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The start of a new academic year is an exciting time for everyone at McGill. The campus hums with the arrival of students and their parents, and professors get ready to begin classes and meet their new students. According to Principal Heather Munroe-Blum, the prospects for the coming year are bright. It is a time of momentum with McGill pushing forward on a range of projects that underscore the physical and intellectual vitality of the campus.
The fall term will mark a wealth of new arrivals and initiatives at McGill, but the Principal notes that the first days of school are, first and foremost, devoted to getting students settled in. As thousands of undergraduates and graduates set foot on campus, she and the university prepare to welcome them and to ensure that everything is in place for their experience to be a rich one, both inside and outside the classroom.
"For students, these years are a time of discovery and growth, on both an intellectual and personal level. We are committed to delivering an outstanding and challenging academic experience, and we must also provide a full range of services and opportunities so that students can achieve their full potential while they are with us," says Munroe-Blum.
That commitment is set to expand this fall with the launch of a number of new initiatives for students. Among the stand-outs are the joint Arts and Science degree (BASc) and an enriched curriculum in the faculties of Medicine and Dentistry. The Faculty of Science has created an office of undergraduate research, an innovative project that connects students with professors, allowing them to do research for course credit.
The Principal adds that the current wave of energy at McGill is occurring not only at the student level, but within the professoriate and administration as well. The university has pressed hard to recruit top talent from around the globe, with the result that 75 new professors join faculty ranks this year. A number of world authorities are among them, including Jody Heymann whose research on families, work and health has distinguished her at the Harvard School of Public Health. Munroe-Blum is equally pleased to note that the School of Social Work will launch the year with renewed vigour thanks to the arrival of Nico Trocmé from the University of Toronto, and Wendy Thomson from the Prime Minister's Office in the United Kingdom.
"We are proud to recruit leading scholars who are supremely talented to join our outstanding faculty," says the Principal.
In addition, new deans have been named in four faculties in the past few months. Each of them brings to their post a high degree of expertise in their fields, as well as a capacity to impart vision and energy at a faculty-wide level. Christophe Pierre of Engineering and Management's Peter Todd bring experience from top-rated American institutions. Chandra Madramootoo (Agriculture) and Martin Grant (Science), two popular McGill professors, have also stepped into their new positions with a long record of achievement.
While eager to discuss the intellectual growth and focus that has emerged from the academic planning process as it nears completion, the Principal is also quick to call attention to the physical improvements taking place at McGill. Renovations at the Currie Gym are nearing completion, providing students and staff with a new climbing wall, an improved fitness centre and a host of other improvements. Good news indeed, but hardly the biggest building announcement to come this fall.
"There are a number of important projects nearing completion this fall, and a highlight is the new music building," says Munroe-Blum. "This is a world-class facility that is drawing the attention of the international music community." The new $70-million building will be inaugurated on September 30.
The building launch will be just one of several marquee events slated to take place during Homecoming, a special long weekend of alumni reunions and events that touch on many social, academic and athletic aspects of McGill. This year, celebrated author and scholar Michael Ignatieff will be delivering the Beatty Memorial Lecture.
Communicating these and other events to the McGill community, alumni and the general public is another of the Principal's priorities. To do so, the school has expanded its stable of publications. This fall brings the launch of French and English versions of a new magazine. Headway, and the French version, Avancer, will feature profiles of McGill's research achievements. The Principal welcomes the inauguration of an online newsletter, Voilà McGill, and the publication of A Portrait of Private Giving, which will provide an overview of donor activities and the many ways that their contributions enrich the institution.
The Principal's busy fall schedule will feature a series of campus events. Munroe-Blum will be continuing her Town Hall meetings, open forums at which she joins students, faculty and staff to discuss issues that matter to members the McGill community. Work continues on the Principal's Task Force on Student Life and Learning which will make recommendations on how to enhance the student services and experience at McGill, and the Master Plan Task Force, which will make recommendations on the physical development of McGill for the future. These forward-looking looking bodies seek to improve student life and the physical face of the campus through on-going consultations and recommendations.
"It's a wonderful time to be at McGill. It is a privilege to be in this university, with our remarkable students and professors, and dedicated staff, who are committed to achieving the highest levels of excellence in teaching and research. They are doing outstanding work and we are poised to do even greater things together."