2021-22 Decanal Memoranda

June 7, 2022: School of Graduate Studies Supervision Awards

Date: June 7, 2022

Dear Graduate Chairs, Graduate Coordinators and Graduate Administrators,

The School of Graduate Studies Supervision Awards aim to recognize outstanding performance in graduate student supervision. Each year, two JJ Berry Smith Doctoral Supervision Awards and two SGS Early Career Supervision Awards are conferred, with one of each award in the Humanities/Social Sciences and in the Physical/Life Sciences divisions.

The annual awards honour faculty members who, over a minimum of a 15-year period (JJ Berry Smith Doctoral Supervision Award) or up to 6 year period (SGS Early Career Supervision Award), have demonstrated excellence in supervision at the University of Toronto by:

  • inspiring and guiding students to reach excellence in scholarship;
  • providing an environment that is supportive and stimulating;
  • enabling students to learn the essential methodologies, concepts and cultures of their discipline;
  • introducing students to the wider content of the discipline and relevant communities of scholars;
  • positioning students for future careers both within and outside academe; and
  • fostering a strong sense of academic integrity.

2022 JJ Berry Smith Doctoral Supervision Award

I am pleased to announce that Dr. Scott Prudham and Dr. Marla B. Sokolowski are this year’s recipients of the JJ Berry Smith Doctoral Supervision Award, which recognizes outstanding  doctoral student supervision.

About this year’s recipients

Dr. Scott Prudham, Department of Geography & Planning and School of the Environment

Dr. Scott Prudham’s work is situated at the intersection of environmental politics, environmental change and political economy. He is especially interested in the intersecting dynamics of social justice, environmental change and the commodification of nature, including in natural resource and extractive industries and in certain branches of agriculture.

Prudham’s course, “Capitalist Nature” has long been a “must take” among geography students. Just as popular is the student-driven and now longstanding working group on political economy and ecology that he created that’s simply known as “PE2.” Since 2001, across the social sciences and specifically geography and environmental studies, Prudham has acted as the sole or co-supervisor of 17 master’s students and a further 15 PhD students.

Scott is also the author of the 2005 Routledge book Knock on Wood: Nature as Commodity in Douglas-fir Country, and co-editor of the 2007 Routledge collection Neoliberal Environments: False Promises and Unnatural Consequences, as well as a former editor of the journal Geoforum and past president of the University of Toronto Faculty Association.

Currently, he is a visiting scholar for 2023 in the Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive (CEFE) at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Montpellier, France.

Read more about Dr. Prudham on the Faculty of Arts & Science website.

Dr. Marla B. Sokolowski, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Dr. Marla B. Sokolowski is a University Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Genetics and Behavioural Neurology.A pioneer in the field of behaviour genetics, Sokolowskihas conducted foundational research into the interaction between genes and the environment, and how genetic tendencies are affected by the environment and experience. Her ground breaking investigations into the genetic and molecular basis of individual differences in behaviour include the discovery of the foraging gene in Drosophila melanogaster, or fruit flies.

Over her career, Sokolowski has supervised 22 postdoctoral fellows, 23 PhD students and 15 master’s students. Of the 168 refereed papers published by her research laboratory, 112 have included graduate student co-authors. Six of her former PhD students have gone on to faculty positions at the University of Toronto, Washington University of St Louis and Brown University. As a testament to her role in their careers, her students organized a special issue of the Journal of Neurogenetics in her honour.

Marla is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and a recipient of the Society’s Flavelle Medal for her contributions to biological science. She is also a fellow and former co-director of the Child & Brain Development Program of CIFAR, as well as the recipient of the Genetics Society of Canada’s Award of Excellence, the International Behaviour and Neurogenetics Society’s Distinguished Investigator Award, and the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal.

Read more about Dr. Sokolowski on the Faculty of Arts & Science website.

2022 SGS Early Career Supervision Award

I am pleased to announce that Dr. Nada Moumtaz and Dr. Sophie Rousseaux are the recipients of the Early Career Supervision Award, which recognizes outstanding performance from early-career faculty members in graduate supervision.  In addition, Dr. Hayley Wyatt (Department of Biochemistry) received an Honourable Mention as a nominee for this award.

About this year’s recipients

Dr. Nada Moumtaz, Department of Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations and Department for the Study of Religion

Dr. Nada Moumtaz received her PhD in Cultural Anthropology from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Her research, which stands at the intersection of anthropology, history, and Islamic legal studies, looks at how Islamic tradition has transformed since the nineteenth century while continuing to challenge and provide alternatives to dominant sensibilities, conceptions, and institutions of the modern world. She is the author of the 2021 book, God’s Property: Islam, Charity, and the Modern State, which examines the contemporary Islamic revival of the charitable practice of pious endowment in Beirut to shed new light on the secularization of religion through the lens of its separation from “the economy.”

Since joining the University of Toronto as an Assistant Professor in 2016, Moumtaz has worked in a close and ongoing way with at least 20 students, in addition to serving as a member of nine PhD committees (twice as internal examiner) and as examiner for six separate sets of comprehensive exams. Though it is extremely unusual for pre-tenure faculty in her field to take on sole supervision, Moumtaz has already supervised two Master’s students and one PhD student while also serving as co-supervisor for another doctoral student.

Nada is also well known for her efforts to promote EDI initiatives in her department. She has served on the Indigenous Pedagogy Working Group, the Anti-racism, Diversity and Equity committee and provided volunteer faculty support to students’ efforts to advance racial equity.

Dr. Sophie Rousseaux, Department of Chemistry

Dr. Sophie Rousseaux is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry and a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Organic Chemistry. Her research group’s interests include organic synthesis, catalysis, organometallic chemistry and supramolecular chemistry.

Professor Rousseaux has an impressive number and range of supervisory experiences: 12 PhD students (three of whom have completed), six Master’s students (all completed), one post-doctoral fellow, 14 undergraduates, and even a high school co-op student. She has also co-authored and published 18 articles with her students.

Sophie’s approach to mentorship is highly personalized, with special attention to her trainees’ long-term goals. Her students often commend her for her commitment to their mental health, overall wellbeing, and work-life balance. She also actively encourages her students to develop a commitment to equity and inclusion by leading an EDI-based Journal Club. The initiative, which Rousseaux convened in 2020, continues to meet regularly to discuss the latest literature on making science equitable.

Please join me in congratulating this year’s winners for their outstanding contributions to graduate mentorship. I also encourage you to read our profile on Professors Moumtaz and Rousseaux where they discuss their unique approaches to graduate supervision.

For more information on the awards, please contact the Graduate Awards Office: graduate.awards@utoronto.ca.

Sincerely,

Vina Goghari, PhD, CPsych
Acting Dean, School of Graduate Studies, and
Acting Vice-Provost, Graduate Research and Education


May 27, 2022: Office of the Dean Staffing Announcement

Date: May 27, 2022

Dear SGS Staff and Council of Graduate Deans,

I am pleased to announce that Brian Desrosiers-Tam will be serving as Acting Director, Academic Affairs, in the Office of the Vice-President and Provost from July 1 to December 31, 2022. Brian is our Assistant Dean in the School of Graduate Studies. He provides leadership and strategic direction over the business administration of a broad array of initiatives, programs & services offered at SGS. Brian graduated with a Master’s in Public Policy & Public Administration from Carleton University in 2006; prior to coming to SGS he worked in the Ontario Ministry of Education and at OCAD University. This is an excellent opportunity for Brian, and it will also support SGS in our efforts to give graduate studies greater voice across the University.

I am also delighted to announce that Laura Stathopoulos will be seconded to the role of Acting Assistant Dean during the same period. Laura joined the School of Graduate Studies in 2008 after a 15-year career in the private postsecondary education sector, where she held various positions including Registrar and Executive Director. As Director, Graduate Awards and Financial Aid, Laura is a crucial member of SGS’s senior leadership team and has provided years of stellar leadership to the broader University community, serving as a key resource on policy development and graduate student funding, awards and financial aid across the tri-campus.

Please join me in congratulating Brian and Laura and wishing them well in their new Acting roles.

The position of Acting Director, Graduate Awards and Financial Aid, will be posted shortly. I invite all those interested to apply.

Joshua

Joshua D. Barker
Dean, School of Graduate Studies and
Vice-Provost, Graduate Research & Education
School of Graduate Studies, University of Toronto


May 24, 2022: GradSERU Tableau Dashboard Access

Date: May 24, 2022

Dear PDAD&C members, 
 
I am writing to follow up on the April 26th presentation on our Graduate Student Experience in the Research University (gradSERU) data. You now have access to the Institutional and Departmental gradSERU dashboards:

  1. The gradSERU Institutional dashboard enables you to view the data for U of T (overall) or compare the data by division, and by Faculty.   
  2. The gradSERU Departmental dashboard enables you to view the data on a more granular level. Users can filter by Faculty and program.  

In addition to the above, we also plan to publish the gradSERU Public dashboard with only the ‘Overall U of T’ data shown. This will be hosted on the SGS Explore Our Data webpage. Eventually the Institutional and Departmental dashboards will be accessible to administrative leaders through an internal SharePoint site, but at this point in time, we are granting access to you directly through this email.

At the moment, graduate coordinators (associate chairs graduate, vice-chair graduates, etc.) do not have automatic access to the gradSERU dashboards. Access requests can be sent to sgs.data@utoronto.ca.

If you have any questions about the project or the data, please contact Kristen Reichold, SGS Special Projects Officer. If you have any problem accessing or using the dashboards, please contact Grace Zhu, SGS Data Analyst. 

Thank you, 

Joshua D. Barker 
Dean, School of Graduate Studies
Vice-Provost, Graduate Research & Education

Attachments


May 10, 2022: Lending Support and Staying Informed about the War in Ukraine

Date: May 10, 2022

Dear Graduate Chairs, Graduate Coordinators and Graduate Administrators,

As you know, the war in Ukraine continues to affect many students, staff, and faculty members in the graduate community across U of T. At this difficult time, the University is doing its best to support current and prospective students from Ukraine by creating more pathways to graduate and postdoctoral studies and by offering a range of financial supports. Please take a moment to familiarize yourself with the pathways and supports currently available, as outlined below.

Pathways to U of T

The Government of Canada has introduced the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel (CUAET) to help Ukrainians come to Canada as quickly as possible, including for research and study opportunities.

If you are receiving inquiries from prospective students who wish to apply to a graduate program at UofT, please encourage them to review the list of programs and contact the graduate unit or sgs.international@utoronto.ca for information and advice.

There are three pathways for current university graduate students in Ukraine to study at the University of Toronto:

  1. Transfer to complete a graduate degree at UofT
  2. Apply for the International Visiting Graduate Students (IVGS) program  
    • The IVGS program allows graduate students enrolled at an international institution to come to U of T to conduct research for up to 12 months
    • Contact sgs.international@utoronto.ca for details 
  3. Apply to come to UofT on an exchange program 
    • The U of T Special Exchange – Ukraine allows current graduate students to register in classes for up to a year without paying tuition
    • Contact Mahvish Wesley, Director, Learning & Safety Abroad at the Centre for International Experience for details

Students who need to complete a 14-day travel quarantine should contact info.quarantine@utoronto.ca to find out more about the quarantine programs offered. Please also refer to the University of Toronto Quarantine Information.

Supports for Current Students

Current graduate students impacted by the war can access emergency grants and tuition deferrals as needed as well as mental health supports. The University has committed to support Ukrainian students pursuing University of Toronto degrees through the University’s Scholars-at-Risk Fellowship and has announced a $1 million matching fund for donations supporting displaced students from Ukraine. Details are here if you are interested in supporting this fundraising effort or want to share the information with others.

The Government of Canada has also announced special funding, in the form of supplements to existing CIHR, NSERC, SSHRC, and New Frontiers grants, which will provide relief and assistance to students applying to research-based programs, including the IVGS program, and postdoctoral researchers directly impacted by the invasion of Ukraine.

Academic Resources

I encourage everyone to stay informed about developments in Ukraine, and to seek out sources that provide accurate information. The Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy is hosting a series of discussions around geopolitical issues, including the war in Ukraine (you can see their lineup of events here). Recently, Mélanie Joly, the federal Minister of Foreign Affairs, took part in a conversation with Janice Stein, the founding director of the Munk School, on Canadian foreign policy in the context of the ongoing war in Ukraine. You can watch that conversation here.  And the head of the Petro Jacyk Slavic Studies library at U of T has worked with Duke University Libraries and others to put together resources related to the war.

Sincerely,

Joshua Barker
Dean, School of Graduate Studies, and
Vice-Provost, Graduate Research and Education


March 15, 2022: Support for International Applicants and Current Students

Date: March 15, 2022

Dear colleagues,

In one of my recent communications, I shared some options for graduate units to support international applicants from Ukraine from a graduate admissions perspective. As the crisis continues to unfold, we know the impacts of the conflict are reaching beyond applicants from Ukraine.

The School of Graduate Studies will continue to work with graduate units to support those who wish to extend their unit’s international admission deadlines and/or cover the application fees for specific individuals. This includes applicants from Ukraine or Russia and any international students who are or were studying in Ukraine. Please note that deciding to put in place one or both of these options remains the decision of the graduate unit.

As previously mentioned, the SGS Admissions and International Student Advisors (sgs.international@utoronto.ca) and SGS Student Academic Services (sgs.support@utoronto.ca) will work closely with you and your unit to accommodate your requests and provide any necessary technical assistance on the Graduate Admissions Application System (Slate). 

In addition to supporting applicants, I wish to remind you of the support we continue to offer to our current and returning students who may be negatively impacted by the recent crisis. This includes financial support through SGS emergency grants and interest-free loans for students with limited or restricted access to personal funds; facilitating Fall 2022 registration for students with arrears; and/or eliminating service charges and approving fee deferrals. Should you have any questions about any of these measures, please contact the SGS Financial Aid and Advising team at sgs.financial.assistance@utoronto.ca.

For any members of the U of T community who need support, I wish to remind you of the services available through our campuses, at the links provided below. 

For students: 

For staff and faculty: 

As always, we will continue to adapt our supports and approach as the situation unfolds.

Thank you,


Joshua Barker, PhD 
Dean, School of Graduate Studies and 
Vice-Provost, Graduate Research and Education 


March 11, 2022: Promoting the CGPSS Student Experience Survey – February 16 to March 29

Date: March 11, 2022

Dear colleagues,

On February 16, 2022, the University of Toronto launched the 2022 Canadian Graduate & Professional Student Survey (CGPSS) survey. This marks our seventh time participating in this survey. Beyond providing the university with useful comparative data to peer institutions, this survey also gives each of us valuable insights into the graduate student experience to learn about and make changes in response to the data. Click here to see the responses since 2003 and other ways we measure our performance.

A private email invitation link was sent to all graduate students who were enrolled in programs in the Fall 2021 term. Participation is voluntary, anonymous, and confidential. This year, our goal is to improve upon our 34% response rate from CGPSS 2019. After 15 days we are at 14% compared to 25% at the same time in the last cycle, so we need your help promoting this survey. I appreciate anything you can do to help drive up response rates.

  • If you have any questions about CGPSS, please contact us at CGPSS@utoronto.ca. Following the survey, we will share the findings with you through an interactive dashboard.

Thank you for helping us to engage graduate students across U of T!

Joshua Barker, PhD
Dean, School of Graduate Studies and
Vice-Provost, Graduate Research & Education

Example email to share with faculty:

Dear colleagues,

Time and time again, we’ve heard from students that they want to provide feedback about their experience at the University of Toronto. The Canadian Graduate & Professional Student Survey (CGPSS) survey is a powerful way for them to tell us about what’s working well, and not so well, in classrooms, labs, and campus life.

U of T is participating in CGPSS for the seventh time from February 16 – March 29, 2022. All students who were enrolled in graduate programs in the Fall 2021 term have received a personalized survey link and have the option to complete the survey all at once (which takes roughly 20 minutes), or to complete it in multiple sittings during the survey period.

This year, our goal is to improve upon our 34% response rate from CGPSS 2019. I’d like to ask for your support in telling your students about the survey and encouraging them to complete it by March 29th. Click here to learn more.

We take survey feedback and responses seriously and use these results to identify areas of strength and weakness, enhance programs and curricula, improve student services and policies, advance research and scholar opportunities, ensure a vibrant and supportive environment for all students, and more.

Thank you for your support in helping to strengthen graduate education at U of T.

[Sign off and signature]


March 10, 2022: Discontinuing the Form: COVID-19 Graduate Students/Trainee Postdoctoral Fellows Acknowledgement

Date: March 10, 2022

As the University of Toronto resumes increasing in-person activities, including in research, the School of Graduate Studies (SGS) has made the decision to discontinue the COVID-19 Graduate Students/Trainee Postdoctoral Fellows Acknowledgement: Conducting Research On-Campus or at Off-Campus Research Site form (attached for reference), which was required in earlier phases of the COVID-19 research restart process.

Many graduate students and postdoctoral fellows will have returned to in-person research. For graduate students and postdoctoral fellows who have not, ideally, a common decision on the return to in-person research is reached. Disagreements regarding return to in-person research should first be discussed with the Graduate Chair/Coordinator and then the Vice/Associate-Dean, Graduate/Academic. If further guidance is required, please contact the Vice-Dean, Students at SGS, sgs.vdeanstudents@utoronto.ca.

Many students and supervisor(s) will have made research plans to ensure timely degree completion. If not, we continue to recommend that the student and the supervisor(s) focus on developing a plan to ensure timely progress towards degree milestones. Some students are profoundly affected by the pandemic both in their professional and personal lives, which will require individualized and holistic approaches to research planning. This could include:

  • More frequent check-ins with their supervisor(s)
  • More frequent supervisory committee meetings
  • Pivoting the student’s research plan
  • Re-evaluating the scope of trainee’s research plan

Please encourage trainees, supervisors, and graduate faculty leadership to be aware of supports available:

UTogether
Gradhub
My SSP (support available 24/7/365)
Good2Talk Student Helpline
Student Mental Health Resource Website
Navi
St. George, Health and Wellness Centre
UTSC, Health and Wellness Centre
UTM, Health & Counselling Centre

Sincerely,

Joshua Barker, PhD
Dean, School of Graduate Studies and
Vice-Provost, Graduate Research & Education


February 28, 2022: Support for International Applicants – Ukraine

Date: February 28, 2022

Dear colleagues,

In light of the escalating conflict and unfolding geopolitical situation in Ukraine, the School of Graduate Studies will support graduate units who wish to: 

  • Extend your unit’s international admission deadlines; 
  • Cover the application fees for individuals applying from Ukraine. 

SGS Admissions and International Student Advisors (sgs.international@utoronto.ca) and SGS Student Academic Services will work closely with you and your unit to accommodate your requests and provide any necessary technical assistance on the Graduate Admissions Application (Slate). 

Thank you in advance for your continued commitment to supporting international applicants from Ukraine.  
 

Joshua Barker, PhD 
Dean, School of Graduate Studies and 
Vice-Provost, Graduate Research and Education


February 2, 2022: Introducing the Connaught PhDs for Public Impact Fellowship Program

Date: February 2, 2022

Dear Graduate Chairs, Graduate Coordinators and Graduate Administrators,  

I am delighted to announce that the School of Graduate Studies has launched the Connaught PhDs for Public Impact Fellowship Program as part of the core offerings of the Centre for Graduate Professional Development. This program aims to support collaboration and communication across graduate students, academic disciplines, institutions, organizations, and communities to further research, scholarship, and creative practice for the public good. Please encourage your research-stream doctoral students to consider applying for this opportunity.  

Some of you may know that public scholarship – encouraging students to take their research beyond the lab, the library, or the conference – has been a strategic priority for us at SGS for several years. The Connaught PhDs for Public Impact Fellowship Program is an exciting realization of that vision. It would not have been possible without the work of Professor Gretchen Kerr, our former Vice-Dean, Programs and Innovation (now the Dean of the Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education), who set the idea in motion, and the leadership of Professor Vina Goghari, our new Vice-Dean, Research and Program Innovation, in whose capable hands the program has blossomed into its current form.  

Fellows from PhDs for Public Impact will focus on engaging the public through a scholarly agenda. This could involve a range of activities, from describing their work in a public forum (e.g., in a tweet, a personal blog post, a podcast interview, or an op-ed) to partnering with a school, community organization, or cultural institution (e.g., museum, theatre, archive) in an ongoing two-way exchange of knowledge and practices.  

Fifteen fellows will be chosen every year. Each fellow will be awarded $12,500: a $10,000 fellowship to be used as a top-up to their stipend for the year and $2,500 towards research expenses, including professional development to be used during their degree. Applicants must be doctoral students in a research-stream program, registered with good academic standing. 

The deadline for applications is April 1, 2022. The program will begin on September 1, 2022. SGS will offer two virtual information sessions for those interested on the following dates:  

  • Thursday, February 24, 2022, from 12 noon to 1 pm  
  • Wednesday, March 2, from 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm.   

We ask that interested parties please register in advance for these Zoom sessions so we can share details closer to the date. In the meantime, graduate students can also visit the Centre for Graduate Professional Development website to learn more about the application process and the materials required.   

If you have questions about the program, please don’t hesitate to contact Vina Goghari, Vice-Dean, Research and Program Innovation, at vina.goghari@utoronto.ca.  

I appreciate your support in sharing this exciting opportunity with your research-stream doctoral students.  

Sincerely,  

Joshua Barker, PhD  
Dean, School of Graduate Studies and  
Vice-Provost, Graduate Research and Education


December 16, 2021: Omicron Variant & Graduate Community

Date: December 16, 2021

Dear Graduate Community,

On December 15th, the University leadership announced new measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in response to the emergence of the Omicron variant of concern. These measures will result in a sharp reduction in on-campus activity—effective today and continuing through January—in order to keep our community safe. I strongly advise you to read that memo, if you have not done so already. In this message, I highlight how these changes will impact the graduate community.  

Graduate Classes and In-Class Exams

As of today, Fall term graduate in-person exams will not be proceeding. Instructors or programs will be reaching out to confirm arrangements in affected courses.

Winter term graduate and undergraduate classes are expected to start as scheduled in January; however, a vast majority of these will be delivered online until January 31, 2022. A small number of graduate courses may continue to require in-person meetings, placements, or practica, so please watch for updates from your instructor or program administrator on a particular course.

Departmental Examinations

Departmental graduate examinations (e.g. qualifying exams, comprehensive exams, thesis proposal defenses, etc.) will be solely online until January 31, 2022.

Final Oral Examinations for Doctoral Students

Final oral examinations for doctoral students that are scheduled to take place prior to January 31, 2022, and which were approved to be in an in-person or hybrid format, will now be transitioned back to an online format. SGS will continue to schedule in-person and hybrid final oral examinations for dates starting January 31, 2022. For any questions, please contact: sgs.doctoral@utoronto.ca.

Placements, Internships and Other Experiential Program Elements

Please refer to your graduate program for further information regarding placements, internships, and other experiential program components for the month of January.

Graduate Research on Campus

Our on-campus laboratories continue to operate but those who can work remotely should do so until January 31, 2022. For graduate students, the decision to conduct research activities in-person or remotely is ideally a joint decision with your supervisor, but ultimately the decision to be in-person rests with the student. It is imperative that we continue to use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and follow all public health guidance.

All in-person research with participants who are from vulnerable populations must stop now until January 31, 2022. Vulnerable populations include for example, the unvaccinated, undervaccinated (e.g. have not had two COVID-19 vaccines), immune compromised, long term care residents and Indigenous communities.  Questions about whether your population is vulnerable should be directed to: f2f.research@utoronto.ca. All virtual research may continue. Any research that can be moved virtually, should be moved now to those alternative methods.

For all other in-person research that is not with vulnerable populations and which cannot be moved virtually or paused, emergency stop and contact tracing plans must be reviewed and researchers should continue to monitor local public health guidance and travel advisories.

All researchers should monitor the OVPRI website for updates as the situation evolves.

Working Remotely – Teaching Assistants and Employee Postdoctoral Fellows

With the latest provincial announcement, all employees, including Teaching Assistants and Postdoctoral Fellows, should work remotely until Monday, January 31, 2022, with the exception of those who must work on campus, such as employees who provide in-person student support, or who are needed for specific in-person research activities.

If you are a teaching assistant, please reach out to your course instructor for further information. If you are a postdoctoral fellow, please reach out to your supervisor/principal investigator.

If you have not already done so, please ensure you have uploaded your proof of vaccination to Ucheck; this is required for all employees, even those working remotely.

Students and International Travel

Given that the federal government has issued a global travel advisory advising Canadians to avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada, as of December 15, 2021, all university sanctioned activities outside of Canada are cancelled for U of T students, until further notice.

If you are a PhD student looking to conduct thesis related research outside of Canada – if you can defer your travel, please do so at this time; otherwise, please contact safetyabroad@utoronto.ca to discuss your options.

If you are considering personal travel over the winter break, please be aware that restrictions around travel including requirements for return to Canada may change without any notice. There is the possibility that you will have difficulty returning to Canada including significant delays and being required to quarantine when able to return.

For additional information please refer to the frequently asked questions by students on the VP Students COVID-19 FAQ page.

SGS Student Services

SGS operations will continue with minor modifications in how we deliver our services. We will now only offer virtual and phone appointments in lieu of in-person appointments, until January 31, 2022.

We understand this period may particularly be stressful for graduate students who will be joining the University of Toronto for the first time in January. We look forward to welcoming you and answering your questions. We hope you will attend our Virtual Winter Orientation.

I will be in contact again as the University continues to monitor the latest announcements from the provincial and federal governments. In the meantime, I hope you can make the time to rest and connect with your loved ones safely. It has been a challenging year, and you deserve a break.

Please remember that help is available if you need it. We have put in place health and mental health supports for members of our community. If you need to talk, do not hesitate to reach out (see resource list below).

Sincerely,

Joshua Barker, PhD
Dean, School of Graduate Studies and
Vice-Provost, Graduate Research and Education


October 27, 2021: Message Sent to Graduate Students and Follow-Up with Graduate Units

Date: October 27, 2021

Dear Graduate Chairs, Graduate Coordinators and Graduate Administrators, 

Earlier today, I shared the [following] message (October 27, 2021) with all graduate students. In addition to this message, I wanted to add the following items for your information. 

Graduate Students Research & Study Spaces 

As an increasing number of graduate students return to our campuses, there is an expressed demand to re-open or provide more access (e.g., longer hours) to research and study spaces, such as graduate student offices and divisional/departmental libraries. If you have not done so already, I encourage you to work with your CAOs, Department Managers and others to review your General Assessment Templates (GATs) and increase capacity in these spaces where possible (respecting physical distancing and non-medical masks requirements, if they are shared spaces).  

EHS notes that graduate student spaces (whether in the lab or in nearby offices), where instruction is given or used for required academic work, should be considered instructional spaces. The following caveats apply: 

  • These spaces should be restricted to graduate students who have assigned. desks/spaces. Assigned space for graduate students is required to facilitate contact tracing. 
  • The restrictions can be time-bound (e.g. between noon and 5 p.m.) for areas where the space has multiple uses. 

For clarity, common rooms, where transient individuals can enter, are not instructional spaces.  

In the attached memo, we also remind graduate students that the University has created a list of places and spaces to go between classes. This resource is available on the UTogether web pages

Additional Funding Supports 

Graduate students experiencing delays have been encouraged to connect with you regarding additional funding supports. I know that many of you have created COVID-19 Pivot and Completion Awards and Bursaries to help graduate students affected by the pandemic. Some academic divisions are approving a second or third Tuition Fee Exemption (waivers) for graduate students experiencing extreme delays; please consider discussing this possibility with the graduate leadership in your division.  

At the next Graduate Administrators Community of Practice (November) meeting, our team will dedicate the session to reviewing the eligibility criteria of the Tuition Fee Exemptions and updating administrative guidelines, as required. In particular, we’ll remind graduate administrators that students remain eligible for a one-term registration with a tuition exemption until the time they are close to graduation. 

As indicated in the message to graduate students, the Doctoral Completion Award is another possible source of support for students. The budget for this program was increased by 10% last year and will increase by another 10% this year.   

Vaccination Status, Graduate Student Funding, and Academic Progress 

As you know, it is the graduate unit’s responsibility to ensure that graduate students in the funded cohort, who are in good academic standing and can continue to work and make progress, receive their stipend and all other funding, as committed in their graduate funding letters. 

If a student’s non-compliance with the University’s vaccine mandate (or that of a third-party) prevents them from attending campus or another research site, it is recommended that the supervisor/supervisory committee determine whether the student is still able to make progress remotely, and if so, to demonstrate flexibility this academic year. If academic progress cannot be made, SGS policies regarding remaining in good standing may apply. We recommend that graduate students be made aware of the risks associated with not making adequate progress.  

Conversations focusing on academic progress related to non-compliance can be sensitive and need to be handled with care. If you or your faculty members have questions about how to approach such conversations, please get in touch with Caroline Rabbat (caroline.rabbat@utoronto.ca) at the Centre for Graduate Mentorship and Supervision. 

Thank you for your continued support of our graduate students. If you have any questions, please do reach out to me directly. 

Sincerely, 

Joshua Barker, PhD 
Dean, School of Graduate Studies and 
Vice-Provost, Graduate Research and Education 


September 27, 2021: Final Oral Examinations at the School of Graduate Studies

Date: September 27, 2021

Dear Graduate Chairs, Graduate Coordinators and Graduate Administrators,

We currently remain in Stage 3 of the provincial reopening; the government has allowed most of the University’s operations to reopen, although physical distancing and other health and safety requirements remain in place. We know that Final Oral Examinations are an important culminating experience and celebratory milestone for our doctoral candidates. SGS is committed to providing the best possible experience for them and our supervising committee members. Please see an update regarding Final Oral Examinations below.

  • At this time, SGS continues to waive the current guidelines for FOEs that prohibit the candidate’s remote participation and limit the remote participation of members of the examination committee to two per exam.
  • Where feasible, students may choose an in-person FOE to be held on campus provided the appropriate public health measures, advice and restrictions are in place.
  • As of September 28, 2021, the School of Graduate Studies will begin accepting room reservations for examinations scheduled to take place in late November 2021, at the School of Graduate Studies (63 St. George Street). Information and instructions regarding the use of SGS space, including maximum in-person room capacity and general availability, will be posted and updated regularly on the SGS Doctoral Examinations & Schedule webpage.
  • Remote examinations (full or hybrid) may continue to be requested by students defending their thesis during the fall 2021 and winter 2022 sessions. Remote video conference participation may occur via, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Quercus and in exceptional circumstances via teleconference.
  • Wherever possible, remote, in-person or hybrid FOEs will continue to be scheduled during regular university business hours, e.g. between 9:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Eastern Time, Monday to Friday.
  • Please note that the inclusion of a fully remote or hybrid FOE continues to be a temporary arrangement that has been put in place to respond to ongoing travel restrictions, quarantine requirements, and other public health measures. In the coming months, we will provide an update for FOEs scheduled beyond the 2021-2022 fall/winter sessions.
  • Except for the requirement for in-person participation, remote or hybrid examinations will be held following the SGS Guidelines for the Final Doctoral Oral Exam (FOE). Additionally, all signatures, files and post-examination instructions will be administered electronically.

If public health measures or other health and safety requirements change shortly, we will provide an update to the plans above, as appropriate. If you have any questions regarding Final Oral Examinations, please do not hesitate to contact Jonathan Turner, Manager, Graduate Completion and Postdoctoral Services, at jonathan.turner@utoronto.ca.

Sincerely,

Joshua Barker, PhD 
Dean, School of Graduate Studies and 
Vice-Provost, Graduate Research and Education


September 1, 2021: Graduate Education Innovation Fund

Date: Sept 1, 2021
To: Graduate Chairs; Graduate Coordinators and Graduate Administrators

I am pleased to introduce a new three-year pilot fund to support teaching innovation for graduate education. The goal of the Graduate Education Innovation Fund (GEIF) is to advance excellence in graduate education through greater exposure to innovative educational practices within and across programs and curricula, including both the classroom and field settings, and in the student-faculty member mentorship relationship. This fund will contribute to the mission of SGS, namely to foster excellence in graduate education by supporting and promoting outstanding graduate learning and research in an environment that encourages an exceptional student experience.

Proposal topics can include strengthening programs through: professional development; experiential learning; interdisciplinary learning; Indigenous ways of knowing and other diverse cultural perspectives; decolonization, anti-oppression and anti-racism pedagogies; global perspectives; effective mentorship; and public scholarship. 

University of Toronto faculty members with continuing appointments are eligible to apply. Ten seed grants of a maximum of $5,000 each will be available on an annual basis.

More information regarding this fund, including the application process, is available on the GEIF website.

The deadline for applications is October 18th, 2021 & April 1, 2022.

This initiative is coordinated by Prof. Vina Goghari, Vice-Dean Research and Program Innovation. Please do not hesitate to contact her with any questions or feedback (sgs.vdeanprograms@utoronto.ca).

Professor Joshua Barker,
Dean, School of Graduate Studies and Vice-Provost, Graduate Research & Education
Division of the Vice-President and Provost, University of Toronto


August 11, 2021: Annual Funding Letters for Graduate Students

Date: August 11, 2021
To: Graduate Chairs; Graduate Coordinators and Graduate Administrators

With the recent renewal of the CUPE 3902 Unit 1 Collective Agreement which is now in effect until December 31, 2023, I am writing to share with you an update on the preparation and review of annual funding letters for graduate students, and associated publication of departmental funding practices.

As you will recall, through the 2018 Collective Agreement with CUPE 3902, Unit 1, the University agreed that every student in the funded cohort who is also a bargaining unit employee would receive a funding letter from their graduate unit annually. This requirement is still in place; however, in addition to other funding specific revisions, the required content of these letters has changed slightly.

While the commitment in the Collective Agreement only applies to those students in the funded cohort who are also employees under the Collective Agreement, the School of Graduate Studies nevertheless encourages graduate units to provide the same transparency and funding information to all of their graduate students in the funded cohort. 

  1. Annual Funding Letters: Graduate Units that include income from Teaching Assistant/Course Instructor positions in their base funding packages, must continue to issue annual funding letters that include specific information required by the Collective Agreement (please refer to section on Funding Letter Structure below for information on new and existing letter requirements). Graduate students must still receive this letter between August 15th and September 30th of each academic year. If a student in the funded cohort becomes a bargaining unit employee after September 30th of that academic year, the graduate unit will provide a funding letter no later than 30 calendar days after the start of their appointment. In the event that your 2021-2022 annual funding letters have already been issued based on the previous requirements, a new revised letter should be issued prior to September 30th.
  1. Publishing of Departmental Funding Practices: Under the revised Article 16:02 of the CUPE 3902 Unit 1 Collective Agreement, Departments are no longer required to create and post Departmental Hiring Policies. Each Department is however required to continue publishing “Departmental funding practices” (which were previously required as part of the now deleted Departmental Hiring Policies). These practices must reflect the normal funding practice of the graduate unit, including the amount of bargaining unit work that forms part of the base funding package and/or the planned variation in the amount of bargaining unit work according to year in programme. This is consistent with SGS principles around improving funding transparency, wherein we recommend that graduate units inform students about their funding practices so that students better understand the terms and conditions under which their funding is provided.

This requirement can be fulfilled by publishing your local funding information and practices on your departmental website and including the relevant link(s) in your annual funding letter to students.

Funding Letter Structure

Information in red indicates the minimum required information to be compliant with the Letter of Intent: Information to Employees in the CUPE 3902 Unit 1 collective agreement. Information that is not in red is not required but highly recommended. The new requirements are also highlighted in yellow.

Student Information

  • Name
  • Address
  • Graduate Unit
  • Program of Study
  • Years of Funding/Current Year of Study
  • Portion of the year covered by funding
  • Supervisor/Advisor of Record
  • Student ID

Funding Package Information

  • Funding amount, source and composition (in a table)
    • University of Toronto Fellowship (UTF) funding
    • Other internal awards, specified by name, where practicable
    • Research Assistantships and/or Stipends (T4A income)
    • Research Assistantships (T4 income) counted towards base funding
    • Teaching Assistant and/ or Course Instructor positions (accepted or declined)
    • Other T4 income counted towards base funding
    • External Scholarships, specified by name, where practicable (e.g. NSERC, SSHRC, CIHR, OGS)
  • Tuition and fees for the funded period
  • Amount of stipend
  • How students are paid
  • Who pays tuition (student or grad unit)
    • You are responsible for paying your tuition and fees to the University
    • Your tuition will be paid directly by the Department of ——–
  • Projected schedule of payments
  • A statement that “this letter may be used in support of an application(s) for funds available to employees from the Union, including the Trans Fund, Survivors Fund, International Workers’ Fund, Childcare Fund, Healthcare Plan Funds, Research Assistants’ Fund, Tuition Assistance and Funding Top-Up Funds.”

Please email a copy of your revised 2021-2022 annual funding letter to Laura Stathopoulos, Director, Graduate Awards and Financial Aid at laura.stathopoulos@utoronto.ca. Ms. Stathopoulos is also able to serve as a resource for faculties and graduate units regarding the funding letter templates. Do not hesitate to reach out to her. 

Should you have any questions about publishing departmental funding practices requirement and/or changes to the Collective Agreement, please contact your Labour Relations Consultant or labour.relations@utoronto.ca.

Sincerely,

Joshua Barker, PhD
Dean, School of Graduate Studies and
Vice-Provost, Graduate Research and Education


August 3, 2021: SGS “Conversations Series” for Graduate Faculty Leaders

Date: August 3, 2021
To: Graduate Chairs; Graduate Coordinators and Graduate Administrators

The School of Graduate Studies (SGS) is pleased to launch our new “Conversation Series” consisting of two initiatives this Fall: Conversations with the Dean and Conversations with SGS.

Conversations with the Dean is a series of informal and small group meetings with leaders of graduate units from various divisions to share experiences and discuss strategies for the advancement of graduate education, research and professional training at the University of Toronto. If you are interested in participating in a session, please complete the following electronic form to document your interest. I look forward to seeing many of you during the Conversations with the Dean series. If the proposed times do not work for your schedule, please do reach out to sgs.dean@utoronto.ca and I am happy to find an alternative time to meet.

Conversations with SGS is a series of monthly sessions for faculty in administrative roles in graduate education to come together to share experiences and incorporate best practices into our work. The goals of this initiative are to:

  1. Further foster tri-campus graduate collaboration
  2. Learn from and amplify the current exceptional work in graduate education in our programs
  3. Anticipate and respond to large scale changes in the graduate education landscape 
  4. Facilitate the reciprocal flow of information between graduate units and SGS

Programming for the Fall will be online, on Tuesdays, from 9:00 to 10:30 am. Please mark your calendars and share with other graduate faculty leadership in your departments, including, Graduate Chairs; Associate Chairs, Graduate; Graduate Directors; Graduate or Program Coordinators, are all welcome.

September 21, 2021 – Re-imagining Graduate Education – Joshua Barker, Dean, SGS and Vice-Provost, Graduate Research and Education

October 19, 2021 – Inclusive Pathways: Spotlight on Graduate Admissions – Panel

November 16, 2021 – Ask your SGS Team & Updates – Decanal Team and Staff 

December 7, 2021– Program Innovation: Fostering Interdisciplinary Work – Panel

Winter programming will be announced in late Fall. In the Fall, you can also expect a survey that will allow SGS to better determine future programming, learn about the innovative work you are doing that we can amplify, and identify potential working groups you would like SGS to spearhead. 

The programming for the Conversations with SGS initiative will be coordinated by Professor Vina Goghari, Vice-Dean Research and Program Innovation. Please do not hesitate to contact her with any questions or feedback (vina.goghari@utoronto.ca).

I would also like to take this opportunity, to express my sincerest gratitude for the efforts and energy of this dedicated graduate community. We, at SGS, are very much looking forward to working with you more closely.

Sincerely,

Joshua Barker
Dean, School of Graduate Studies &
Vice-Provost, Graduate Research and Education


July 29, 2021: Requirement for all Graduate Chairs to establish a Graduate Department Academic Appeals Committee (GDAAC)

Good Afternoon,

We are writing to remind all Graduate Chairs of the need to establish a Graduate Department Academic Appeals Committee (GDAAC) for their graduate unit and communicate to members of their graduate units about this committee’s existence and procedures.   

In her most recent annual report (at page 13), the University Ombudsperson observed that not all divisions provide transparency and clarity to students regarding their right to appeal academic decisions. In particular, the Ombudsperson noted that divisions should clearly indicate the separate appeals processes to be followed by undergraduate and graduate students.

In many years, a graduate unit may not actually receive any appeals.  Nonetheless, the graduate unit must maintain a standing appeals committee, and clarify for graduate students what the process for bringing an appeal would be.

We are therefore requesting that by mid-September, all Graduate Chairs kindly undertake the following: 

  1. Strike a Graduate Department Academic Appeals Committee, to be in place at the beginning of the fall term of 2021-22:

It is usually helpful to appoint members of this committee as part of the normal assignment of service commitments to faculty in the late summer.  The Graduate Department Academic Appeals Committee should be added to the normal list of committees requiring appointees every year.

To assist members of this Committee in understanding their role, we will be offering a Graduate Department Academic Appeals Committee workshop this fall or early winter. In the interim, however, you may find it helpful to review the Guidelines for Chairs on Graduate Department Academic Appeals Committee that can be found at this page on the SGS website.

  1. Provide information on your departmental website about the Graduate Department Academic Appeals Committee:

At a minimum, we would ask that you provide, in a clear location that students will easily find, reference to your Graduate Department Academic Appeals Committee; contact details for the Secretary of that Committee; and a link to details regarding such committees’ procedures on the SGS website.  If you wish to provide additional detail regarding your committee on your departmental website, we would recommend that you primarily rely on the language from that SGS webpage, altering where necessary to reference your own committee. Please have your websites updated with this information by September 30, 2021.

We thank you in advance for assisting us in providing clarity to our graduate students on appeals procedures. Should you have any questions regarding graduate academic appeals, please contact Prof. Charmaine Williams, Vice-Dean, Students at sgs.vdeanstudents@utoronto.ca or Ms. Angelique Plata at sgs.vdeanea@utoronto.ca.

Sincerely,

Joshua Barker
Dean, School of Graduate Studies and Vice-Provost, Graduate Research & Education
Division of the Vice-President and Provost, University of Toronto

Email: sgs.dean@utoronto.ca