In an effort to better profile university governance, we’re launching a new feature highlighting some of the presentations and decisions that come out of the Dalhousie University Senate.
Senate is the university’s senior academic governing body, with membership consisting of elected representatives from Dal’s Faculties and the University Libraries, elected student representatives, a representative from the University of King’s College and Dal’s senior administrators. Senate is responsible for approving new programs; granting degrees/diplomas; managing the reviews of Faculties, centres and institutes; and setting academic regulations and the academic calendar.
You can learn more about Senate and its business at the Senate website.
Senate meets on the second and fourth Mondays of the month, from September through June. Look for our Senate Notes feature following each meeting — and for a similar feature on the University Board of Governors launching next month.
Introducing new Vice-Chair (Student Affairs) Tanya Packer
Professor Tanya Packer of the School of Occupational Therapy was appointed as the new Senate vice-chair for student affairs, for a three-year term effective July 1, 2017. She succeeds Katherine Harman (School of Physiotherapy), who has served in the role since 2014.
The vice-chair is one of three executive officers of Senate, alongside the chair and the vice-chair (academic programs). The student affairs vice-chair provides oversight of all aspects of student academic integrity and student academic appeals and chairs the Senate Learning and Teaching Committee.
Dr. Packer, who has previously served as director of the School of Occupational Therapy, conducts research focusing on improving the health and participation of people with long-term conditions. A visiting professor at Radboud and HAN Universities in the Netherlands, she is a member of the College of Occupational Therapists of Nova Scotia, serves on the CNIB national board of directors and received the Brain Injury Association of Canada’s Dr. Jane Gillett Research Award in 2013.
In accepting her nomination, she pledged to be a champion for the learning environment of all students, from undergraduates and graduate students to international students. And she discussed the importance of linking Dal’s student experience with university research.
“All students should be engaged in inquiry and research of some kind,” she said. “Even at the undergraduate level, students who are given a challenge to solve are more engaged in their own learning, and sometimes that challenge is what propels them forward in their careers.”
Strategic Priority 3.1: Fostering creativity, innovation, entrepreneurship
Vice-President Research Martha Crago provided an overview of Strategic Priority 3.1 from Dalhousie’s Strategic Direction. Priority 3.1 commits the university to contribute to cultural and economic vitality, locally and globally, by fostering creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship.
As outlined in the priority’s charter, that means enhancing Dal’s service to its communities (in Nova Scotia, the region and beyond) by helping create economic and social value through cultivating engaged entrepreneurship and by harnessing curiosity, creativity and innovation.
“Now more than ever, innovation needs to be approached as multidimensional and multidisciplinary,” said Dr. Crago.
The team leading the strategic priority (led by Matt Hebb, AVP government relations, and Stephen Hartlen, AVP industry relations) has brought together a working group of individuals across the university to begin to build a university-wide strategy based on three pillars: programs, spaces and partnerships. The goal is to provide more opportunities for students and faculty alike to engage in creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship — whether they’re just exploring early opportunities (such as the new Entrepreneurial Mindset intro course), developing more robust experiences (Dal’s sandbox spaces, for example, including Cultiv8, ShiftKey Labs and the IDEA Sandbox) or ready to engage directly with a variety of external partners, including industries, NGOs and the public sector.
Dr. Crago said that community service, across all different parts of the university, in different ways, is "part of the bloodstream of Dalhousie, one of the great strengths of the university.” The strategic initiative, she explained, aims to better coordinate these various ways that Dal serves its communities. “How do we build more cohesion?"
Sexual Violence Strategy update
Vice-Provost Student Affairs Arig al Shaibah presented an update on the development of a university-wide sexual violence strategy, built on four strategic areas: leadership and accountability; awareness and prevention education; response protocols, policies, procedures; and support and resources.
One of the key initiatives under the strategy is establishing a standalone Sexual Violence Policy for the university, which Dr. al Shaibah is leading with the support of an advisory group featuring students, employees, legal counsel and faculty experts. She noted that the Dal community can expect to hear more about this work in the near future as the committee shares its draft policy and solicits feedback from the Dal community through a survey and community consultations.
“We want to try to come up with a [response] process that looks at the individual holistically, and determines the policy response that way,” said Dr. al Shaibah.
She also discussed the move towards more standardized reporting of sexual assault on campus, including Dalhousie’s participation in the North American Education Advisory Board’s Climate Survey which was distributed to students in the fall.
Going forward, reporting on sexual violence and assault on campus will be shared through the Human Rights & Equity Services office (HRES).
Dr. al Shaibah also noted that new Sexual Assault Response Protocols (covering both Halifax and Truro) are expected shortly, and will be posted to the HRES website.
Steps to make diversity and inclusion a reality
Each Senate meeting includes a short presentation from different units on their plans and strategies to better support diversity and inclusion at the university.
This meeting’s presentation was from Judy MacDonald, interim director of the School of Social Work, who discussed the school’s longstanding history of work in the field, from its designated hiring to its Diversity and Equity Committee that dates back to 1983.
“Diversity is working with evolving process,” said Dr. MacDonald, “a never-ending engagement.”
Learn more about the Dalhousie Senate at its website.
Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect that the Senate meeting took place on March 13, not March 20. We clearly turned our clocks forward a bit too far this past weekend — our apologies!
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