Dean Woodin's remarks at 2021–22 year-end Faculty Council meeting

April 20, 2022 by A&S News

Read Dean Woodin’s remarks from the April 20, 2022 A&S Council meeting where she highlighted just some of the accomplishments of the A&S community in 2021–22 and looked ahead to the 2022 Fall Term.

With the arrival of warmer weather and longer daylight our energy lifts, reminding us that spring is a time of renewal and hope, and it is in that spirit that I welcome you today.  

This year, faculty, staff, and students celebrated a return to campus after a prolonged period of separation. Though things are not completely back to normal, we have been able to gather to learn and share activities as a community. It has been wonderful to see and experience the energy returning. 

Just last night I attended a Film Screening at Innis College for a documentary of the 2014 revolution in Ukraine, called Winter on Fire.  The award-winning Director came all the way from LA to participate in person. Hearing the remarks from Ukrainian students was one of the most impactful experiences I’ve had in years. 

I am especially looking forward to our first in-person convocation ceremonies in two years. U of T’s spring convocation will comprise 32 individual ceremonies held during the month of June, in which 15,500 students will graduate. Graduation is such an important milestone, and I cannot wait to celebrate this year’s class. 

In case you have not heard, the University is also planning to hold a series of in-person events to recognize the achievements of more than 40,000 students who graduated in 2020 and 2021. Convocation is always special: there is no doubt that bringing together these cohorts will be quite meaningful. 

Arts & Science alumnus Stephen Leacock once said: “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.” This year, our community members were fortunate to receive a variety of awards. That good fortune, of course, resulted from years of hard work.  

We salute, for example, historian Lynne Viola, winner of a Gold Medal from the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada. I recently heard Lynne on CBC Ideas talking about her time as a student on exchange in Russia and her interactions with the KGB. It was fascinating! 

Other major achievements include philosopher Joseph Heath, winner of the Donner Prize; political scientists Dan Breznitz and Ron Deibert, winners of, respectively, the Balsillie Prize and the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize; the Department of Chemistry’s Geoffrey Ozin, winner of the Killam Prize; and our multiple Guggenheim Fellowship winners and Royal Society appointees.  

Our faculty members are leaders in their fields and valued as trusted experts to help us understand and navigate the world around us, especially now.  

Our students, too, showed why they are Canada’s very best, earning well-deserved honours for their commitment to academics and public service. Among others we cite Kehkashan Basu, winner of the Governor General’s Meritorious Service Medal; Princess Diana Award winners Ashwini Selvakumaran and Jolie Gan; and Riley Yesno, who was recently selected as a Vanier Scholar.  

The accomplishments of our alumni are too many to mention, but there are two I would like to highlight: first, the appointment of a dozen Arts & Science graduates to the Order of Canada, and second, the amazing 11-time Jeopardy champion Mattea Roach, who graduated from Arts & Science in 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts in Sexual Diversity Studies, Political Science and Women & Gender Studies. I know I will be watching Mattea’s appearance on the Tournament of Champions!  

171 new courses from 39 units were approved during this academic year, all of them reflecting changing times and interests, and the very latest research discoveries. This fall, our students will be learning about everything, from the role of the human microbiome to the challenges of city-building. They will be greening the Internet and examining the problem of racism through the lens of politics, philosophy, and anthropology. 

As our Faculty continues to make an impact, this past year also saw the establishment of a new Data Science Planning Committee, intended to allow for creative proposals relating to data science and data literacy. The extraordinary interest in this area was also reflected in the opening of the new Data Science Institute, a multidisciplinary hub primed to position the University of Toronto as a key player in the data revolution.  

Our innovation in the area of digital humanities, to cite one example, will be ably supported by this new initiative. 

In fact, digital learning is now at the forefront of our strategic planning. This year, we began a series of consultations with our community to help identify what we should prioritize in our digital learning now and for the long term.  

As the world has stopped and started, our Faculty has continued to move forward. I want to thank everyone in Arts & Science for your commitment, your wisdom and dedication. 

Finally, I would like to extend my deepest thanks to all members of the Arts & Science Faculty Council for the superb governance you have provided during this past year. You play a critical role in all that we do: for that, we are eternally grateful.  

Thank you,

Dean Woodin

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

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