Deans return for more

Deans return for more McGill University

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McGill Reporter
February 10, 2000 - Volume 32 Number 10
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Deans return for more

| Dean of Arts Carman Miller and Vice-Principal (Research) and Dean of Graduate Studies Pierre Bélanger have been reappointed to their positions, the former until June 31, 2003, the latter until June 30, 2002.

Bélanger, who will retire when he hangs up his dean's hat, will continue until the end of his mandate to work to get McGill researchers in a better position in the competitions for both CFI (Canada Foundation for Innovation) grants and involvement in the budding Canadian Institutes for Clinical Research.

"With CFI, we've tried to be more proactive, putting heads together and making money available to hire consultants to help with the application process," say Bélanger. "We've asked for $90 million this year out of a total number of one billion dollars."

Bélanger is optimistic that McGill will be involved in the CICR. Associate dean (graduate studies and research) of medicine Robert Mackenzie, for instance, is on the provisional governing board, "We've got people in the right places," says Bélanger.

On the provincial front, Bélanger will continue to encourage the establishment of more FCAR (Formation des chercheurs et aide à la recherche) centres, which are research centres both within universities and shared among Quebec universities. McGill has six to date, including the Centre for Intelligent Machines and the Centre for Climate and Global Change Research.

"In general, there's a lot of movement in research. I'm sure those government opportunities won't be the last and I hope to see McGill gets its share."

Beyond helping McGill researchers to be well positioned to receive government grants, Bélanger wants to see the development of more spin-off businesses resulting from McGill discoveries in which the University would have equity.

He sees such a development as a way of staving off the brain drain. "In the past two years, 16 companies have been set up and no one has quit yet," he says, explaining that a researcher may take a leave of absence to get the company established, but usually returns to McGill while maintaining an advisory role in the company.

"It's a way of tying people down if they have both academic involvement and commercial activity here," says Bélanger. "It's also great for creating jobs for graduating PhDs."

Dean Miller, for his part, agreed largely to prolong his five years as head of the Faculty of Arts in order to provide for some continuity over the next three years. In June 2002, Bernard Shapiro ends his term as principal and Miller believes it will be helpful to the new principal to have an experienced dean of arts in place during the transition period.

At the same time, he says, the next few years will give his faculty members time to consider whom to put forward as the next dean. "The idea is to maintain continuity during a period of transition."

Uppermost in Miller's priorities for the next three years is the question of "renewal," With a staff/student ratio of 1:26 in his faculty — higher than the University average of 1:18 — Miller wants to see improvement. "We have 40 professors fewer now than we had five years ago," he says.

"The thing I'd really like to do in the next few years is to work on getting the resources back in the Faculty of Arts so we can do better what we're already doing exceptionally well," says Miller.

He cites health, environment, Canadian studies, cross-cultural studies and language and literature as areas of study in which his faculty have particular strengths and where there are strategic government monies available.

He maintains, however, that the rejuvenation of the faculty cannot be driven only by particular government priorities. "We also want to put resources into internal, imaginative projects because we have an obligation to lead and not just follow.

"We have to reserve the right to support the individual researcher, even if society does not immediately appreciate the importance," he continues, citing the work of medievalists and Shakespearean scholars.

Borrowing from the economic historian Harold Innis, Miller says "the university should be proud of being an ivory tower in the sense that the tower enables you to see farther than what you see from the ground; we are given a responsibility to view society from a different perspective."

In practical terms, Miller's aspirations will involve the continued reform of curriculum, which has already resulted in the creation of the multi-track program, and will see an overhaul of the honours program. It also means the creation of two more state-of-the-art language labs. Finally, it means the continuation of the cyclical review of the entire faculty.

"We're looking to see where we can share which entails an internal debate that goes beyond departmental barriers," says Miller. "The idea is to see what we can add — through interdepartmental, interfaculty or interuniversity cooperation — not take away."

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