Recap of Social Sciences and Humanities Town Hall

Joseph Doucet - 14 October 2021

Last week, more than 400 participants joined me for a discussion on the state and future of the  College of Social Sciences and Humanities at our first-ever town hall. I want to thank each of you for your interest and engagement. For those of you were unable to join, a recording of the town hall is available here.

At the core of the College of Social Sciences and Humanities are four great faculties with strong programs, high-impact research and creative activity, and an outstanding complement of faculty, staff and students.

I have been a faculty member at the U of A for 21 years, and it is a privilege to be in a position to support these great faculties moving forward.

The College of Social Sciences and Humanities combines strengths in arts, business, education and law to expand the boundaries of knowledge and understanding of ourselves and our society and to lead research and teaching that fosters a creative, equitable, inclusive, just and democratic society, with opportunity and well-being for all. In this I see the potential for an exciting future as we navigate changes to teaching and learning, pursue enrollment growth, and continue to build on the incredible research, innovation, engagement, and creative activity that flows from the U of A’s social sciences and humanities faculties.

Operating model, college offices, and partner networks

The U of A for Tomorrow Operating Model, released in June of this year, outlines the roles, responsibilities, and accountabilities that reside at the university, college, faculty, and department levels. The model also outlines the ways that the Service Excellence Transformation initiative—or SET—and the colleges come together through U of A for Tomorrow. The core academic mission of faculties lies at the very centre of this new model, and has remained front of mind as we have begun developing the College of Social Sciences and Humanities.

The operating model also provides the basic structure for the colleges, which will be made up of the following primary offices:

  • The Office of Education, responsible for shared student services, coordinated student advising, academic integrity processes, and administrative work related to experiential and work-integrated learning
  • The Graduate Office, which oversees academic structure and performance in partnership with FGSR
  • The Office of Research, which drives institutional research strategy and college-relevant initiatives, including interdisciplinary activity
  • Strategic Initiatives, including Indigenous initiatives, EDI, and international

The networks of service partners currently being built out in Research and Innovation, University Services and Finance, External Relations, the Registrar's Office, the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research, and other portfolios will also play a key role in connecting the core academic mission in faculties with centres of expertise around the university. I envision the college working closely with service partners in, for example, strategic initiatives, where the college can serve as an important bridge between university-level strategy and faculty-level initiatives. In the area of enrollment management, the college will serve to connect faculties to one another—and to the Registrar's Office—to improve communication and information flow, and to build a better understanding of enrollment and enrollment changes across the health sciences and humanities faculties. As we look at enrollment growth in the coming years, a cohesive institutional view of enrollment will become even more important.

Ongoing development

As we have begun building out the structure and operating model outlined above, the council of social sciences and humanities deans has been meeting weekly to undertake this work. The college and faculty general managers across the social sciences and humanities have likewise been meeting regularly to ensure that we take a coordinated approach that supports our four faculties.

At this stage, the work of identifying services and functions that could operate best at the college level—in alignment with the operating model—is currently the purview of several working groups. To date we have established working groups focused on:

  • Graduate studies
  • Research
  • Education
  • Equity, diversity and inclusion

In addition, the SET initiative remains ongoing, and will continue until the fiscal year end in March. We are also awaiting recommendations from the Academic Leaders Task Group that was struck by the provost to review academic leadership roles in the context of the new college model.

People of the college

At the town hall, I also had an opportunity to introduce the people who so far make up the College of Social Sciences and Humanities. This includes our council of deans, a collaborative leadership group made up of:

  • Barbara Billingsley, Dean, Faculty of Law
  • Kyle Murray, Acting Dean, Alberta School of Business
  • Steve Patten, Interim Dean, Faculty of Arts
  • Jennifer Tupper, Dean, Faculty of Education

It also includes two members of the college dean's office: Jasmine Irvine, College Executive Assistant, and Kerrie Johnston, College General Manager.

Several Senior Partners have now been appointed in the College of Social Sciences and Humanities. These include:

  • Stacey Brennan (HR)
  • Sara Horseman (Finance)
  • Tony Kurian (Finance)
  • Rob Washburn (IT)
  • Sarah Peterson (Recruitment)
  • Jennifer Alabiso (Enrollment)
  • Kristofer Connor (Communications)

There are still several more senior partners to be appointed in the coming weeks.

Lastly, you may recall that the Peter Lougheed Leadership College was relocated from its administrative home in the Provost's Office, and is now part of the College of Social Sciences and Humanities. It was my pleasure to introduce Richard Field, Academic Director of the PLLC, as a member of the college.

I want to again thank everyone who participated in our first college town hall. I encourage you to watch for another opportunity to engage with the future of the college in November.

Joseph Doucet
Interim Dean, College of Social Sciences and Humanities


Questions asked and answered

How will student services fit into the college model?
Student services that are closely tied to academic programming will remain in the faculties. The work associated with supporting students that is less closely tied to discipline--general career development, for example--may move centralized delivery through either the colleges or the Student Service Centre.

Can you elaborate and provide updates on the college working groups?
To date, four working groups have been struck to focus on graduate studies, research, education, and EDI. For each of those groups, the four faculty deans were asked to nominate individuals to begin this discussion. They include representation from each faculty--for example, associate deans of research from each faculty are coming together in a collective discussion of research needs. As we move forward, gathering broader input, representation, and discussion will be important, particularly as we develop the details of the college. These working groups give us an opportunity to collectively think about new ways forward that we might not have considered previously.

How do we ensure that the new administrative layer that the college creates doesn't duplicate work at the faculty and department level?
The elimination of duplication is one of the key principles guiding this transformation. The overall goal is to streamline services, eliminate duplication, and enable faculty to focus on the high-value activities of teaching, research and supervision.

Does the new model make faculty councils obsolete? Is there a decision-making role for faculty at the college level?
Faculty councils are absolutely not obsolete. The college is not a substitute for the academic decision making structures and processes that are enshrined in our academic governance. This work remains the purview of the faculties.

What do you see as the biggest challenges for the college over the next couple years? How will we mitigate risks?
There are two major challenges that I'm currently focused on:

  1. Supporting SET and the administrative transformation so that we move as quickly as possible to a high-performing set of services that enable our faculty and students to do the work that they do.
  2. Demonstrating to the people of the college that there is value to the college offices and strategic initiatives that we are setting up.

Accomplishing these two things will put us on sound footing from which to grow our enrollment, develop innovative new programs, and deliver high-impact teaching and research.



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