Challenges and opportunities for professions and pro-fessional education in contemporary times

This panel will be held in CS 101.

Graduating 21st Century Professionals: Higher Education and the Pursuit of Sustainably, Flourishing Communities

Patrick Howard

Education Department

School of Professional Studies

 Many people and organizations must share the responsibility for more sustainable societies through good government, enlightened policy, civic participation, and commitment. Nevertheless, higher education is essential for moving toward a more sustainable future and the pursuit of healthy, sustainably flourishing communities around the world.  It is difficult to imagine how the people of all nations could move toward a more sustainable world without the contribution of educators from around the globe.

Educating for a more sustainable future in its broadest sense means reorienting education to address sustainability, improving public awareness, and providing training to many sectors of society. This reorientation requires a shift in values that are commensurate with achieving a more just, equitable society dedicated to achieving healthy communities and eco systems. It requires a new generation of professionals with a deep and caring commitment to solving some of the world’s most pressing challenges with creative and innovative solutions.

This part of the panel discussion will look at the vexing pedagogical question, Can such values be taught? I will briefly look at how the question has been addressed from Aristotle to Gilbert Ryle’s classic essay “Can virtue be taught?”  Nodding’s care theory also addresses the question of attaining a moral education. It has particular relevance in guiding higher education teaching and practice in the development of professionals across the disciplines who will be able to meet the challenges of the 21st century and contribute to sustainable flourishing communities.

International Student Learning Impacting Post Graduate Civic Mindedness

Karen Kennedy and Sheila Profit

Department of Nursing

School of Professional Studies

The CNA code of ethics and the determinants of health are fundamental teachings in the nursing program. The value of civic mindedness is evident in the overt curriculum in nursing education and is intended to cultivate an environment where caring for and about vulnerable populations is embraced; both in theory and in practice.  These courses and practice placements require students to be considering the needs of vulnerable people in our communities. Theoretical learning is synergized by practice placements. Theory alone or even practical experience without reflective practice is not sufficient to foster values of community engagement and action. Direct exposure to vulnerable populations together with reflective learning in post conferences and journaling is necessary. The reflective component is what distinguishes service learning from experiential learning (Steinberg, Hatcher & Bringle, 2011). Despite the evidence that many students enter university as community activists, a decrease  in community involvement is noted in the post graduate years (Ehrlich, 2000).


Ehrlich (2000) has examined civic mindedness before, during, and after college education. He notes that students typically have a higher level of volunteerism in their last year of high school than during their college years. However, social activism does remain high throughout college years; nonetheless, there is a significant drop in community volunteerism 9 years post college years. How can educators provide learning opportunities that truly transform a student`s value system to one that results in civic action in the years following graduate education? An International Student Learning (ISL) experience has been introduced into the nursing program this year.  Can this experience in addition to the overt teaching in nursing education encourage civic mindedness after graduation? A study comparing the community involvement of nursing students who have received an international experience compared to a similar group who have not, will be explored.  This will be done with the students two years after they have graduated. We postulate that those who have been exposed to disparity in other regions will be more involved in their communities for longer periods of time than those who have not.

Ehrlich, T. (2000). Civic responsibility and higher education. Westport, Conn: Oryx Press.

Steinberg, K. S., Hatcher, J. A., & Bringle, R. G. (2011). Civic-minded graduate: A north star.

Fostering political emotions needed for civic professionalism

Carolin Kreber

School of Professional Studies

Cortese (2003) observed that “It is the people coming out of the world’s best colleges and universities that are leading us down the current unhealthy, inequitable, and unsustainable path” (p.17) urging universities to teach students “the awareness, knowledge, skills and values needed to create a just and sustainable future” (p.17). Although it should be obvious that professional education ought to intentionally promote a public good orientation, or ‘civic mindedness’, it is less clear how this may be achieved. Fundamental to the idea of civic mindedness, or civic professionalism, is the idea that professions are not primarily self but also other serving, and committed to the well-being of, and greater social justice in, their broader communities.  The presentation will explore how civic professionalism may be promoted; yet rather than focusing on the necessary knowledge and skills to be taught it will focus on the emotions.  Indeed, the key question asked is whether teaching and helping students accept the ideal of civic professionalism on rational grounds alone is enough to prompt them/us into action or whether certain emotions are required. After all, we know we live in a world characterised by blatant injustices. What does it take to make us act on what we know is unjust?

I propose, in taking inspiration from Nussbaum (2013), that for students to develop the professional capability of civic-mindedness, professional education ought to provide opportunities for future practitioners to experience care or love for the ideals of their profession and empathy and compassion for those most in need. The key question is

how can a good profession, one with good ideals and principles, become stable and live up to these principles thereby contributing more strongly to social justice, in the light of obstructing forces such as greed, anxiety and self-interest?


In Nussbaum’s larger body of work we find essentially two distinct proposals for how appropriate political emotions might be cultivated.  The first relates to the formal curriculum (e.g., Nussbaum, 1998, 2010). The second relates to what one might call the informal curriculum, or an approach based on public art and ‘symbols’ (e.g., Nussbaum, 2001, 2013). Both approaches I shall argue in this presentation have their place in university-based professional education.

Chipping Away the Ivory Tower;  Professional Education as a

University Advantage in Transformational Change

Jane Lewis

Education Department

School of Professional Studies

For almost as long as professional education has existed in universities, there has been debate and discussion about its role and fit within the Academy. Its philosophical underpinnings, in which practice excellence and knowledge mastery are equally weighted in importance, are after all, the antithesis to  “knowledge for knowledge sake,”  the centuries old construct considered central to the purpose of university education. As a consequence of its divergent philosophy, professional education for decades has found itself relegated to the periphery of university structures, attached to, but not particularly influential within, the academic organizations in which they operated.

Times have changed. Globalization, technology, market competition, demographics, and increasing demand for greater accountability for expenditures from the public purse are but a few of the pressures affecting Canadian universities in the 21st century.  As education costs have increased, so has the expectation by students and the general public that post-secondary education yield a tangible return on investment and translate into employability for graduates. The eminence of the ivory tower has lost much of its glow, and there is a very real cry for transformation and modernization of the university system. Ironically, at the same time for professional education, the very nuances and characteristics once responsible for its placement on the periphery, now places it much closer, if not on, university central stage.

The February 2014 report of the Nova Scotia Commission on Building our Economy, Now or Never presented an urgent case around the need for transformation of the Nova Scotia economy.   Although  Nova Scotia’s excellent post-secondary system including its 10 universities and well-developed community college system were identified as potential assets to such a sea change, the report also spoke of the need for educational reform as part of the change agenda. The message was clear, Nova Scotia’s education system at all levels needs to “up its game” in order to support the globally competitive student outcomes, highly developed competencies in math and sciences and development of a new culture of entrepreneurship deemed necessary for sustainability of economic and social well-being in Nova Scotia. That all this is to be achieved within a shrinking demographic and a school-age population 40% smaller than it was 40 years ago, magnifies the significance of this challenge for educational insitutions.

How do the pressures for overall reform of the University result in changing roles and opportunities for Professional education?  How well are we responding?  This part of the panel will consider some of the questions about the role of Professional Education in the Academy, the assets and attributes that make it invaluable to a transformation agenda and the tensions that exist with respect to it fulfilling its important role/s.