We constantly hear whining from employers—corporate, academic, industrial—about what they are seeking in job candidates: signs of leadership, good communication skills, self reliance, evidence of initiative, and so on. Everyone wants active, not passive players. Everyone wants to hire someone whose résumé sparkles on the page. An academic transcript tells a key part of the story, but it leaves out so much about a student’s development and leadership potential. It’s worth keeping in mind that the prestigious Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship, now in its third iteration, hands out a whopping $50,000 annually to those bright minds that “demonstrate leadership skills and a high standard of scholarly achievement in the social sciences and humanities, natural sciences and engineering, and health-related fields.” That covers the waterfront, sure, but with emphasis on leadership.

So how can a student demonstrate leadership? Not necessarily by running everything or being president of every society but by being involved in student and campus life in some way or another. I can testify that over the decades of being at Memorial I have seen many of these sorts of active, engaged students evolve into significant leaders in their fields. It’s almost predictable. The on-the-ground experience available to them here, whether they understood it or not at the time, proved invaluable to their personal and professional success. Those who work on the student newspaper, get involved with student politics, do varsity sports, help to organize orientation, volunteer for charitable events and concerts, row in the annual Regatta…the list is long and includes stuff you probably haven’t  even been thinking about.

That’s why I like the CCR. It validates all that engagement, instead of dismissing or undermining it, and it marks a path that students can recognize as worthy and encouraging.  Résumés have suddenly become a lot more interesting. Start your very own CCR today: check out the MyMUNlife on my.mun.ca and start compiling a list of your activities. And if you don’t have any, you might ask yourself why…. You can’t get recognized for stuff you’re not doing.

NG

Dr. Faye Murrin is Dean pro tempore of the School of Graduate Studies and Associate Professor in the Department of Biology. She completed her B.Sc. (Hons.) at Memorial University, her M.Sc. at Acadia University, and her Ph.D. at Queen's University. Her research interests have always been focused on fungi, in particular the cell biology of insect pathogenic fungi and, more recently, the ecology of mycorrhizal mushrooms in the boreal forest. Dr. Murrin has served in a number of positions on the Council of the Mycological Society of America and was awarded the title of MSA Fellow for her contributions. She was awarded the Women in Science and Engineering Lifetime Membership Award as founding co-director of the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Summer Program. Dr. Murrin participates in public lectures and workshops, and is a Director on the board of Newfoundland Foray, Inc.

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