A day that celebrated the achievements of Forward with Integrity initiatives left the overall state of the academy largely undefined.
David Wilkinson, Provost and Vice-President (Academic), gave his State of the Academy address on Oct. 10 after presentations and receptions of various Forward with Integrity had taken place throughout the day.
“Forward with Integrity,” an open letter by McMaster President Patrick Deane in 2011 was turned into an initiative allowing students to apply for funding to complete projects that would make Deane’s vision a reality. 78 projects have been funded since, including the Learning Portfolio on Avenue and a psychology project studying how people can be perceived differently when conducting job interviews over Skype.
Beginning at 11:30a.m., presentations of numerous FWI projects filled the schedule at CIBC Hall, leading up to the State of the Academy. Wilkinson called his own address “window dressing” to a day of celebration.
“We decided this year’s State of the Academy Address, as it was originally called, to turn it into a whole day event of celebration,” said Wilkinson.
Wilkinson’s address, to a room filled with faculty and staff, highlighted academic research issues and remained vague regarding the overall state of McMaster University.
The Provost highlighted a few FWI projects with positive fanfare and video presentations. The Learning Portfolio received strong attention and was touted as a growing success.
“It really is an opportunity for students to integrate their learning into one place,” said Wilkinson.
With the address, Wilkinson said that he hoped to develop an identity for McMaster as both a research-intensive and student-centred school.
“Strong linkage between student centered-ness and research focus is really how we intend to define ourselves as an institution,” Wilkinson said.
When it came to more technical matters, Wilkinson left a few questions unanswered.
He chose not to speak to the school’s budget in his address, instead referring the audience to the University Factbook for details.
“The State of the Academy can be all about budgets and numbers. I didn’t want to do that last year and I’m not going to do it this year either. So we won’t talk a lot of budgetary situations,” said Wilkinson.
“The University Factbook…was released a couple days ago. It has an update of all of the numbers.” The document is available on the Office of Institutional Research and Analysis website.
Wilkinson was also vague with when it came the Ontario government’s push to have post-secondary institutions specialize further.
On the matter, he said “The government pays the freight, and when they want to change something, we have to pay attention to that.”
Wilkinson explained that McMaster will have to negotiate with the provincial government over the course of this academic year.
He was relatively unclear in what the school will be doing to prepare for this, saying, “One of the key things for us to do as an institution is to get our ducks in order and be prepared to state how we wish to be seen as a differentiated organization compared to other universities in the province.”
“I think, actually, we’re in pretty good shape to develop that process.”
With regards to McMaster’s internationalization, Wilkinson said, “This is the one area of Forward with Integrity that hasn’t received the attention it deserves.”