Provost Log

Log #5:  April 26, 2016

Exams are over and next up will be convocation season; 17 convocations!

It has been a while so let me catch up. First I went to India to sign an MOU for the Faculties of Management and Computer Science with the MYRA Business School in Mysore. The Canadian Consul came with me and we made the news in both English and Hindi.  Great opportunities in data analytics and business intelligence for collaboration. Then off to PES university where we have a long standing collaboration in CS including last summer when we hosted undergraduates in our research labs. Later I went to Paraguay to sign an MOU on behalf of the CALDO consortium of U15 universities for graduate scholarships and research opportunities. One of the most interesting meetings was with ITAIPU hydropower corp for Paraguay. They have their own scholarships for employees and are interested in working with us.

Budget consultations are now finished, lots of useful input and certainly we appreciate the resistance to tuition increases. Much of the discussion ended up focused on the public policy related to access, which is a bit outside of the BAC mandate but an issue of concern to all of us. Students made some good suggestions, of a practical nature, on the calculations used for the tuition reset for Engineering, Agriculture, and Pharmacy that BAC used in the revised version of the report. The President will take the Budget to the Board in June.

At the U15 Provost’s meeting held in Montreal last week we focused on some interesting topics: TRC recommendations, Ceremonial protocols, mental health initiatives, and open access textbooks.

I thought you might be interested in a short report I made in Senate on Monday in response to an earlier request for data on DFA (Dal Faculty Union) professors vs sessionals teaching at Dal. We have a 90-10 rule, which is in the DFA contract, calculated on an annual basis that ensures that at least 90% of the people teaching courses are DFA members.  We are again in compliance: summer 97%, Fall 92%, and Winter 91%.

Log #4: Dal Date: March 21, 2016

First of spring and who would guess with the snow falling!

Last week was a fairly calm week.

Started the week with a Senate meeting on Monday followed by a terrific presentation by Dr. Art McDonald, Dal alumnus, who won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on finding that the neutrino had mass at the bottom of a nickel mine in Sudbury. His talk was packed and many people watched remotely from overflow areas. I could not believe how well he was able to engage the whole audience in his work!

My PhD student was in town so I spent some time working with her on her thesis; always makes for a good week.

My main focus this past week was reflecting on the concerns expressed by students during BAC (Budget Advisory Committee) consultations over the last 2 weeks. Financial Services did more modeling of the resets so that BAC could frame out the revisions for the final report, hopefully out by March 28th.  We met as a committee Friday at noon, yes we get sandwiches, and were in agreement on the changes. Hopefully, one more draft and we will be ready.

Of course, Thursday I tuned in to the CIS website to watch the Dal Tigers beat the Ottawa Gee-Gees in the CIS Championship quarterfinals. Impressive for our first time ever to get to the semifinals. Well done Tigers!

Log #3: Dal Date: Monday, March 14, 2016

This last week I have been pretty much in overload mode with new ideas and ways of thinking coming at me from all directions. I am not complaining!

Last Friday our Centre for Learning and Teaching invited Maggie Kovach, from University of Saskatchewan, to visit Dal and give two workshops. The first, which I was able to attend, was on Indigenous Sensibilities in the classroom and the second on Indigenous methodologies in research. I was really impressed with her practical approaches to help us stretch our comfort zone and begin to indigenize our curriculum and approaches. In the evening, the President hosted a working session with Elders and a wide range of interested and interesting people and, to which I shamelessly invited myself and was glad that I had!

Then on Monday and Tuesday I was in Montreal to participate in the Universities Canada Workshop on The Future of the Liberal Arts. Marie Batiste was part of this discussion and Joseph Boyden gave a fabulous personal account for the importance of liberal arts using his life story, including a reading from his latest book, The Orenda.

Moving on to Wednesday, the Dean of FASS and I hosted our Nova Scotia colleagues (Vice-Presidents Academic and Deans of Arts and Social Sciences) along with Senators, FASS chairs and directors, and other colleagues, for a presentation by the Education Advisory Board on the liberal arts entitled, Reclaiming our Value. We followed this with a great discussion on collaboration and opportunities for the province.

BAC started meeting again to consider all of the feedback from the consultations and submissions and develop our final draft 2016-17 budget. I would characterise the student responses as largely focused on the following concerns: tuition increases, more student spaces, financial aid, value for services, transparency, increasing revenue, lobbying efforts, and cost saving initiatives. BAC started on Friday and will continue to address these issues as well as concerns raised on the specific tuition resets in agriculture, pharmacy, and engineering. We anticipate the final report to be completed by end of March.

Log #2: Dal Date: Monday, March 7, 2016

The past two weeks have been intense with four BAC budget consultations with students in agriculture, engineering, pharmacy, and the final one with the DSU on Wednesday. Each session was open to all Dalhousie students, and students were also encouraged to send comments to  Lots of passion and good points made. Now the committee will get back to work to take those points into account as we do the final version of the budget to present to the President.  Thanks to all of you who came and especially those persistent few who came to all of the sessions!

Happy to be able to announce this week new deans for Management, Dr. Sylvain Charlebois from Guelph, and for FASS, Dr. Frank Harvey, from Political Science at Dal. Two great hires with lots of energy and great ideas.  We are finishing up the review of the University Librarian this week, on its regular 5-year cycle of review.

We took time out to thank Anne Forrestall, who has been our acting Vice-Provost Student Affairs for the past year and a half.  Anne did a great job in trying circumstances and will continue as Assistant Vice-Provost, Student Affairs come April 1, with added responsibility for our retention strategy going forward.

One of my roles is to Chair the Provost Committee. So what, you might ask, is a Provost Committee?? This is a committee with the VPResearch, VPExternal, VPFinance, Vice-Provost Student Affairs, and a Dean. We meet roughly once a week as needed to ensure that initiatives that have a university impact are properly vetted and aligned with the University’s goals and academic mission.  For example, on Monday two members of the Academic IT Committee came to discuss an investment they would like to make into video data streaming capacity primarily for course use across all campuses. We listen to the presentation, ask questions, and then try to assess if this idea warrants investment, where that investment might come from, check that there has been adequate background work, consultation done with appropriate stakeholders, and check if this needs to go through other processes of approvals, i.e., Senate or the Board.

Best part of my week was on Friday when I got myself invited to the CLT led workshop on Indigenous Sensibilities in Teaching. The guest speaker in the morning was Dr. Margaret Kovach from University of Saskatchewan. She also gave a workshop on research and later I joined in a working session on pulling all of this together. Learned a lot! You can get a sense of her approach in her latest report Indigenous Presence.  Check it out

Got my ticket for the basketball tournament this weekend! AND Dal’s men won in a nail biter Saturday over SMU 75-74 with SMU having 2 free throws after the final buzzer.

Log #1: Dal Date: Monday, February 29, 2016

Leap year day, great day to start a series.  At a breakfast meeting last week, DSU execs Dan and Kaitlynne remarked that students really had no idea what senior admin people actually do and could we share a bit of our perspectives.  So I am challenging myself to log in each week on my priorities and activities, ups and downs from my perspective for this term and I’ll see where it goes from there.

So, first, what is a provost anyway?? Dr. Google provides a wide range of answers to this definitional difficulty from: officer in local government, mayor in Scotland, name of an Alberta town, person appointed to preside, and gasp “keeper of a prison.”  In the context of universities, luckily, the provost is simply the senior academic administrator, which I interpret as it is my job to keep the academic mission first and foremost in the operations of the university.

What are my current priorities? At 50,000 ft, job one is to integrate and enable progress on our strategic priorities [DalForward]. Down here on the ground, that means getting the best people to work at Dal, getting great students, and enabling both students and faculty to succeed.

OK but what have I been doing? We just finished two searches for Deans, Dean of FASS and Dean of Management. These recommendations are going for Board approval this week and then will be announced. And last month we concluded the search for our first Vice-Provost Student Affairs, Dr. Arig al Shaibah is coming April 1.

The retention team, led by Acting Vice-Provost Anne Forrestall and Associate Vice-President Fiona Black, with Sandy Walde and DalAnalytics produced a remarkable ten-year data analysis of student success from 1st to 2nd year, which allows us to identify problems and to better target resources to improve student programs and advising. We have just started to take this data out for consultation and brain storming with Senate SLTC (Learning and Teaching Committee), the fund raisers in Advancement, Deans, and even with the NS task force on education. It is interesting how compelling this analysis is!

Of course, we are in the middle of the Budget Advisory Committee budget consultations and this takes up a lot of my time. So far the consultations at the Board, Senate, Faculty of Agriculture, and College of Pharmacy have been intense but very helpful. The students in both Agriculture and Pharmacy prepared a short document with their recommendations that I can take to the BAC when we resume meetings next week. I already have asked for some further modelling based on that input, so thanks to them.  You can get the draft BAC report (the first 2 pages are the exec summary) and try out the new Budget Calculator.

I will not bore you with the details of kazillions of meetings per day!

Send me email,, with questions that I can try to answer.