McCalla Abstracts 2009-2010

The McCalla Professorships, named after the first Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research, provide faculty members with an opportunity to explore and implement strategies integrating their research and teaching. Recipients, nominated by their Faculty, are outstanding academics who have made significant contributions to their field of research, teaching and learning. The 2009-10 awards provide funding for teaching release, and research and teaching initiatives. These awards are tenable at the University of Alberta.

The following is a brief description of the work being conducted by the 2009-10 McCalla Professors.

Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences

DEAN SPANER (Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science)

Dr. Spaner's research focuses on the production and breeding of grain crops in Alberta. He is interested in collating research to date on organic crop management, agronomy, strategies of production, reasons for producing and consuming organic produce, and the economics of introducing organic agricultural production in Western Canada. Dr. Spaner and his research group will collate and integrate data, collected on organic agriculture throughout Western Canada, into a monograph which synthesizes past and future directions for this very important "new" way forward for the agricultural community. Part of the McCalla Professorship will be used to update senior undergraduate Plant Science courses to more web-based, interactive offerings, with larger experiential learning components.

JANUSZ ZWIAZEK (Renewable Resources)

The proposed McCalla Professorship program is aimed at strengthening research and teaching of ectomycorrhizal physiology and molecular biology. The proposed activities will integrate recent advances in research into undergraduate and graduate teaching. The proposed research activities are aimed at developing expertise in ectomycorrhizal molecular biology which has a significant impact on the growth and survival of plants in reclaimed and reforested areas. These themes will be incorporated into the tree physiology courses. The second teaching component of the program is the development of web-based exercises that will replace traditional tree physiology laboratories. The exercises will cover both more traditional topics of tree physiology as well as DNA manipulation and genetic engineering.

Faculty of Arts

GARY KELLY (English and Film Studies)

Dr. Kelly's McCalla project addresses the following research and teaching problem: What most people read, we (in the academy) seldom study; what we in the academy study, most people don't read, unless they have to, in a course. This is a problem not only in research, but also in bringing together the university and the wider community. The project takes up the problem in relation to the role of culture and print in the formation of modernity and the modern nation-state during the Romantic period, and as part of a larger program converging research, teaching, and new technologies.


This project will contribute to the development of transdisciplinary visual pedagogy and research methods. Digital Storytelling techniques will be employed to explore the application of visual narratives in collaborative research and pedagogy. Working with the Community Service Learning program and students in Visual Anthropology (ANTHR 424/524), this project will broaden the forms of engagement that the university seeks to make with the community. In particular, Dr. Fletcher will contribute to three scholarly conferences, work toward an edited volume on media engagements in graduate social sciences training, and organize a multi-disciplinary summer institute on visual methods and community-university engagements.

Faculty of Business

RICHARD FIELD (Strategic Management and Organization)

Dr. Field's interest is in studying how we know that our students are learning what we are trying to teach. The AACSB business accreditation body is keenly interested in assurance of learning. Professors sometimes assume that material taught and tested has been learned. A learning outcomes approach looks for systematically gathered data on how well students do on learning goals set for them by both programs and courses. Shortfalls in performances against goals can then be used to drive curriculum change. The McCalla Professorship will provide funds to attend learning assurance conferences. Release time will be used to transfer that knowledge to professors at the University of Alberta and other Canadian universities.

Faculty of Education

ALI ABDI (Educational Policy Studies)

The McCalla award will support Dr. Abdi's research in global citizenship education, which includes writing and teaching projects in Canada and Africa. One of the projects he would like to undertake during the McCalla appointment is to start one aspect of a bigger research project on "Teachers' ways of teaching citizenship education in Uganda". It is his understanding that with Sub-Saharan Africa's continuing marginalization in both political and economic terms, the first items to correct are the governance and institutional structures that have favoured the elite in the postcolonial period, and that require the presence of citizenship education possibilities that speak about and sustain the rights of citizens. For that to happen, the contents as well as the methodology of citizenship education in schools is important. Beyond that, some of the McCalla funds will also be used to incorporate select local community components into his citizenship and development education courses.

Faculty of Engineering

ROBERT DRIVER (Civil and Environmental Engineering)

During his tenure as a McCalla Professor, Dr. Driver will develop effective ways of incorporating research on progressive collapse of structures into his teaching of structural design courses. Progressive collapse is a scenario when a structure undergoes an extent of collapse that is disproportionate to the event that caused the initial damage, a famous example being the collapse of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Progressive collapse can also occur due to accidental events such as gas explosions. Due to the highly specialized nature of the study of progressive collapse, Dr. Driver will incorporate sophisticated structural analysis software and case studies into his courses. As part of the McCalla project, he will also design a new graduate course that utilizes these new teaching techniques.

Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry

SUNITA VOHRA (Pediatrics)

Dr. Vohra will assess the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry's current curriculum in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in order to identify redundancies and gaps. Using this information, she will develop high quality evidence-based educational resources in CAM for integration into the curriculum for each year of undergraduate medical/dental education. The effectiveness of this curriculum will be measured through pre-post testing and refinements will be made as necessary. The goal is to increase CAM knowledge in medical/dental students; outcomes include increased comfort in counselling/discussing use with patients, being able to find reliable information, and critically appraise CAM evidence.

Rehabilitation Medicine

MEGAN HODGE (Speed Pathology and Audiology)

This project will generate a description of current best practice for children who have speech intelligibility deficits because of neuromotor impairments. Mixed methods (systematic review, interviews with expert clinicians, families and students, case studies) will be used to collect, synthesize and disseminate information about treatment approaches and their effectiveness for these children. Outcomes will be a monograph and family-friendly website that report the project results, a DVD of case examples for 8-10 valid treatment approaches based on the project results and several interactive software tutorials to develop speech-language pathologists' decision-making skills in assessing, treating and evaluating treatment outcomes.

Faculty of Science


Dr. Pinfold's award will be used to further his work in three main areas. The first is at the high energy, discovery, frontier at the LHC that will begin operation at CERN in Switzerland in 2009. In this arena, he will lead an international effort on: the ATLAS experiment; the MoEDAL experiment, where he is spokesman; and the FP420 project. The second is discovery learning where he is developing the ALTA/COSMOS project involving school children and postsecondary students in the excitement of fundamental research. The third area is that of outreach, relating to his work in discovery research and learning.

ALEXANDER MELNIKOV (Mathematical and Statistical Sciences)

The project focuses on risk-management in equity-linked life insurance (segregated funds, variable annuities) by means of new methods of risk minimization in financial markets and mortality modeling. Equity-linked life insurance contracts combine both financial and insurance risks allowing insurance companies to have greater longevity in the modern financial system. The pricing of equity-linked contracts holds great value from both purely theoretical and practical points of view. The project examines how risk-minimization methodologies and mortality models developed in modern mathematical finance and actuarial science in the last decade can be exploited to price these mixed (finance/insurance) contracts. It will operate with financial and insurance data to demonstrate how the results work in practice.