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UNIVERSITY OF LETHBRIDGE
50 YEARS, 50 VOICES
DR. GAIL MICHENER
50 YEARS, 50 VOICES
Dr. Gail Michener
Gail Michener began teaching at the University as a sessional instructor in Biological Sciences in 1977. She was an NSERC University Research Fellow from 1981 to 1985. Later, she served as department chair from 1993 to1996, and from 2003 to 2008 she held a Board of Governors Research Chair. In retirement, Gail continues her seminal research on the behavioural ecology of Richardson’s groundsquirrels.
Gail speaks about the challenges of the University and her students to be recognized for their research excellence.
The full audio interview will be made available online in late 2017. For more information please contact the University of Lethbridge Archives. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
So it was, I mean, I think that was a really interesting time. And it was a remarkable thing for people to think that it was reasonable to have a university in Lethbridge. And for a number of years, you know, we fought the the idea at Calgary and Edmonton that, well we must be a dinky, dinky little place and, you know, oh well can’t be any serious research going on there. And in fact there was one period ... when would that have been? Must have been towards the mid-80s where there was a commission, I don’t remember exact terminology. The government was basically, I think, looking at a way to cut back on how much funding it needed to give to the University, and wanted to make the point that this should just be a teaching university, nothing more basically than a glorified community college. And so a gentleman was hired and I will not be able to remember his name, he was from Quebec I believe, to do an assessment of what people did at the University of Lethbridge. And he ended up being so impressed by the amount and quality of research that was being done and the extent to which we involved the undergraduates in the research, which of course we did because we didn’t have graduate students back in those days so everybody did. He reported back to the government and the government had to change its tune rather rapidly and say, ‘Oh we will continue to support the University of Lethbridge because it’s got this reputation.’ So yes, that was interesting. We were all asked to write a little document about what it was and how our research contributed to the institution and so forth, which was really very easy to do in those days because if we didn’t have the undergraduate students. We had no help at all. So, very much we involved the students in what was going on and already we had people with international reputations and so forth, so it was actually a very easy case to make.
And then I remember, I had some students who went off to Calgary or Edmonton, I don’t recollect. I guess maybe in some cases they were transferring into professional degree programs, you know, dentistry, medicine or something like that, and being contacted by them. You know saying, ‘Oh you know these people don’t think the Animal Physiology course you taught is up to the standard of their Animal Physiology course.’ And then I would look into what they were doing, you know. And, discover that in some of these cases they couldn’t even offer undergraduate labs with the course because they already had class sizes that were too big for Physiology or something like that. Whereas here, our Physiology students not only took the lecture course, they took lab courses. So, we made the point that they were actually better educated than their own students. But there was that assumption that because the University of Lethbridge had sort of magically grown up out of nowhere, that it must not be a high quality institution. But that was pretty quickly laid to rest.
(Interviewed by Johanna DeVisser)