Seven weeks, 34 days, nine to 10 hours per day, meeting more than 1,000 people, visiting every nook and cranny in the realm – sound like an explorer’s dream vacation? A forensic investigation? A newly elected politician touring the country?
Actually, the figures give some perspective on the exhaustive and rewarding trip Dean Martin Singer went on as he acquired a first-hand perspective on what is arguably Canada’s largest Faculty – the new Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS) at York University.
Right: Martin Singer, dean of the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, speaks with a grad student
As dean of the new Faculty, Singer made it a priority to meet with as many who call LA&PS home as he could, dialoguing with two-thirds of the 600 full-time professors, 260 undergraduate students, 130 graduate students and 138 support staff by the time the scheduled visits concluded.
Dubbed “The Road Show”, the dean’s trip began after the resounding approval of the LA&PS strategic planning framework by Faculty Council (see YFile, Jan. 27). During the subsequent months, he met with each LA&PS department, school and college to get up-close-and-personal and to see how the planning framework could be put into practice.
“The visits were full of really encouraging news. So many people felt inclined to engage in the discussion,” says Singer. “And what is doubly rewarding is that the discussion has continued even after the meetings have ended.”
Left: Students talk about their experiences at York with Singer
From the geography research labs in the basement of Central Square to the distant, but energized social work classrooms in the Kinsmen Building, Singer learned that LA&PS blankets the far reaches of the campus and has facilities that are as wide-ranging as the Faculty’s academic offerings. Getting a good look at what LA&PS physically looks like was almost as important as getting to know the people who occupy the spaces.
Singer and his road show companion Didier Pomerleau, executive director of strategic planning for LA&PS, were overwhelmed by the incredible hospitality shown by the 21 schools and departments and four affiliated colleges. They were also impressed by the unique perspectives and ideas the students brought to each conversation.
Right: Singer addresses concerns in the Department of Sociology, one of the 25 units he visited in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
“Many students are engaged with the Faculty in meaningful ways, embedded in our decision-making bodies and active within the classroom,” Pomerleau says. “They spoke highly of each of their departments and of the strong calibre of their professors. We were impressed with what they had to share and remain committed to continuing to seek out their input.”
Faculty and staff had innumerable contributions to make and innovative ideas to share. The discussions were open and collegial, giving the dean a clear picture of the strengths of each unit and an appreciation for the challenges that they face.
“The secret weapon of the Faculty, the secret weapon of York, is the people,” remarks Singer of his road show experience. “This Faculty is full of talented alumni, professors, staff, incredibly bright students and there is a plethora of daily events, and individual and collective achievements that I’m not sure get the full visibility they deserve.”
|Above: Singer (front, centre) with executive members of the Student Council of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies|
So how will the new Faculty showcase its members to the rest of York and the external community?
This is one of many challenging and exciting questions that Singer and Pomerleau are tasked with as they review their findings and draw on the strategic planning framework and other key York documents – including the Provostial White Paper – to create a plan for the Faculty that will move it forward, not just in the next year or two to come, but for the next 10 years.
The first draft of the plan was brought to the LA&PS Faculty Council on June 10 for discussion. On June 17, a special session of council spawned additional community review, recommendations and refinement. The countless fragments of discussion and critical assessment from the rigours of the road show helped get clarity on what students, faculty and staff want, and the resulting plan is anticipated to be voted on as early as the June 24 meeting of Faculty Council.
“From here we need to look ahead and strengthen the community that we are becoming, that we have to become,” says Singer. “And after meeting so many people and listening to their passion and commitment, I believe this Faculty – our students, professors, staff and alumni – are ready to do that.”
For more information on “The Road Show”, e-mail Didier Pomerleau at firstname.lastname@example.org.