Dean Woodin addresses first A&S Council meeting of the 2021–22 Academic Year

October 27, 2021 by A&S News

Read Dean Woodin’s remarks from the October 20, 2021 A&S Council meeting where she provided an update on how the Fall Term is going and looked ahead to the Winter Term.

Update on Fall Term

I want to begin by thanking all members of the Arts & Science community for their hard-work, flexibility, dedication, and support as we have returned to in person learning this fall. You will recall that when the pandemic struck Toronto last March, we had to move quickly online, much like the flip of a switch — and, while incredibly difficult at the time, that was certainly more straightforward than returning to campus. Given that this transition back hasn’t been without its challenges, I want to remind of you why we made this decision — the main motivations were two-fold: the first was pedagogical — many instructors told us that their material was best taught in person, and second, we knew that many students missed the on-campus experience, and that it was important for their mental health and well-being to return. We knew that it wouldn’t be easy, but that it was important to be back together as soon as it was permissible.

Now that we’re largely past mid-term season, we’ve had some time to hear from our community and to reflect on where we are at now. I’m hearing from instructors who have found their passion for teaching re-ignited by a return to the classroom, and I’m hearing from students that they’re having an easier time focusing on the material. It’s also just wonderful to see our Faculty come back to life. Whether it’s students playing chess on the board that’s embedded onto a concrete table on the back patio of Sid Smith, or the cluster of students around the food trucks, it’s so great to see and feel the sense of community start to return.

Based on how the reopening has gone to date, we’re planning to continue with the Winter Term as planned. But, as always during this pandemic, we’ll adjust if needed based on any changes in public health guidelines.

I want to take a moment now to share my deep appreciation to the ASSU Executive (Fatemeh Nami, President, Cianna Choo, Paavni Grover, Basmah Ramadan, Sidrah Rana), who have provided continual feedback and met with my leadership team frequently to share their concerns and suggestions. We’ve relied on this feedback and will continue to do so. I encourage all students across the Faculty to engage with your student union, as the more you do that, the more informed my team and I will be with the needs of undergraduate students.

One example of the feedback we received from students is the need for more flexible space, especially during the pandemic. While this is still a work in progress, I want to highlight that it was this feedback that was instrumental in getting the online campus space finder app created in such short order, expediting the opening of dine-in eating spaces, and piloting the installation of an outdoor tent at Sid Smith (close to McLennan Physics) — with furniture and more tents to come to maximize the comfortable use of the outdoors.

Teaching Awards

Let me turn my attention now to highlight teaching excellence across the Faculty. We recognize outstanding teaching through a variety of annual awards, as described on the Arts & Science Teaching Awards website, which details the deadlines and nomination procedures for the Arts & Science awards (the Online Learning Academy Fellowship, the Outstanding Teaching Award and Superior Teaching Award), as well as key institutional awards.

If you have questions about the A&S Teaching Awards or are considering nominating an instructor from your unit for an institutional or external teaching award, members of the Dean’s Office are here to help. As listed on that website, you can contact Erin Macnab, Assistant Director, Teaching & Learning. Erin works with units to identify and review the suitability of candidates for various awards. Specifically, she will:

  • Advise on candidate suitability for various awards.
  • Assist, where necessary, in securing decanal support for awards.
  • Work with the Communications Office in Arts & Science to share information about awards and award recipients.
  • Consult with the Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation (CTSI) and the Provost’s Office regarding institutional and external teaching awards.
  • Support the nomination process for various awards, including the drafting of nomination dossiers.

So please do consider nominating a deserving colleague.

Participation in Faculty Council

Let me close by making a few remarks on the purpose of this council itself. While the primary purpose of the Arts & Science Council is to consider and approve academic policy, it also provides an opportunity for us to come together — to share information and to meet one another. So, I encourage you and your colleagues to attend this year. I am in discussion with the Agenda Committee about how we might position Faculty Council more centrally in the life of our community in Arts & Science. onsiderations include how we might recognize milestone career achievements and excellence in teaching and research, so stay tuned as this conversation evolves.

And with that I’ll bring my remarks to a close.

Thank you,

Dean Woodin

Melanie A. Woodin
Dean, Faculty of Arts & Science
Professor, Department of Cell & Systems Biology
University of Toronto