Learn with Purpose: 2019 TRP Orientation Welcome
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MHSc in Translational Research

Every graduate degree should, at least in my opinion, offer the opportunity for students to achieve a credential, learn something of significance and find avenues for personal (and professional) growth.  These outcomes, however, are by any means guaranteed or consistent either between programs or between students within a program.  This makes it hard to, with any certainty, tell a student what they will get, but this is what all students want to be answered: “What will I get from the TRP?  Why should I invest my time and energy?”

What you will gain from any experience, any graduate program will–at least in my experience–be greatly determined by what you are prepared for and open to.  Why does one person have an epiphany when another sitting next to them doing the same thing, experiencing the same lesson, does not?  An unwavering truth of any experience is that, generally, what you get out of it will depend on: who you are—that is your character and characteristics; your purpose and motivation; and the nature of the program—it’s content, structure, and philosophy.

The TRP is designed to be focused on facilitating the process of learning.  This means that you are given back control over your learning.  This is antithetic to most conventional wisdom still pervasive in traditional paradigms of pedagogy because takes away control from the institution and its agents, and places the measure of “success” and achievement on individually defined accomplishments.
For educators, giving up control is not easy—it’s a lot more work to try to inspire learning than to assign marks for standardized responses.  But for learners, taking on the responsibility of control is, perhaps, even harder.  First and foremost, you are not conditioned to focus on your individual learning–you are conditioned to base your educational self-worth on grades.  And even though intellectually you may understand that getting an A on a test is not the same as remembering, understanding or being able to apply the material on that test, fighting decades of conditioning is hard. It requires a cognitive restructuring and cultural shift on the part of a learner to allow themselves the space to think differently, to push themselves out of their comfort zones, to dedicate themselves to personal challenge, to the less travelled path in an undiscovered country of uncertainty and ambiguity.
Also, self-directed learning is hard.  It takes initiative, dedication and humility—you have to be able to admit ignorance and be open to being wrong.  It involves a high degree of self-awareness, honesty and self-permission to fail.  This is not, at times, easy or pleasant.  You will face challenges, potholes and sometimes long frustrating periods of featureless nothingness—sometimes it can feel like rolling a boulder uphill.  But then there are the chances to explore and observe, appreciate and reflect; moments of joy, epiphany, friendship, and moments of EUREKA!

This is what the TRP provides, an opportunity for personal and professional growth and the prospect for collaborative self-directed learning.  A sandbox for you to play where your peers become more than passive disinterested spectators—they become the experts, touchstones, instruments of feedback who enrich, support and ground your experience.  All this is hard to internalize in the abstract—without experiencing it—so it also requires trust–a leap of faith, if you will.  But the TRP Team have done this before and together with you we can do it again. The way is simple, but not easy. 
For those of us, we happy few who make the effort, who learn to learn, who contribute to our own growth and the learning of others, the effort is extremely rewarding–not just for a year or two, but for a lifetime. It is a calling–not just a degree.

This is our mission: to challenge you to think differently so that you can apply knowledge to improve people’s lives.  It is a purpose to improve and grow together.  It is a commitment to that if, and when, you decide to take up arms against the sea of healthcare challenges, we will support you.  And it will not end when you graduate.  You will pay it backward and forward, and as you do your thirst for impact, your drive for creative collaborative problem-solving, for like-minded-translators, will continue to grow.

So, what will you get from the TRP?  Why should you invest your time and energy?
You get a mission and a community united by the noble calling to improve lives, through medicine, health and care—you get to: learn with purpose.

Joseph Ferenbok