The pandemic, and the year of constant change that was 2020-2021, brought many challenges. During this time, the Office of the Vice-Dean supported the transition to online teaching by establishing a conversation between professors and students to better meet their needs. We are profoundly grateful for the efforts of our colleagues and for those of employees and students during this very turbulent time.
In terms of the student experience, we have laid the foundation for an action plan on anti-racism, in cooperation with student associations and several colleagues who are working to transform the University into a space that is equitable for everyone. Our priorities include: leading consultations on our anti-racist goals, designing a database of educational resources, creating support groups for students from Black Indigenous People of Colour (BIPOC) communities, and adding sections on inclusion and territorial recognition to the template for course syllabi. This action plan, which relies on a sharing of responsibilities and anti-racist leadership, will guide our actions in the coming years.
In terms of academic progress, we should highlight efforts toward inclusive admissions, the consolidation and extension of FSS 1550 University Strategies and Skills, and the extensive range of intensive research courses offered in collaboration with the Centre on Governance (COG) and the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research on Citizenship and Minorities (CIRCEM). In 2020-2021, we also saw the start of an effort to revitalize our programs, aiming mainly to broaden even more our opportunities for experiential learning at the FSS. For example, the general bachelor’s degree in social sciences will include two experiential learning options in partnership with Saint Paul University and the Centre for Community Engagement. One will focus on social innovation and the other on social engagement. The Aging Studies (Gerontology) program will now offer a course that focuses on humanitarian engagement in the service of seniors. Note that our efforts to revitalize programs aim to make course sequences more flexible by adding certificates, microprograms, and microunits.
We should also highlight the FSS’s progress in the field of indigenization. The work by the Faculty committee on indigenization and decolonization led to the hiring, in the fall of 2020, of two Indigenous content specialists, namely Mona Tolley (Kitigan Zibi) and Catherine Dussault (Wendake). Working in concert with Vice-Dean Marc Molgat, and Karine Vanthuyne, who holds a University chair in teaching, these two content specialists worked to develop indigenization plans for programs in cooperation with the units. Their goals for 2021-2022 include: to support the implementation of plans, to launch a lecture series and a resource portal for units and professors, and to offer undergraduate and graduate level courses on Indigenous knowledge and education. Considerable resources will continue to be allocated to this initiative, which is in keeping with reconciliation efforts.
Although the challenges of the pandemic continue, a return to activities and in-person classes is planned for next fall. It is with great joy that we will return to the most precious gift that a presence on campus can offer: the opportunity to discuss and debate ideas in a group in a structured way and to speak informally with one another. These exchanges, which are much more difficult when online, offer our colleagues and students an opportunity to reflect and act for the betterment of society, and promote contacts and friendships that give meaning to life at university.
Marc Molgat Mireille McLaughlin
Vice-Dean, Undergraduate Studies Assistant Vice-Dean of Undergraduate Studies