‘We have to think beyond the norm’
When it comes to fostering a student-centred environment, creating new academic realities and training next-generation leaders for workplace success, Paula Wood-Adams says Concordia is up to the task.
Can you describe a next-generation School of Graduate Studies?
Paula Wood-Adams: The school’s main goal is to set conditions so that our graduate students are as successful as possible, as academics, workers, leaders and citizens. To really do this well, we have to think beyond the norm and adapt to new realities.
For example, in past years we identified several issues that tie into the larger debate about universities’ involvement in shaping future generations. One of these is the need for complementary skills programs. Whether they choose teaching or a non-academic career, students need to be better prepared to enter the workforce, and it is our responsibility to help them do so.
Likewise, we have to reassess certain practices in light of new demands. For instance, universities across the globe are examining what a doctoral thesis should consist of. Are we creating professors more than we are preparing researchers?
We have to address these questions directly, see what is being done elsewhere, analyze the landscape and then translate our findings into a program offer that remains current and relevant.
How will your strategic plan help the School of Graduate Studies get there?
PWA: Our five-year strategic plan focuses on three areas — cultivating a graduate student–centred environment, preparing and training next-generation leaders and reaching beyond our walls. A good example that connects all three areas is our newly launched Public Scholars Program.
In a nutshell, the program aims to bridge the gap between researchers and the community. Ten PhD candidates will be selected every year and provided with training on several topics, such as business etiquette, government and media relations and op-ed writing. As title holders, they are expected to actively engage with the wider community and share the significance of their research.
Another way we teach for tomorrow and foster the development of an intellectual community within the university is through our Graduate Community Building Fund. By supporting student-led projects, we hope to encourage them to reap the full benefits of their graduate experience by enhancing a connection with their program while actively participating in university life.
Can you share three initiatives that are planned for 2016-17?
PWA: Since supervisors are such key people in graduate students’ lives, we recently launched the Concordia University Award for Graduate Mentoring. We hope to bring recognition to the considerable efforts they provide in their commitment to mentoring, advising and supporting our students.
The second initiative is something that is still at an embryonic stage, but that should take shape within the next year. PhD students can look forward to a new series of evidence-based workshops on career management from GradProSkills.
And finally, we’re working toward increasing our number of collaborative degrees, notably via cotutelles.
These offer great opportunities for students and supervisors alike to work with other institutions across the world, affording them higher visibility of their research, international experience and expanded professional networks.
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