Leading Voices in Higher Education: David Helfand
Photo Courtesy: William Thompson
"UNDERGRADUATE EDUCATION FOR THE NEW MILLENNIUM: STARTING FROM SCRATCH"
David Helfand is President and Founding Tutor of Quest University, Canada's first independent, not-for-profit, nonsectarian university of the liberal arts and sciences located in Squamish, British Columbia. He spoke at Dartmouth on Monday, October 1st, 2012 at 4:00 PM in the Rockefeller Center.
Quest welcomed its first students in 2007 and offers only one degree, a Bachelors of Arts and Sciences. A two-year Foundation Program introduces students to fields across the arts and sciences, and a two-year upper-level Concentration Program allows students to design their own major with faculty input and guidance. Courses are scheduled on a “Block Plan” where students take one course at a time for three-and-a-half weeks. In the 2010 National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), Quest University Canada was ranked highest among Canadian universities on five key criteria: academic challenge, student-faculty interaction, supportive campus environment, active and collaborative learning, and enriching educational experience.
President Helfand is currently on leave from his position Professor of Astronomy at Columbia University in New York where he served as Department Chair for eighteen years. At Columbia, he taught primarily undergraduate courses for non-science majors, including one of his own design which treats the atom as a tool for revealing the quantitative history of everything from human diet and works of art to the Earth's climate and the Universe. He also successfully implemented a vision he began working on in 1982 that has all Columbia first-year students taking a science course as part of Columbia's famed Core Curriculum. He received the 2001 Presidential Teaching Award and the 2002 Great Teacher Award from the Society of Columbia Graduates. At Quest, he teaches the Cornerstone course each September, as well as Foundation courses in the physical sciences.