Draft of Academic Plan presented

Amy Mullin, UTM’s vice-principal academic and dean, has presented the draft of the UTM Divisional Academic Plan, a reflection of the values and issues that emerged in the planning process. The plan is for 2012 to 2017.

Last Wednesday in the Council Chambers, at a town hall dedicated specifically to staff members—the first of three planned town hall meetings meant to give the UTM community a chance to discuss the UTM Divisional Academic Plan—Mullin led a discussion about the draft plan.

About 30 faculty, staff, and alumni attended the town hall. Mullin began by presenting a short overview of the August draft of the UTM Academic Plan, which was first developed at the end of June and is expected to go through governance by the end of November.

Mullin struck the Academic Planning Committee to guide UTM through the planning process, an opportunity for UTM to assess its development and identify areas for change and growth. The APC included four faculty members, a graduate student, an undergraduate student, a librarian, one of our alumni, and a staff member, in addition to Mullin.

As part of the process, a set of values was drafted and shared at two academic town halls last October. One was specifically meant for receiving input from students.

By the end of November, individual academic units were asked to complete “self-studies” and incorporate the key findings of those studies in a first draft of their plans. Each unit was expected to consult with staff, undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, librarians, and alumni.

The plans addressed such issues as research, teaching, the academic experience, and curricula. The APC gave detailed feedback on each department’s draft plan and the final plans were submitted by March.

Finally, the draft of the entire UTM Divisional Academic Plan was created as a synthesis of the drafts of the different academic units.

The draft starts off by citing that throughout the five years the plan is to be in effect, the international undergraduate student intake will exceed 17%, and the domestic undergraduate enrolments will increase by approximately 5% per year.

The draft continues with a statement of UTM’s values that guide academic planning, and then breaks down those values into the divisional plan.

“The plan is presented in the context of the values,” said Mullin. “The plan kind of presents a snapshot of where we are [and] where we want to be, and lists the next steps.”

One of the most important things about the plan, she said, is to invest in new faculty and staff positions to enhance the student experience.

Another announcement that Mullin made was that UTM is currently in the process of hiring a campus-wide full-time equity officer, as was first called for by the students, who will be funded centrally by the university and who would offer support to the whole UTM community. This is so that students don’t have to go downtown every time they are presented with an equity issue.

Mullin went on to express her desire to hire a central community outreach officer in order to support different units with the outreach each department has been doing. UTM will also hire another person to work with Stacey Platt, the international student development officer at UTM’s International Centre, in order to better address the needs of international students.

Mullin spoke briefly about using campus space as efficiently as possible, as pressure on classrooms is increasing due to increased enrolment. The draft refers to the expansion of the North Building and Kaneff Centre as new sources of academic space to meet the needs of a growing community. In light of this, a Scheduling Committee has been struck to “develop principles that will govern the scheduling of classes on this campus”.

When Mullin spoke about the importance of skill development, she addressed the increasing support to the transition to university programs at the university. In the future, said Mullin, there will be a utmONE skills-based credit option, a utmONE “Scholar’s One”, and drop-in sessions instead of mandatory sessions.

Mullin spoke at length about the development of writing skills, and the decision to move forward with what has been at the faculty of arts and sciences, which is training “lead writing TAs”, who will then train additional TAs. This is a response to a proposal from the Robert Gillespie Academic Skills Centre, an option Mullin prefers over introducing writing-intensive courses—which have proven to be less effective than writing initiatives.

A major concern brought up by faculty members was students’ writing skills. One faculty member suggested that students should need to pass a writing course in order to pass into their third year. It was replied that such an initiative would be very “resource-intensive” and would not be as effective as a writing initiative like the one the RGASC proposed.

In an effort to ensure that student voices are heard in the academic planning process, a town hall primarily for students has been booked at a location and date to be announced, possibly when classes are underway and students have settled into their schedules.

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