Michael Orsini, Vice-Dean, Graduate Studies

At the Graduate Studies Office, our students central to our mission. Therefore, it was particularly heartening to mark all of their outstanding are achievements this year, including the receipt of a number of scholarships from SSHRC, NSERC and CIHR, Canada’s three main granting councils. What’s more, one of our doctoral students, Christine Labrie, from the Institute of Feminist and Gender Studies, was one of 25 finalists in SSHRC’s Storytellers challenge, for her entry, “Les mères, les normes sociales et le don d’enfant au Québec (1960-1979).

Of the six prizes awarded for the best thesis University-wide, our recent graduates netted three, a testament to their excellence. This is an exceptional achievement. Steve Martin, a graduate of the PhD program in economics, received the Pierre Laberge Prize for best doctoral thesis in the humanities; Susannah Taylor, a graduate of our doctoral program in social work, was awarded the Joseph De Koninck Prize for best doctoral thesis in an interdisciplinary program; and Clothilde Parent-Chartier, a graduate of our master’s program in Globalization and International Development, received the Joseph De Koninck Prize for her MA thesis.

None of these achievements would have been possible without the dedication and hard work, not only of the students themselves, but also of their supervisors, the scholarship committee members, the staff in our nine units and the Graduate Studies Office. Thanks are due to all for their outstanding efforts.

In the coming year, we will continue to devote much of our energies to adjusting to the new responsibilities that have come with the graduate studies restructuring across the University. Our objective throughout this transition is to ensure that these changes bring the administration of graduate studies as close to students as possible, and enrich the graduate student experience to the greatest extent.

As universities continue to explore what works and what does not in terms of graduate education, we need to ensure that our already successful MA and PhD programs provide the best possible preparation for an ever-changing labour market without losing sight of the scholarly rigour that sets us apart.

In the last year of my term as vice-dean, I plan to work to address some recurrent and new challenges. Working with my colleagues across the University, I hope we will develop a plan to properly support incoming graduate students through our admission scholarship program. The University’s decision in spring 2018 to support all international PhD students by reducing their tuition to that paid by Canadian students is a welcome development, but we also need to ensure that we are doing our best to attract the strongest candidates to our MA and PhD programs.

Additionally, new doctoral programs are in the works for the Faculty of Social Sciences, and some of our departments are exploring the possibility of creating new professional master’s programs or one-year, course-only programs.

Finally, it is clear that our students’ success cannot be achieved unless we tackle their complex mental health needs seriously. One recent survey of students in the U.S. found high rates of anxiety and depression in more than one-third of respondents. While there are no quick fixes, we can, as a faculty and as a university, begin a long overdue conversation about how to best support our students.

Michael Orsini, Vice-Dean Graduate Studies

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