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October 2 is a day to engage with Montreal

Tue, 2014-09-09 16:07

Participants in last year’s Community Engagement Day taking part in the sitting volleyball event. / Photo: Neale McDevitt

All can join in 2nd annual Community Engagement Day

By McGill Reporter Staff

Some 50 projects involving a variety of community groups will be featured on Community Engagement Day (CED), which will take place on campus and around the city of Montreal on Thursday, Oct. 2.

The aim of these projects is to facilitate collaborative relationships. Members of the McGill community can be involved with existing projects happening around Montreal – learning experientially about societal issues and challenges facing communities in Montreal while doing something to address them.

All McGill students, staff and faculty can register to participate in one of the projects. “We hope to provide opportunities for thinking about the knowledge and research gained within this institution as grounded in the context of everyday experience,” said Lina Martin-Chan, who is in her final semester as a Cultural Studies student and CED’s communications co-ordinator.

Previously, CED has worked with organizations such as the Native Women’s Shelter, the Yellow Door and the N.D.G. Food Bank, Martin-Chan said, and past projects have included community walking tours, urban gardening projects, interactive workshops and filming a sign language movie.

“This year, we are working to highlight the existing projects and relationships that McGill has with the broader Montreal community,” Martin-Chan said, “as well as to facilitate the expansion and strengthening of those existing connections. We also hope to be an actor in creating new relationships.”

Some organizations that CED is very excited to be working with this year are the Milton-Parc Citizens Committee, AIDS Community Care Montreal and Maison Benedict Labre (a community centre for the underhoused and street people – involved in the south-west), Martin-Chan said.

“We are also working with a number of groups on campus, including Monster Academy, which was this year’s QPIRG Summer Stipend project. In addition, we will be hosting a number of public discussions that will range from topics on the place of history in gentrification to career opportunities in the non-profit sector.

“We want to encourage mindfulness on the importance and also complexities of volunteering culture, and also about the opportunities for community building through involvement with these organizations by integrating a reflection component in each project.”

For more information, contact Adam Finley, Lina Martin-Chan  or you can reach CED by phone at 514-398-5645. To see the full list of projects and to register check out the CED website.



Sept. 11: ISID Fall Speaker Series launch

Tue, 2014-09-09 11:37

Marie-Eve Reny

The Institute for the Study of International Development (ISID) is set to launch its semesterly Speaker Series featuring renowned speakers from various academic institutions such as Université de Montréal, University of Waterloo, NYU and more. The first speaker, Marie-Eve Reny, will speak on “How Authoritarian Regimes Manage Opposition Groups in Society” on Sept. 11, from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. in Arts 160. Topics vary with each speaker and ranges from Corruption to Fair Trade. Come enjoy free refreshments and listen to fantastic talks. For more information, contact events.isid@mcgill.ca or visit the website.


New McGill community rates for Schulich concerts

Tue, 2014-09-09 11:30






For McGill staff members, prices are now just $10 for nearly all Schulich concert tickets for the 2014-2015 season. The Schulich School of Music is offering this special rate for two tickets per concert. Kick off the season on Oct. 1, with an evening of chamber music with clarinettist and Catherine Thornhill Steele Visiting Artist, David Shifrin and pianist, Stéphane Lemelin. On Oct. 2, take in the Rush Hour Jazz Concert with jazz trumpet player, Professor Kevin Dean and guests. To view this season’s complete programming click here. Tickets must be purchased in person at the Schulich School of Music Box Office (555 Sherbrooke Street), between noon and 6 p.m. on weekdays and you will need to present a valid McGill ID card.


Curious about your pension balance?

Tue, 2014-09-09 11:18

Did you know that you can view your current McGill University Pension Plan balance every day? Simply log into your account and select the “Monitor” tab. A paper copy of your Annual Pension Statement covering the year ending Dec. 31, 2013 will be mailed to you on Sept. 30. It is a little later than previous years because of the transition to the new pension plan record-keeping platform.


First-ever Aboriginal Homecoming event headlines Indigenous Awareness Week

Mon, 2014-09-08 12:36

This year’s Indigenous Awareness Week will be held from Sept. 15-19. The Week will end with the annual Pow Wow on lower campus on Friday, Sept. 19.

By Neale McDevitt

The 4th annual Indigenous Awareness Week will be held from Sept. 15-19. Organized by the Social Equity and Diversity Education Office, the week honours the many Indigenous cultures across the country including First Nations, Métis and Inuit. The diverse program of events includes everything from the KAIROS blanket exercise (Sept. 16); a traditional dance workshop (Sept. 16); screening of short films by Indigenous filmmakers (Sept. 17); a tour of the Kanien’kehá:ka Onkwawén:na Raotitióhkwa Language and Cultural Center (Sept. 17); the ever-popular Dreamcatcher making workshops (Sept. 17); and a series of lectures by noteworthy speakers.

New to Awareness Week will be an Aboriginal Homecoming event to be held at the Faculty Club on Sept. 18. The event will give Aboriginal alumni a chance to meet, catch up and network. “This has been in the works for a while,” says Aboriginal Outreach Administrator Kakwiranó:ron Cook (Oglala Lakota Sioux & Akwesasne Mohawk). “The intention is that we have a dedicated annual Indigenous Homecoming.”

The soirée will feature Audra Simpson, a McGill alumnae who is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University. In her address, Simpson will discuss the significance of McGill as a training ground for scholarship and engaged political life (Read Simpson’s Q&A with the Reporter, here).

Aboriginal Week will come to a close with the 13th annual Pow Wow on the lower campus field from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 19.

Throughout the day there will be drumming, singing, and a variety of dance demonstrations, including the 4th Annual Smoke Dance Competition. Vendors selling food, artwork and more will be set up around the Pow Wow tent. Organizations will also be present with information booths.

Many events of Aboriginal Awareness Week have limited places and require registration. For more information on the schedule and how to reserve places, go to the First Peoples’ House website.


IT will go phishing to improve awareness about scams

Mon, 2014-09-08 12:19

By Maria Gosselin

Each year, the McGill community is targeted by hundreds of phishing emails, many of which can be hard to recognize and identify.

So in the coming weeks, IT Services will send out several mock phishing emails to the McGill community as part of a proactive approach to build awareness of phishing. Users who click on the link in one of the phishing emails will be redirected to a page informing them that they have participated in a phishing-awareness exercise. They will be encouraged to take IT Services’ online Security Awareness training and learn how to identify and avoid falling victim to these types of scams.

Phishing is used by cybercriminals to steal personal information, money and data. Typically these scams are carried out by email, texts, websites and phone calls that masquerade as emanating from a legitimate source. Most of the time, they use a scare tactic, such as a warning that your account is about to expire or has been compromised, to get you to click on a link that takes you to a fake website whose look and feel is almost identical to the legitimate one.

Some of the most common phishing scams involve an email that appears to be from a bank, social media, your email provider, and even McGill. You can often spot a phishing email by watching for the following:

• Misspellings and bad grammar: Many phishing scams originate from overseas and they often contain grammar and spelling mistakes. While legitimate organizations do occasionally send out emails with a mistake in them (it happens to us all), if you spot a mistake, pay extra attention to what the email is asking you to do.

• Links in email: If you see a link in a suspicious email message, don’t click on it. Place your mouse (but don’t click) over the link to see if the address matches the link that was typed in the message.

• Threats: Have you ever received a threat that your McGill email account would be closed if you didn’t immediately respond and provide your login credentials? Cybercriminals often use threats that your account will be closed if you don’t take action, or tell you that your security has been compromised.

• Looks similar to a popular website or company email: It’s easy to use graphics in email that have been taken from legitimate websites, so a phishing email or site looks almost like the real one. Instead, they take you to a phony site or legitimate-looking pop-up window that steals the information you enter and transmits it to their server.

For more information on how you can protect yourself and spot phishing scams, go to the IT Services website to read the following articles:

IT Security Awareness Online Course – Focus on Phishing

Phishing scams and how to protect yourself

Stay Safe Online

Stay safe when using your mobile device


Sept. 9: Information session on SSHRC Partnership Development Grants – CHANGE OF VENUE

Sun, 2014-09-07 13:01

The Office of Sponsored Research is organizing an information session about the upcoming SSHRC Partnership Development Grants competition on Tuesday, Sept. 9, from 12:30 p.m. – 2 p.m. at Burnside 426


The session will include a presentation of a successful grant winner as well as a presentation of a McGill researcher, who has served as a SSHRC evaluator. Potential applicants will be provided with insider information about the peer review system and strategies for creating successful Partnership Development Grant proposals.

RSVP is required to attend.

Learn more here.


McGill instrumental in launching Indigenous initiative

Sat, 2014-09-06 11:04

By Neale McDevitt

You know an idea is important when traditional political adversaries join forces to make it a reality, which is exactly what happened on Sept. 4, at the Ottawa Press Gallery, when former Prime Ministers Paul Martin and Joe Clark participated in a press conference announcing the launch of the Canadians For a New Partnership (CFNP) initiative.

Looking to strengthen Canada through by forging a new partnership between the Indigenous peoples and all Canadians, the CFNP has brought together an impressive team of prominent leaders from a cross-section of political, cultural and economic backgrounds, including Martin and Clark, former Assembly of First Nations national chief Ovide Mercredi, former auditor-general of Canada Sheila Fraser and Justice Murray Sinclair, who led the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

McGill’s Phil Oxhorn was part of the Canadians For a New Partnership from the beginning.

But as impressive as the CFNP membership may be on paper, the group is even more inspiring in action, says Phil Oxhorn, founding director of McGill’s Institute for the Study of International Development, and someone who has been involved in the CFNP from the very beginning.

“I’ve never been in a room with that level of commitment by very, very prominent people,” says Oxhorn of the CFNP’s meetings leading up to Thursday’s press conference. “People who, earlier in their careers, may not have been very open to collaboration, working toward a common goal without pushing specific political agendas. The energy was overwhelming.”

That common goal is to bridge the perceived chasm between Indigenous peoples and other Canadians through an education campaign and public discussions. One of the key elements is reconciliation. “Our efforts, no matter how well intentioned, to improve the health, education and welfare of Indigenous peoples are destined to the same failures of the past unless we build a new partnership and restore the trust has been eroded by a litany of historic wrongs,” said Stephen Kakfwi, a former premier of the Northwest Territories who will run the organization.

It was Kakfwi who first contacted Oxhorn to see if he and McGill would be interested in being part of the CFNP. “This was right at the very beginning,” says Oxhorn, who immediately signed on. “In fact, the first meetings were held in Peterson Hall here at McGill.”

Dean of Arts Christopher Manfredi also played a significant role in the early days of the CFNP, helping secure financial support from T.E. Wealth Management.

“It is very exciting to be part of this process,” says Oxhorn, “In those early meetings we needed to draft the Declaration of Canadians for a New Partnership, set our priorities and the issues to champion and establish a plan to achieve our objectives.”

The first part of that plan is a public education campaign through a speaker’s series. According to the CFNP’s website (http://www.cfnp.ca/), this series will “promote our vision and offer Canadians a new narrative, a compelling rationale, and opportunities for action with the goal of igniting and sustaining momentum towards reconciliation and partnership,” or, as Martin said at Thursday’s press conference, “the more Canadians understand the issues, the more they’ll demand solutions.”

While still the CFNP is its fledgling days, Oxhorn says just its creation should serve as a template for a new era of cooperation and partnership. “Former political adversaries, including a number of Aboriginal leaders who didn’t work together a lot, have joined forces on this in a really productive way,” he says. “And that’s exactly the point: People who don’t often collaborate actually have a lot to share and, if done in good faith, that collaboration can have a significant positive impact on all of Canadian society.”

To learn more about the CFNP and to sign the Declaration of Canadians for a New Partnership, go here.


Sidewalk closed on McTavish this weekend

Fri, 2014-09-05 13:50

The western sidewalk along McTavish St. will be closed in front of the Brown Building starting Friday and through the weekend while repairs are made to a water main that was damaged during the continuing construction project to replace old water mains and sewer pipes.

Pedestrian detours will be indicated and a new pedestrian crossway is being installed at the McTavish Gate to facilitate access to the Student Centre and the Brown Building. No services will be shut as a result.


McGill renews agreement with Jeanne Sauvé Foundation

Fri, 2014-09-05 09:52

From left to right: Désirée McGraw, Jean-François Sauvé, Principal Suzanne Fortier, Mailly-Nesle Sauvé and Martin Kreiswirth at the Sept. 2 signing of the Co-operation Agreement that renews the relationship between McGill and the Jeanne Sauvé Foundation. / Photo: Owen Egan

By Doug Sweet

McGill has renewed its relationship with the Jeanne Sauvé Foundation, which is responsible for the Sauvé Scholars Program that annually brings up to 14 young people from around the world to the University to broaden their horizons and encourage exchanges on a host of critical and fascinating issues.

On Tuesday, September 2, representatives of the Jeanne Sauvé Foundation met with Principal Suzanne Fortier to sign the Co-operation Agreement that confirms and renews the special relationship between the two organizations. McGill is not only the academic home of the Jeanne Sauvé Foundation, but has also been its founding partner in the Sauvé Scholars Program, which, during the decade between 2003 and 2013, welcomed 126 young leaders from 50 countries.

McGill provides mentors and other academic support, where appropriate, for the 12-14 Sauvé residential fellows, who are now participants in the re-designed Sauvé Public Leadership Program and for Sauvé Senior Fellows. Two McGill faculty members sit on the Board of the Foundation and McGill faculty also participate in the Foundation’s program and selection committees.

Following a year of significant strategic planning for the next decade, on July 1, the Foundation launched the new two-year Jeanne Sauvé Public Leadership Program. It builds on the success of the Sauvé Scholars Program, while adding new features that better correspond to evolving global needs, including a strengthened support for the global network of alumni and commitment to the prestigious annual Jeanne Sauvé Address held in co-operation with McGill.

“McGill prides itself on being a place where diverse cultural perspectives, diverse disciplines, and different ways of knowing come together,” said Prof. Fortier. “By sharing their experiences and viewpoints, the young leaders of the Sauvé Scholars program greatly enrich our learning environment.”

“McGill is very pleased to continue our collaboration with the Jean Sauvé Foundation, to provide an academic environment to support the goals of convening, connecting, engaging and empowering a new generation of public leadership in Canada and around the world,” said Martin Kreiswirth, Associate Provost and Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.

Representing the Jeanne Sauvé Foundation were Jean-François Sauvé, son of the late Right Honourable Jeanne Sauvé, and Chairman, his wife Diane de Mailly-Nesle Sauvé, Secretary-Treasurer, and Désirée McGraw, President and Executive Director of the Foundation.

Hailing the renewal of the Cooperation Agreement as a concrete expression of the special relationship with McGill the Foundation has enjoyed throughout the years, Jean-François Sauvé thanked Prof. Fortier and all those involved in the process.

“McGill has in every way exceeded our expectations in terms of assistance and services, and above all in the warmth and depth of commitment to our young leaders from administrators and academics alike. It is truly our home,” he noted.

Each year, up to 14 young people are invited to come to Montreal for the academic calendar year. While they live together in a restored mansion on Dr. Penfield Blvd., they enjoy access to McGill’s academic programs and other resources – including lectures, conferences and events suited to the advancement of their individual professional and intellectual lives.

The program is an outgrowth of the Jeanne Sauvé Youth Foundation that was created in 1991 by Sauvé, Canada’s first female Speaker of the House of Commons and first female Governor-General. She died in 1993.

The Scholars program aims to provide to its young applicants a period of personal and professional growth, and is founded on:

• Intense exchange of ideas and experience, supported by communal life

• Extensive intellectual freedom, allowing each participant to develop according to his or her needs and aspirations

• Focus on action accompanied by a clear commitment to the community – including the host community

• Commitment to dialogue among cultures, which allows participants to understand and assimilate viewpoints built within multiple frames of reference



Walking fish reveal how our ancestors evolved onto land

Thu, 2014-09-04 15:30

By Cynthia Lee

About 400 million years ago a group of fish began exploring land and evolved into tetrapods – today’s amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. But just how these ancient fish used their fishy bodies and fins in a terrestrial environment and what evolutionary processes were at play remain scientific mysteries.

Researchers at McGill published in the journal Nature, turned to a living fish, called Polypterus, to help show what might have happened when fish first attempted to walk out of the water. Polypterus is an African fish that can breathe air, ‘walk’ on land, and looks much like those ancient fishes that evolved into tetrapods. The team of researchers raised juvenile Polypterus on land for nearly a year, with an aim to revealing how these ‘terrestrialized’ fish looked and moved differently.

“Stressful environmental conditions can often reveal otherwise cryptic anatomical and behavioural variation, a form of developmental plasticity,” says Emily Standen, a former McGill post-doctoral student who led the project, now at the University of Ottawa. “We wanted to use this mechanism to see what new anatomies and behaviours we could trigger in these fish and see if they match what we know of the fossil record.”

Remarkable anatomical changes

The fish showed significant anatomical and behavioural changes. The terrestrialized fish walked more effectively by placing their fins closer to their bodies, lifted their heads higher, and kept their fins from slipping as much as fish that were raised in water. “Anatomically, their pectoral skeleton changed to become more elongate with stronger attachments across their chest, possibly to increase support during walking, and a reduced contact with the skull to potentially allow greater head/neck motion,” says Trina Du, a McGill Ph.D. student and study collaborator.

“Because many of the anatomical changes mirror the fossil record, we can hypothesize that the behavioural changes we see also reflect what may have occurred when fossil fish first walked with their fins on land,” says Hans Larsson, Canada Research Chair in Macroevolution at McGill and an Associate Professor at the Redpath Museum.

Unique experiment

The terrestrialized Polypterus experiment is unique and provides new ideas for how fossil fishes may have used their fins in a terrestrial environment and what evolutionary processes were at play.

Larsson adds, “This is the first example we know of that demonstrates developmental plasticity may have facilitated a large-scale evolutionary transition, by first accessing new anatomies and behaviours that could later be genetically fixed by natural selection.”



New food outlets to tickle McGill taste buds

Thu, 2014-09-04 10:38

By McGill Reporter Staff

New year, new students and new food!

McGill has several new food offerings opening up this fall, including such well-known names as Première Moisson and St-Hubert Barbeque, as well as a revamped cafeteria in the McConnell Engineering Building and changes at several other locales.

Première Moisson, one of Montreal’s favourite bakeries, will open two outlets downtown: a full-sized store on the street level of New Residence Hall on Park Ave., and a smaller, express outlet in the basement of Redpath Library. Famous for breads and pastries, Première Moisson also serves up sandwiches and other meals at various locations in Montreal.

At the Bronfman Building, two new outlets will open in the space formerly occupied by Sinfully Asian: Quesada Burritos and Tacos, which will offer Mexican fare, and Bento Sushi, a franchise with a number of outlets in Montreal.

St-Hubert Barbeque chicken (and coleslaw!) will be available in the Rue McGill deli in the Trottier Building, while the renovated dining area in McConnell, which will be renamed E-Café, will also feature a coffee kiosk in the lobby called Dispatch.

Mathieu Laperle, Senior Director of Student Housing and Hospitality Services. / Photo: Owen Egan

At Macdonald Campus, a new food location called Le Comptoir Mac represents “exactly what Mac Campus is all about,” said Mathieu Laperle, Senior Director of Student Housing and Hospitality Services (SHHS). “The owner, Hakim Chajar, is a young entrepreneur and has been seen on Radio-Canada’s popular Les Chefs! television show. They will make use of all the Macdonald farm products available.”

Music Café will re-open this year, under the name of Vinh’s, familiar to those who frequent the Genome Building. As with the other outlet, Vinh’s will provide Vietnamese sandwiches, Tonkin soups and a daily assortment of desserts.

There are also changes afoot for residence dining halls, where more and more food will be cooked from scratch, including sauces, stocks and soups, Laperle said. “SHHS is already recognized as a leader in environmentally sound sourcing policies,” he said. “We are proud to implement this new restaurant philosophy in our dining halls and to improve even more the quality of the food we serve.”

McGill serves only sustainable seafood, purchases a considerable amount of its food from local farms and serves only fresh whole eggs from the Macdonald farm. The University’s food services also try to address the overuse of antibiotics in the meat supply, Laperle said.

To find out more about food and dining at McGill, go here.


What’s New@McGill in Montreal, Sept. 3, 2014

Wed, 2014-09-03 22:56


Making safety everybody’s business

On Dec. 29, 2009, UCLA staff research assistant Sheharbano “Sheri” Sangji suffered extensive burns to nearly half her body in a chemical fire that occurred when the syringe full of t-butyl lithium she was handling exploded into flames. Eighteen days later, Sangji died of her injuries. McGill’s Wayne Wood says everyone at universities – from members of the Board of Governors to Principal Investigators to students – must take personal responsibility for health and safety in order to avoid future tragedies. Get all the details here.


Our home and creative land

Two McGill alums spent their summer crossing the country as part of a collaborative art project exploring Canadian identity. “Our goal is to find out who we are and what defines us through authentic stories and expressions from the diverse body of people that live in this country,” says Aquil Virani, who is collecting stories and sketches for the project with partner Rebecca Jones. Read the full story here.


McGill grad named Dean of Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture

Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger calls Columbia’s new Dean of the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation “a new leader among a rising generation of creative architects and designers of our physical environment… an inspiring teacher, a respected colleague, and a pioneering practitioner whose innovative commissions in cities around the world have earned widespread admiration.” Her name is Amale Andraos and the foundation of her career in architecture was laid here at McGill where she earned a BArch in 1996. Read more here.


McGill students pull in top scholarships

Fifteen McGill graduate students have won prestigious Vanier Graduate Scholarships, worth $50,000 each for three years of study and research. In addition, two McGill post-doctoral fellows are the recipients of the Banting Fellowship, Canada’s most notable postdoctoral awards, worth $70,000 a year for up to two years of research. Get all the details here.


Read past issues of What’s New@McGill in Montreal by clicking on each link
Aug. 3, 2014

July 3, 2014

June 3, 2014

May 3, 2014



What’s New@McGill in Montreal, Aug. 3, 2014

Wed, 2014-09-03 22:38

Boilerplate Boilerplate Boilerplate Boilerplate Boilerplate Boilerplate Boilerplate Boilerplate
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Giant brownie takes over lower campus!

What measures 30×15 feet, tops the scale at a gut-busting 3,500 pounds and is chock full of Fair Trade goodness? Student Housing and Hospitality Services’ gigantic brownie, that’s what. To sample the behemoth brownie or fare from 27 food kiosks from corporate vendors with whom McGill partners, bring your appetite to the tent on the lower campus field this afternoon between noon and 5 p.m. Read the full story here.


Notes from the Marquesas

Emily Donaldson, a doctoral student in anthropology, has thirteen years of experience working in the Marquesas, a remote group of volcanic islands located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on the northeastern edge of French Polynesia. Donaldson writes about her most recent excursion there, where, while finalizing her thesis, she shared a four-room dwelling with a family of 11, lived on wild boar and fresh-from-the-ocean sashimi-style raw tuna, celebrated Bastille Day and dodged the occasional free-falling coconut dislodged by gusty winds. To read Donaldson’s Notes from the Field and see her beautiful pictures, go here.


Alan Evans awarded major brain disorders prize

Dr. Alan Evans, a pioneering scientist who has helped map the human brain, has been awarded the Margolese National Brain Disorders Prize by the University of British Columbia. Dr. Evans is a researcher at the Montreal Neurological Institute and the James McGill Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Psychiatry and Biomedical Engineering at McGill. Dr. Evans has redefined the role of neuroimaging by developing techniques and analytic tools that are now universally used. More recently, he co-led the Big Brain Project in which scientists finely sliced a human brain into 7,400 wafer-thin sheets and then digitally reconstructed it. Get more details here.


What you need to know about the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa

Recently, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa a global emergency. As a result, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) recommends that Canadians avoid all non-essential travel to Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. With the fall semester beginning soon, McGill is following the PHAC’s recommendation that students, faculty and staff avoid all nonessential university travel to the four affected countries. Those who are considering travel to this region should consult at the pre-travel clinic at the J.D. MacLean Centre for Tropical Diseases in the Montreal General Hospital of the MUHC. For more information, go here.



Top fifteen useful sites for students

Wed, 2014-09-03 15:38

You’re already finding your way around campus — now find your way around the Web! Here are the 15 most useful sites for new and returning McGill students:

1. Students’ Home Page

Did you know that McGill has a home page customized especially for students? Bookmark www.mcgill.ca/students for links to exam schedules, Orientation events, great public lectures and other content that matters to you.

2. Directory of Services

This is a master list of every service and resource available to you as a McGill student, all in one place.

3. Campus Life & Engagement

This site helps new students settle into life at McGill and in Montreal. They’ll help you find the people and services you need to hit the ground running.

4. Important Dates

All the key dates for your academic year – including registration deadlines, exam periods and study breaks – in one searchable site.

5. Academic Resources

Tutoring, English- or French-language help, academic advising and much more.

6. Engage McGill

If you’re looking for ways to get involved outside the classroom, check out this one-stop-shop for clubs, volunteering opportunities, on-campus jobs and more. There’s so much to do here, it’s ridiculous.

7. Athletics & Recreation

We’re not all varsity athletes. Find out how to check out a game, blow off steam at the gym, strike a yoga pose, or take a dip in the pool.

8. Libraries

You’ll definitely want to familiarize yourself with McGill’s amazing libraries – both virtually and in person – before the school year gets underway.

9. Getting started with IT

Check out this guide to all things IT (information technology) at McGill, from setting up your McGill e-mail to signing into campus Wi-Fi.

10. International Education

Thinking of studying abroad? This is where to find all the information about exchanges, internships and field studies with other universities across the globe.

11. Student Records

Find out about updating your personal information and getting important documents like your transcript, proof of enrolment or ID card.

12. Student Accounts

A place to learn about tuition, fees and e-billing, to make your McGill finances as stress-free as possible.

13. Student Aid

Need help paying for school? Apply for scholarships, bursaries, loans and work-study jobs, and find tools to help you balance your budget.

14. Food Services

Get info on dining locations, hours of operation, meal-plans and everything else you need to know about food on campus.

15. The Reporter

We don’t mean to toot our own horn (well, OK, yes we do), but The Reporter is a great place to find out about all the interesting stuff around campus, from ground-breaking research to big events.


SSMU President saw need for woman in election

Wed, 2014-09-03 14:33

The SSMU Executive (l to r): Kathleen Bradley (VP Finance and Operations), Claire Stewart-Kanigan (VP University Affairs), Courtney Ayukawa (President), Stefan Joel Fong (VP Clubs and Services), Amina Moustaqim-Barrette (VP External Affairs) and J. Daniel Chaim (VP Internal Affairs).

By Neale McDevitt

That a McGill student is motivated by the prospect of learning isn’t really news. The interesting part is seeing where that motivation takes each individual.

Take the case of Courtney Ayukawa, the new President of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU). If you had told her a few years ago that one day she would be active in student politics, she would have laughed. If you had predicted she would become President of the SSMU, as she did this past spring, the people around her would have laughed.

“In high school [back in Ridgewood, New Jersey], I wasn’t very involved in politics at all. I played the flute fairly competitively – that was something I was really passionate about,” says Ayukawa. “Just the idea that I ran for this position was a really big surprise for my family, let alone winning it.”

Catalyst for political involvement

Ayukawa credits life in McGill residence as having whetted her political appetite. In her first year she was on Gardner Hall, Council. “I loved residence,” says Ayukawa. “It was the place I called home, the place where I made friends and the place where I learned so much about myself… I thought being on Council would be a cool way to get more involved and make some new friends.”

From there, Ayukawa became a Rez Life facilitator, acting as a mentor to freshmen and helping guide them through the ins and outs of being a member of the residence community. Finally, she spent two years as a Floor Fellow at the Royal Victoria College dorm.

It was while serving in the latter capacity that Ayukawa had something of an epiphany, or what Ayukawa calls a “catalyzing moment.”

“One day, I was talking to three women in RVC. All three were international students – one was from Bangladesh, another from Pakistan and another from Vietnam. Very accomplished women,” says Ayukawa. “At home, they were all active in extracurricular activities in their high schools, and although they expressed a desire to assume a leadership position at McGill, when I encouraged them to run for a department or faculty association or for an executive position in a club, they always said ‘I don’t really see myself in that role.’

“In speaking with them about their reluctance, we realized they had a hard time seeing themselves in an executive position because they had never seen very many women in those roles,” says Ayukawa. “It was interesting, because this conversation came quite soon after I realized the three candidates for SSMU President at that time were all men. I thought it would be healthy to diversify that group.”

After four years pouring her time and energy into residence life, the New Jersey native also thought change might be a good thing for her personally. “I had learned so much about myself and others while living in residence, it really was incredible,” says Ayukawa. “But at that point I felt like I had learned as much as I could there. The more I looked into it, the more I thought SSMU would be another great place for me to learn.”

And learn she has. One of the challenges faced by every SSMU executive is the relatively truncated, one-year mandate that places a premium on efficiency – a detail not lost on Ayukawa. “It’s been a really busy summer for the executive team because we have spent much of it working on our projects and trying to get them far enough advanced that we can hit the ground running [come September].”

Ayukawa says another key is continuity from one executive to the next, noting that many members of the SSMU executive ran for their positions because of projects and initiatives that the previous executive had championed. She points to current VP University Affairs, Claire Stewart-Kanigan as a good example of this. “Claire will be looking to implement the SSMU Five-Year Mental Health Plan that was [drafted] by last year’s executive. It is very much about working on already existing projects and pushing them forward,” she says.

Taking up the torch

“There are also a number of permanent staff who been working for SSMU for decades,” says Ayukawa. “When we leave they will still be here and they can work with the incoming executive to brief them and support them as they carry out the initiatives that we pass on.”

One of those initiatives is to help put the SSMU in a more financially sustainable position. This will include holding a referendum in the early fall to see whether students will agree to pay an increased student fee to help cover the cost of the SSMU’s new lease on the Student Centre. “But for that to happen, we have to make a lot of general information available to students because we want to make sure people have the opportunity to make an educated decision,” says Ayukawa.

This dovetails with a broader goal to improve communication between the SSMU executive and the roughly 22,000 undergraduate students on campus. To achieve that, SSMU is doing everything from reviewing the efficiency of their listserv to having a massive, across-campus survey based upon a similar exercise carried out by the University of British Columbia last year.

To make substantial progress in any one of these portfolios, the SSMU executive will have to work closely with, or receive the support of, McGill’s administration. It is a partnership that Ayukawa welcomes. “So far my experience in working with the administration is that they have been exceptionally helpful and friendly and very outgoing,” she says. “I’m really looking forward to working with them this year.”


SSHRC grants fuel researchers to tune of $6.8 million

Wed, 2014-09-03 12:06

Three innovative research partnerships at McGill have received significant long-term investments from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) partnership grants program, totaling more than $6.8 million. Each project will use novel approaches to advance knowledge and understanding on critical issues of intellectual, social, economic and cultural significance.

“These interdisciplinary research partnerships exemplify McGill’s community-engaged strategic vision,” said Dr. Rosie Goldstein, Vice-Principal (Research and International Relations). “With this funding from SSRHC, 112 researchers and 57 partners will work toward finding innovative solutions to some of the most pressing issues of our time.”

The SSHRC partnership grants program funds projects that foster mutual co-operation between stakeholders and that are built on sharing intellectual leadership among academic, community and business partners.

Music Professor Ichiro Fuginaga was awarded $2.5 million over seven years for a project called Single Interface for Music Score Searching and Analysis. The goal is to build tools to teach computers to recognize musical symbols in images, and assemble data on a single website, making it possible to search and analyze online musical scores for the first time.

Andrew Piper, a Professor of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, has been awarded $1.8 million over seven years to lead a project with a group of 10 literary historians from across North America that will enliven our understanding of the novel, according to new computational means; to establish the methodological foundations of a new disciplinary formation; and to train the next generation of students to be successful participants in the information economy. Seven collaborators from the disciplines of computer science, sociology, political science, geography, library and information science, and linguistics, will join the project.

Geography Professor Peter Brown has been awarded $2.5 million over six years to study the impact of human activity on the global ecosystem since the Industrial Revolution, a period scientists refer to as the Anthropocene. A diverse group of academic, government, and NGO partners will take on the challenge of investigating, teaching, and applying a new understanding of human-Earth relationships – with a specific focus on three regional, transboundary challenges: water security, energy resources, and climate justice.


Berk is new Ombudsperson for Students

Wed, 2014-09-03 10:48

“Ideally, there would be no need for an Ombudsperson,” says Dimitrios Berk, “but there are misunderstandings… The door will be open. I hope I can work together with students in a calm fashion to resolve their difficulties.” / Photo: Doug Sweet

By Doug Sweet

Chemical Engineering Professor Dimitrios Berk’s main area of research has to do with catalysts – chemicals or materials that help make something happen.

In his new role as McGill’s Ombudsperson for Students, which began on Sept. 2, Berk will himself be acting as a sort of catalyst – trying to help make something happen in terms of solving a student’s problem with the University.

“It’s a people-oriented position,” he says, “so I think it’s a different challenge from what we have in Engineering.” He’s looking forward to that challenge and says he has a lot to learn.

Berk replaces Spencer Boudreau, whose five-year term has come to an end. An Ombudsperson’s term cannot be renewed.

A 30-year veteran of McGill and a past Chair (2004-12) of Chemical Engineering who has served on a wide variety of committees within the Department and Faculty, the affable Berk, 63, said he has very much enjoyed the contact he’s had with students.

“I like dealing with students. I like talking with them. I think they sometimes have very legitimate problems.

“Ideally, there would be no need for an Ombudsperson,” he says, “but there are misunderstandings” and they need to be sorted out.

The Ombudsperson’s mandate is to provide confidential, informal, independent and neutral dispute-resolution services to all members of the student community by providing information, advice, intervention and referrals. The Board of Governors makes the appointment, on the recommendation of a joint Senate/ Board Committee, one-quarter of whose members must be students. Normally, the Ombudsperson is appointed from the tenured academic staff who are well respected by both students and other members of the McGill community.

The Board ratified Berk’s appointment at its April meeting.

According to the Ombudsperson’s website: “The Ombudsperson is an advocate for a fair process according to the mission of the University and not an advocate for the individual or for the administration. He works independently of University structures, considers all sides of a question as impartially and objectively as possible, mindful of possible conflicts of interest. The Ombudsperson at McGill operates in an advisory capacity, and relies on the cooperation and good will of students, faculty and the administration of the University community.”

Berk, who grew up in Istanbul, came to Canada in 1974, doing graduate work at what was then the University of Western Ontario (now Western University) and a doctorate at the University of Calgary. As per the terms of reference for the Ombudsperson’s job, he’ll divide his time 50-50 between his Ombudsperson’s duties and his work as a research and teacher.

“The Ombudsperson will be there,” he says. “The door will be open. I hope I can work together with students in a calm fashion to resolve their difficulties.”

To contact the Ombudsperson for Students, call 514-398-7059 or email ombudsperson@mcgill.ca. To learn more about the role and scope of the Ombudsperson for Students go here (English) and here (French).  


Leaving university stresses students more than starting it, Dean of Students says

Wed, 2014-09-03 10:27

Andre Costopoulos notes parents are more involved with their children’s university lives than was the case a generation ago, sometimes to an extreme extent. / Photo: Owen Egan

It’s a busy time of the year for Dean of Students Andre Costopoulos, who is also a Professor of Anthropology, as students flood back for another fall term. Dean Costopoulos found a few minutes to sit down with The Reporter to discuss his role as Dean and a wide variety of issues confronting students and administrators, including sexual assault, drugs and alcohol, student discipline and the changing relationship parents have with the University.

What does a Dean of Students do?

A Dean of Students is responsible for a number of areas. There’s the Student Rights and Responsibilities – so Charter of Student Rights, Code of Student Conduct – that’s one big area. The Dean is responsible for co-ordinating advising across campus, not just academic advising, but all advising. And I am also responsible for relations with the community – neighbours, Frosh, Milton Park community, etc., etc. The Dean is also responsible for diversity, including aboriginal students on campus, general diversity, the makeup of the community and, finally, for students who are at risk. In addition, the Dean of Students has a role to play in ensuring student concerns are raised with the senior administration.

One simple message I’d have for students is this: If you don’t know where to start, start here, at the Dean of Students office, and we’ll set you up and we’ll get you to the right place. If you know where to start, go there!

When it comes to violations of academic rules, for example, plagiarism, has there been an increase, given the growing ease with which you can cut and paste from a document on the Internet?

Surprisingly, there hasn’t been. You can find those numbers if you can go to the website of the Secretariat office, or just Google “McGill University Report of CSD to Senate.” CSD is the Committee on Student Discipline. And that gives you how many offences there were over the past few years, what Articles of the Code and what sanctions were imposed as a result of those violations. That’s very helpful to get a sense of what the standards of the community are, to get a sense, also, of how many violations we have. Given that the population of the University has been growing, the numbers are actually stable. The numbers are only growing in proportion to the population. In fact, with plagiarism itself, there’s been a slight drop in the past five years or so.

And how would McGill compare with peer universities?

That’s always a very difficult question to answer because universities vary greatly in the way that they report discipline numbers, the degree to which they report them, and the way they classify them. There’s a working group of all Quebec universities on academic integrity and one of the things we’re working on is how universities report this. Some universities report nothing at all and some universities report everything, except for names of students. McGill is also part of a North America-wide academic integrity organization. Through my discussions in both those organizations, my sense is that McGill is no different from any other institution in terms of plagiarism and cheating, in terms of the number of cases reported, and in terms of the kind of sanctions that are imposed when a student is found responsible. We’re in the ballpark.

Do see variations by faculty?

The nature of discipline offences varies from faculty to faculty. The numbers are about the same, in proportion to the size of the faculty of course, but, for example, in a faculty like Arts, you would have more plagiarism, less cheating, whereas in Science and Engineering, you have more cheating and less plagiarism. But the numbers are about the same and the numbers are very small. The vast majority of McGill students really want to do good work. They’re here to learn and they know that they get the most out of their education by working hard and by doing their own work. They realize that the only person they’re cheating if they don’t do their own work is themselves. They’re cheating themselves out of an education. Our students are also very much concerned with establishing a level playing field, to allow the University to evaluate their performance and to give them meaningful credentials.

Do parents drive you crazy?

Parents are an important part of McGill. They’re an important part of the lives of the students and we try to be sensitive to parents’ needs, although it can be very frustrating for them because we can’t actually disclose specific information about students to parents. But we try to meet their needs; we try to answer their questions as best we can. And we can always listen to parents. Confidentiality rules say that I can’t tell them some things, but they don’t say that I can’t listen to whatever they have to tell me, and sometimes parents are an important part of helping us care for a student.

Have you noticed a change in the nature of the relationship between the University and parents over the years?

There has been an evolution. At the macro scale, if I compare today with the 1980s when I was a student, parents were generally uninvolved in their children’s university studies. My parents never would have come down to campus, nor would I have wanted them to. Starting in the late ’90s, I saw more and more involvement by parents. I would say now that many parents are very involved – sometimes too involved. One of the challenges for parents nowadays seems to be letting go and letting students have their own experiences and their own education. We try to create an environment at McGill in which students can safely make mistakes, and learn from those mistakes, in a safer environment than what they will find when they graduate from here. If they make their mistakes here, that’s an advantage for them. I would tell parents, ‘Let them make their mistakes here, let them learn.’ We’re here to help them, we’re here to support them. McGill is a very, very challenging environment, but it’s also a supportive environment. I think both components are very important for students. … And parents should let students face those challenges.

“University is not too hard,” says Andre Costopoulos. “Certainly at McGill, if you look at our retention and graduation rates, which are north of 90 per cent, it’s quite clear that the vast majority of our students can face the challenges with which we present them, and they can succeed, because they have a supportive environment.” / Photo: Owen Egan

Is university too hard today?

University is not too hard. Certainly at McGill, if you look at our retention and graduation rates, which are north of 90 per cent, it’s quite clear that the vast majority of our students can face the challenges with which we present them, and they can succeed, because they have a supportive environment. Some would say that things could be more difficult, that university could be more difficult still. As long as the support is there, our students can hack some serious challenges.

Because you hear a lot these Mental health has been a growing concern on campuses across North America, if not around the world…

McGill is a very challenging environment. Our peer institutions are very challenging environments. There is high stress. Our students are very demanding of themselves and of others around them. They’re very demanding of us as instructors, of us as an institution. So it’s an environment in which there is a significant level of stress. And we have to help students cope with that stress; we have to help staff cope with that stress as well. But what I’ve noticed over the past six or seven years is that students are responding more to external stresses. And I notice that they become more and more stressed out as they progress in their studies and as they get near graduation. This wasn’t true 10 years ago. But I would say that the most challenging period is no longer the transition to university, although that’s very challenging and stressful because there’s a lot of adjustment to do and they should get help doing that.

But the transition out of university seems to have become more stressful and even more of a concern for students. They’re very uneasy about the future beyond the institution, about the world beyond the institution. They’re fearful of what happens when they’re done here, and I can’t say that I blame them because it is an uncertain world out there. But we try to equip them to face the challenges that they’ll encounter once they leave the institution, try to give them some solid critical thinking skills, and we train them to evaluate information. So we produce people who can adapt. That’s our goal. But I’m noticing that it is becoming more and more difficult for students to transition out of university.

Nowadays we get more and more cases of students who have done very well and are successful and then, in their last semester or their last year, start having very significant stress-related issues and mental health problems. We try to give them the support they need through counseling and mental health and peer advising and things like that.

My advice to students would be, ‘If you’re starting to feel overwhelmed, if your instinct is telling you there’s something wrong, probably you’re right, probably there is something wrong. Come and see us and we’ll help you identify what the issue is and we’ll help you identify what resources there are within the University that can help you to manage that issue.’

Another of the areas in which your office gets involved would be the matter of sexual assault. Again, it’s an issue that appears to be getting more attention on many campuses, whether there are statistics to indicate that there’s been any increase of assaults or not. Do we have a so-called ‘rape culture’ on our campus?

No. The standard definition of rape culture is that rape is tolerated, normalized and endemic. The first two there – tolerated and normalized – are certainly false. Sexual assault is not tolerated at McGill in any form. It’s not normalized, certainly not.

But it happens. And our first thoughts are, of course, for the survivors of sexual assault. We want to make sure they are safe and that we can support them following what is a terrible ordeal.

We’re a big community, a community of 40,000, a small town. And in a small town you have a full-time police force and you have a full-time courthouse and so on. And things are going to happen in a community of 40,000. And we’re a community of 40,000 with a very unusual demographic profile. The overwhelming majority of our community members are young adults. So we have some challenges equivalent-sized small towns don’t have.

Sexual assault is perpetrated by a very, very small number of predators and we have measures to deal with predators in our community; we have a Code of Student Conduct, we have a Sexual Harassment policy, and we’re not afraid to use them. The police are there to help us. Again, we’re not afraid to reach out to external authorities to help us handle criminal problems like sexual assault. There are excellent student-run services on campus and the students are very involved in this.

It’s a good thing there’s more attention on the issue of sexual assault because it’s an issue that needs a lot of attention. It needs sensitization. We have to sensitize students to what it means to live in a safe, respectful community and respectful interactions are key to the fabric of the University. Healthy sexual relations are just one aspect of that.

If you think about it, the core mission of the University is to push knowledge, which means that we have to have very difficult conversations that normally don’t happen elsewhere in society. We have to tackle some really difficult topics. And we have to challenge each other in ways that most people don’t challenge each other outside the walls of the University.

The only way we can do that in the University is by being respectful of one another, by challenging the ideas, not the people. And so respect and safety is a necessary condition for the mission of the University, and that extends to all aspects of University life. So it’s natural for us to want to have a healthy, safe environment in all kinds of ways, including being tough on sexual assault and sensitizing people to what it is to live in a safe, healthy community.

So when we have the forum on consent, in October… 

Last year, we had a forum on consent for the whole community. This year, in October, what we’d like to do is invite incoming students, all first-year students, no matter where they’re from, to a conversation on consent, on what it means to create and live in and maintain a safe, respectful environment, a healthy community. And that includes of course talking about sexual assault and talking about healthy sexual relations and healthy interpersonal relations in general.

The forum on consent last spring drew a lot of people, but there were comparatively few men at the event and a number of observers said the speakers were speaking to the converted. How do you encourage people who need to hear the message to be there?

The forum on consent was the beginning of a conversation. I think it’s normal that at least at first when you have an event like that, there’ll be a self-selection in the attendees; the people who will go there are people who are already sensitized to some extent, who are interested, who are committed. The challenge is always to reach beyond that circle, or to help that circle to widen its reach, to include others. We invited people from a wide cross-section of the University – we had representatives from staff, from Athletics, from residences and so on.

We tried to make sure that there were potential ambassadors to all segments of the community present at that forum and it’s an approach that’s working. I think it works well when we invite people personally. They go back to their constituents, they go back to their segment of the community and they can be ambassadors for the message we’re trying to convey.

The goal this year is to include all incoming students in some form or other. Obviously, we’re not going to get the entire entering class into a room for a panel discussion. I’m not sure exactly what form it’s going to take yet, but students will soon get an invitation to some form of process, the goal of which is to sensitize them to what it means to live in a safe, respectful, healthy community, how they can participate in that and why they should.

“I keep one course per year [while serving as Dean of Students],” says Andre Costopoulos.” I have this crazy notion that a Dean of Students should somehow be in touch with students and one of the best ways I know to be in touch with students is to be in the classroom, to be teaching.” / Photo: Owen Egan

Let’s change gears a bit. Tell me a little bit about your background and what you do when you’re not here.

I’m from Montreal North. I grew up in Montreal North and did my undergrad here at McGill back in the dark ages, then did grad school at Université de Montréal and in northern Finland. I’m an archaeologist. I study human evolution. I wonder how society came to be the way it is, which is why I’m interested in all this policy stuff, I guess. I ask myself how did we get to be us, and it’s a fairly compelling question, because some of the ways we are don’t immediately intuitively make sense – some of the ways in which we behave toward each other, for example, or some of the ways that we organize ourselves. So I’m interested in how that happened, over time, and how we deal with environmental challenges over time, and by environment I include other people, so the social environment as well.

I keep one course per year [while serving as Dean of Students] because I think it’s important. I have this crazy notion that a Dean of Students should somehow be in touch with students and one of the best ways I know to be in touch with students is to be in the classroom, to be teaching. I have a wonderful group of grad student in my lab; I’m very lucky.

I heard you’re a pilot. What made you want to become a pilot?

A pilot! Yeah, well that’s … who doesn’t want to be a pilot? It’s the most amazing thing I can imagine, to fly an airplane. I guess my hobbies tend to be things that have to monopolize 100 per cent of my attention. Because I tend to have a lot going on in my head and I have a hard time turning it off when I leave work, it takes me a while to turn things off. … And the only way that I really get down time is if I’m doing something where I have to concentrate 100 per cent.

And flying and taking aerial pictures demands 100 per cent of my attention and if ever I get distracted in that, I won’t be here to talk to you so, yes, I think that’s one of the reasons that I pursued flying because I found that it really allowed me to turn off everything else in my brain. I go for a nice little flight and then I land and I’m refreshed and I feel I can start thinking about things fresh. Yeah, it’s my downtime.


Literature, authors and the woman he loved

Tue, 2014-09-02 16:19

Jack Rabinovitch founded the Giller Prize in 1994 to honour the memory of his late wife Doris Giller

Jack Rabinovitch founded the Giller Prize in 1994 to honour the memory of his late wife Doris Giller, an outstanding literary journalist who died of cancer in April 1993. In 2005, the Giller Prize teamed up with Scotiabank to create the Scotiabank Giller Prize. It is the first co-sponsorship for Canada’s richest literary award for fiction. The Scotiabank Giller Prize celebrates the best in Canadian fiction each year, and enhances marketing efforts in bringing these books to the attention of all Canadians.

On Tuesday, Sept. 16, Rabinovitch and Dean of Arts Christopher Manfredi will announce the 2014 Scotiabank Giller Prize long list, at 10:30 a.m. in Moyse Hall of the Arts Building. Rabinovitch recently spoke with the Reporter about the Prize and why the long list announcement will be made here. All are welcome to attend. Please RSVP

Born, educated, and raised in Montreal, philanthropist Rabinovitch graduated from McGill in 1952 with a B.A. in Honours English. His early experience was as a cub reporter, speechwriter, food retailing and distribution executive and subsequently as an independent builder and real estate developer. Rabinovitch joined Trizec Corporation in 1972 and was appointed Executive Vice-President in 1986. He also served on the Board of Directors of the Edper Group of companies and Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto.

Why did you establish the prize and how did it get its name?

When my wife Doris Giller passed away in April 1993 at age 62 I was quite devastated, to say the least. After a few months I decided that she should not go gently into that last good night without some special tribute. Everybody who knew her knew she was an exceptional person and an exceptional literary journalist.

I met with my friend Mordecai Richler, at Woody’s, a pub on Bishop Street in Montreal in August of that year. I told him I wanted to start a literary fiction prize in Doris’s name and I wanted him to help. Mordecai knew and adored Doris. He agreed immediately. Mordecai suggested that we include David Staines, an eminent English professor and scholar, and over chopped liver at Moishes on The Main, the Giller Prize took form. David then suggested we include Alice Munro in the founding group, and after Alice agreed, we went public. We called it the Giller Prize because we considered it Doris’s prize.

What distinguishes this prize from other literary prizes in Canada and elsewhere?

I think what may distinguish the Giller is the personal story behind it. This isn’t a government or corporate prize. It was an idea that grew out of a relationship with a woman that I wanted to celebrate in a meaningful way. Doris loved parties, and she loved books and authors. The Giller is, more than anything else, a celebration of literature and writers.

We’re in the very fortunate position of not having to be politically correct, or beholden to any institution or individual about how we run this show. Our jury panel, a group of celebrated thinkers, writers and critics, read more than 150 books each year to come to a difficult choice of, at first 10-12 books and authors, then five and finally a winner. We only tell them: “Choose the best book of Canadian fiction of the year.” We also limit publishers to three submissions a piece, obliging them to send in the finest books they have on their list. Lastly, Scotiabank is the ideal partner for a prize like ours. Their largesse is incredible, their understanding of the prize, unique, and their absolute trust in us to do what we do best, without interference, is remarkable.

Why did you decide to move the long list announcement out of the boardroom and to a university?

We’ve actually never held any event at all for the longlist announcement. We release the names and other details with a simple press release each year. But we had brainstormed in recent years about how to make a bigger splash with the longlist, so the authors could get a bit more attention and visibility before the following month’s announcement of the shortlist. Last year, we were approached by beloved author and former Giller shortlister, Annabel Lyon, as well as others from the Creative Writing Department at the University of British Columbia, who suggested we come out to Vancouver to announce the longlist. We loved the idea for so many reasons, but primarily the fact that we could hold the event at UBC, in the storied Museum of Anthropology.

Why did you choose McGill to make the announcement?

Coming to McGill this year and announcing our longlist in the Arts Building is like coming home. McGill is the right place. Doris and I are Montrealers. McGill is my Alma Mater. The prize actually took shape here in Montreal and the Giller Gala, the prize night, is like a Montreal party. Additionally I have many wonderful memories of McGill – of my time on the McGill Daily, of professors like Hugh MacLennan and George Ian Duthie and the Honorary Doctorate awarded me in 2005.