Michael Orsini, Vice-Dean, Graduate Studies

At the Graduate Studies Office, students are the core of our mission. Therefore, it was particularly heartening this year to mark all of their outstanding are achievements, including the receipt of a number of key scholarships from Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Canada’s three main granting councils. What’s more, one of our doctoral students, Édith Brunette, from the School of Political Studies, was named one of 20 recipients of a prestigious fellowship from the Trudeau Foundation. Édith’s project, which is supervised by Professor Dalie Giroux, is titled “Redefining Freedom in Contemporary Art: How Canadian Artists Transform Forms of Political Engagement."

In addition to receiving these graduate studies scholarships, three of our doctoral students received the Vanier scholarship: Eamon Colvin (Psychology), Kharoll-Ann Souffrant (Social Work), and Patrick Ladouceur (Social Work).

Finally, three of the four Banting postdoctoral fellowships awarded to the University this academic year are destined to the Faculty of Social Sciences, an outstanding achievement. This year all three recipients will be based in the Department of Criminology. Both Alexander McLelland and Anna-Louise Crago will work with Professor Chris Bruckert while Midori Ogasawara will work with Professor Valerie Steeves.

Two of our recent graduates netted prizes for outstanding thesis work. Kelly Gordon, a recent graduate of the Ph.D. program in Political Studies, who is currently Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at McGill University, won the Governor General’s Gold Medal for the best doctoral thesis in the Humanities. A specialist in Gender and Politics, her thesis was titled “Mobilizing Victimhood: Blaming and Claiming the Victim in Conservative Discourse in Canada”. In addition, Katarina Bogosavljevic, who is currently a Ph.D. student in the Department of Criminology, was awarded the Commission on Graduates Studies in the Humanities prize for her MA thesis, titled ““CFL has its patient zero”: A Critical Examination of HIV Nondisclosure in the Trevis Smith Case.”

None of these achievements would have been possible without the dedication and hard work 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.

The 2018-2019 calendar year was a busy one for the Faculty with the creation of three new course-based MA programs, in Sociology, International Development and Globalization and Economics. These new programs add greater choice for incoming graduate students in our Faculty.  

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

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 my remaining time as Vice-Dean – my mandate ends in December 2019 - I plan to work with colleagues across the University to support our current and incoming students. 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 with competitive scholarship packages.

Additionally, we are anticipating the arrival of a new Ph.D. program in Anthropology, and the development of new MA programs in Security and Defense Studies (offered by the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs), Anthropology, Law, and Indigeneities, and a new professional doctorate in Public and International Affairs.

Finally, it is clear that our students’ success cannot be achieved unless we tackle their complex mental health needs. 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 the needs of our students.

Michael Orsini, Ph.D., Vice-Dean, Graduate Studies

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