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York University hosts conference on the state of graduate student supervision with an eye to the future

York University hosts conference on the state of graduate student supervision with an eye to the future

One of the foundational relationships of the graduate student experience is the one between the graduate student and supervisor. As part of our 60th-anniversary celebrations, the Faculty of Graduate Studies at York is hosting a one-day online Graduate Supervision Conference geared specifically for graduate supervisors.

Partnering with Memorial University of Newfoundland, the conference is called "Collaborative, Constructive, Considerate: Fostering Dialogue on Best Practices in Graduate Supervision in Canada" and will be held Friday, May 31, from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm.

The conference will bring together graduate supervisors from universities across Canada with the aim to foster dialogue about best practices in supervisory pedagogy, says Dr. Cheryl van Daalen-Smith, Conference Chair and Associate Dean, Academic, Graduate Studies at York.

"We need to continue talking about principles and best practices." She said the conference is filling a need for schools of graduate studies who understand that more conversations have to happen about supervision. "There's an assumption one learns to be a supervisor by being supervised themselves as a graduate student when there’s so much more to it."

2024 Grad Supervision Conference official asset

York’s University Academic Plan 2020–2025 recognizes an ambitious agenda for the continued growth and application of our research, scholarship, and creative activity. Two of the UAP’s six priorities for action speak to 21st Century Learning and Knowledge for the Future. A community of changemakers, Graduate Studies takes the goals of increasing the research participation of faculty and trainees at all levels across the university, accelerating growth in the number and diversity of our scholarly and artistic outputs and research funding base to heart.

A leading international teaching and research university united by a strong sense of purpose and long-standing commitment to public good, York is committed to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal number 4: Ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promotion of lifelong learning opportunities for all.

A cornerstone of the academic environment, graduate education and the graduate supervisory experience play a pivotal role in shaping student’s academic and professional journeys. This relationship has a profound effect on the quality of research produced, development of academic skills and the overall academic experience.

The conference begins with a welcome from Dr. Alice MacLachlan, York's Vice-Provost & Dean, Graduate Studies, who will be joined by Dr. Philippe-Edwin Bélanger, CAGS President & Director of Student Services at Institut national de la recherche scientifique INRS, Quebec City and van Daalen-Smith for remarks.

The opening keynote will be delivered by Dr. Bruce Shore, author of the conference’s key publication The Graduate Advisor Handbook: A Student-Centred Approach who will give a talk entitled: Connections to Quagmires: Setting Up for Successful Supervision. A second keynote will follow, delivered by Heather McGhee Peggs will examine When Grad Things Happen: Power, Pressure & Personalities. McGhee Peggs is the author of a book on Supervising Conflict which offers practical advice and tools to help faculty identify and respond to the most common grad school concerns.

The first panel discussion, moderated by Dr. Ian Wereley, Executive Director, Canadian Association for Graduate Studies (CAGS), will examine Ontario’s Principles of Graduate Supervision: An Initiative and Strategy for Supporting Graduate Supervision. Discussing the principles will be Dr. Suzanne Curtin, Dean, Graduate Studies at Brock University, Dr. Jeff Casello, Associate Vice President, Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs at the University of Waterloo and Dr. André M. Beauchemin, Vice-Provost Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies at the University of Ottawa.

Following a short lunch break, Dr. Rhonda Joy, Associate Dean, Graduate Programs and Research at the Memorial University of Newfoundland will moderate a fireside chat with graduate supervisory award winners Dr Benjamin Berger from York, Dr. Brent Snook from Memorial and Dr. Fanie Pelletier from the Université de Sherbrooke. The participants will reflect upon their experiences and focus on ways their supervisory practices reflect collaborative, constructive and considerate supervision practices—including how they tailor their mentorship for international students. They will also discuss what they wished they had known then, what they know now and how supervision has changed them.

The day will finish off with a Go-Forward Closing Discussion moderated by van Daalen-Smith and featuring incoming CAGS President Dr. Fahim Quadir, Vice-Provost and Dean, School of Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs at Queen's University and Dr. Ian Wereley, Executive Director CAGS who will discuss Envisioning National Principles on Graduate Supervision: A CAGS Working Group Initiative which will envision mobilizing a working group initiative led by CAGS towards the establishment of Canadian graduate supervision principles.

The conference is a follow-up to the national CAGS conference in 2023, where graduate supervision conversations filled every meeting room, van Daalen-Smith says. "We need to celebrate great supervision, and foster discussions that identify exactly what it is that makes this pivotal educative role in graduate studies so influential.”

Registration for the conference is free and is now open. RSVP via the conference website.