A&S faculty, staff, and students are supported by infrastructure and operational services that aim to provide the best possible environment for teaching and research.
Four significant space and infrastructure challenges currently limit the aspirations of our academic units. First, as a result of A&S investments in faculty complement, increases in our postdoctoral fellow complement, years of provincially driven graduate expansion, and changes in pedagogy, almost all of our units have now reached the limits of their physical space. This constrains their current operations and limits their abilities to take advantage of new opportunities in research and teaching. Second, as a result of space limitations, several of our units are spread across multiple buildings, leading to problems for morale, sense of community, research collaborations, and administrative coordination. Third, many of our units are in buildings that were not designed for their current purposes, and consequently operate in spaces that lack appropriate facilities for their disciplines. Finally, many of our older buildings need major infrastructure upgrades if they are to continue to function effectively.
A robust capital fund is critical if we are to create much-needed new spaces and undertake major renovations on existing spaces. This will include base allocations from the operating budget to replenish and expand the capital account. The Faculty will work with our partners across the downtown campus, including the Vice-President, Operations and Real Estate Partnerships, the other St. George-based divisions, and the Colleges, to renovate existing and develop new spaces. New buildings and major renovations should, where appropriate, promote interdisciplinary academic activities with research, teaching, and informal spaces that leverage our strengths as a Faculty of Arts and Science. This may involve placing units in buildings according to academic themes and exploring a variety of connections to link units across and within buildings. We will develop best practices and guidelines for A&S unit leaders regarding how to undertake improvements and renovations to their spaces, including information about timelines, governance, and funding. Considering our critical space needs, we are adding leadership and staff capacity; the Dean recently created a new Associate Dean, Space & Infrastructure position, and new additional staff members have been approved for the Faculty’s Infrastructure Planning office.
Communications plays a key role in leveraging our strengths by telling the stories that promote the achievements of the A&S community and enhance our profile locally and internationally. Communications is also critical to the sound functioning of the Faculty by ensuring that our internal messaging builds community and supports the work of faculty, staff, and students.
In “Leveraging our Strengths,” our thinking and planning is guided by two overarching goals around communications. We aim to build reputation by developing and investing in content strategies that promote the Faculty’s relevance and impact. We are also focused on supporting internal community, by building collaborative relationships and engagement strategies that help create pride of place and a stronger, more connected A&S.
Throughout the next five years, we will focus on building a strong foundation that empowers communicators to identify, create, and plan meaningful communications across our community, and to convey that Arts & Science is a place of excellence, innovation, and global significance.
The Faculty is committed to the continued modernization and investment in information technology services that facilitate the teaching and research mission of the University. Over the next five to ten years, a continued focus on the provision of coordinated, transformative, state-of-the-art IT services will enable us to leverage our strengths. The IT mandate is broad, with Information & Instructional Technology (IIT) providing support to more than 45 units for public web solutions, collaborative technology, custom application development, and IT infrastructure modernization. In addition, we are committed to building the infrastructure needed to support emerging digital pedagogies. We recognize the importance of departmental IT, present in many of the science and social science departments, which provides much-needed IT support for both teaching and research activities.
In 2019, the University’s Chief Information Officer (CIO) led the development of a University IT strategic plan related to the transformation of information technology. A&S is positioned as an institutional partner in this transformation. Divisional IT will continue to work with institutional Information Technology Services (ITS) on the rollout and support for institutional technology initiatives. We will collaborate with the Director of Institutional Research and Data Governance, and the IRDG team, on the new Data Governance Program that will drive the creation of high-quality data and sound institutional data practices. In addition, we will collaborate with ITS on institutional security and risk programs, with the aim of better protecting IT infrastructure in an increasingly threatening security landscape.
In order to achieve our ambitious research and teaching goals, A&S must have strong operational supports in place. We will build capital funds with the aim of investing in new and improved spaces for faculty, staff, and students. Our communications strategy will allow us to more effectively leverage our strengths by promoting our achievements locally and globally. Our IT resources will ensure that our students and researchers have access to leading-edge technology in their work. The Faculty aims to provide space, infrastructure, and operational supports that will achieve the best possible experience for faculty, staff, postdoctoral fellows, and students in their work and learning environments.
Commitment to Sustainability
New buildings and major renovations will meet U of T standards of environmental sustainability (which often exceed provincial and national standards). Our buildings will be designed to promote respect for the environment and foster sustainable practices within the communities that live and work in them. We will also explore opportunities to reduce environmental impacts throughout all A&S operations, for example, by reducing our use of single-use plastics, and supporting the use of digital technologies, such as virtual meeting spaces as an alternative to carbon-intensive travel.
Commitments to Mental Health and Well-being
In addition to achieving academic goals, new builds and major renovations should promote the health and well-being of everyone using these spaces. It is important to consider not only office and research spaces, but also classrooms, meeting rooms, event spaces, informal and non-assignable spaces (especially for graduate and undergraduate students), flexible spaces, food service and eating spaces, and green and outside spaces, including the public realm between buildings. It is essential for the well-being of students, faculty, and staff to ensure that spaces are available to build community and connections on campus, with locations for social events and informal gatherings, as well as areas for quiet reflection. Our goal is to create space that is welcoming, accessible, and safe, thereby promoting well-being for all.