Archive for March, 2009

Macleans, a prominent Canadian publication features Baljit Singh, a professor of veterinary medicine at the University of Saskatchewan. Check it out. Besides being featured in the lead paragraph of the story, there’s a profile of Baljit, which we have included here:

Baljit Singh, Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan

How committed is Singh to his students? For the past eight years, he and his family have lived with them. He’s the first prof to participate in a University of Saskatchewan program designed to bolster academic advising by asking a professor to make his home inside an undergraduate student residence.

Approachability and empathy are the hallmarks of his teaching. “If you were frustrated, you could talk to him,” says Sharmila Makhan, a former student who now practises emergency veterinary medicine in Vancouver. “That’s not something you could do with a lot of the professors.” Indeed, Singh, who prides himself on recruiting Aboriginal students to his research lab, is most passionate when recalling the students who have stuck with university due to his counsel. “These are the people who were just one step away from leaving,” he says. “Some of them have done their master’s degrees now, a couple are in Ph.D. programs, a couple have finished their M.D. programs.”

That student-centred philosophy stems from his own early academic difficulties. Singh, a former president of the American Association of Veterinary Anatomists, flunked anatomy at Punjab Agricultural University because “I did not like it—I did not like the subject, I did not like the way it was being taught.” India’s universities were “very regimented,” he says. “I was the most happy when I was learning on my own by doing things.” Such experiences convinced him that students learn most and best when they are actively engaged in the learning process. “Students have to become equal partners in designing a learning program,” he argues.

It’s a conviction he’s demonstrated works in practice. A few years ago, Singh identified an ongoing complaint among his first-year students: they learn the basics of animal anatomy, physiology and biochemistry, but until third year, they are frequently denied access to the kinds of hands-on learning that would help them make sense of the book learning. Singh’s response? He created a clinical role-playing game not unlike an episode of TV’s House. Students receive a case history detailing the health travails of an animal. Working in a group, the students dissect the data until they arrive at a conclusion as to what new information they require to reach a diagnosis—an MRI scan or blood report, say. The process continues, with more and more information doled out to the team according to the students’ decisions. “This clinical scenario helps them to integrate the information and also relate it to a very specific example of a clinical abnormality,” says Singh.

Almost more impressive than the teaching method is the persistence with which Singh pursued its implementation. The course was not part of the curriculum when he began recruiting students and profs—all on a voluntary basis: no pay for the profs, no credit for the kids. It ran for five years before becoming a recognized course in 2007.

But Singh is unfailingly modest. “I wish I had these types of opportunities,” he says. “I’m sure I would have learned much more and become an even better student—and, later on, teacher.” None of his teaching awards are displayed on his office walls. “I’ve done reasonably well in my life,” he says. “But it’s simply because I had outstanding teachers.”

Here’s a link to a PDF copy of the print article: baljit-singh-macleans. Special thanks to our scout in Canada, Agent PKF, for providing this tip!

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  • OMG the Sikh Coalition has a blog!

    Speedily jumping in to the 21st century, the Sikh Coalition has launched a blog. Sweet! Hopefully they will post all of their alerts and press releases here, so there’s one place to go to find them, neatly ordered by release date, complete with comments from readers.

    If you really want to to be on the cutting edge, I recommend the following steps for every organization:

    1) create a ’sikh coalition’ twitter account
    2) use “posterous” to create the blog — just email post@posterous.com and emails get posted. It’s the best kind of blog.
    3) Set up Posterous to automatically post to twitter
    4) Set up Twitter to automatically post to Facebook

    There you go, that’s all you need to do. Here’s my twitter account and posterous, if you’re interested: posterous twitter

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  • Avneet Kaur: Hot Shot

    While hanging out at a veerji’s house the other day, I was flipping through the 2009 Sikh Foundation Calendar, featuring Sikh athletes and others. It’s pretty sweet, though I couldn’t find a link to buy the calendar from the website.

    You’ll agree that this is an amazing image:
    avneet-sikhswim-gif

    The caption reads:

    Avneet Sidhu won the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games 2006 in the 10m Air Rifle (pairs). She is also part of the Indian contingent for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. She is the third Indian to shoot a perfect score. She honed her skills as a student of Dashmesh Girls Colleege, Badal (Muktsar) and now lives in Bhatinda, Punjab.

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