2022–23 Decanal Memoranda

June 1, 2023: 2023 Graduate Supervision Awards

Dear Graduate Chairs, Graduate Coordinators and Graduate Administrators,

Every year, the School of Graduate Studies’ Supervision Awards aim to recognize the tremendous thought and effort that go into graduate supervision.

The annual awards honour active faculty members who, over a minimum of a 15-year period (JJ Berry Smith Doctoral Supervision Award) or a period of up to 6 years (SGSEarly Career Supervision Award), have demonstrated excellence in the multiple roles associated with graduate supervision.

Two JJ Berry Smith Doctoral Supervision Awards and two SGS Early Career Supervision Awards are offered annually to successful nominees: one of each award in the Humanities/Social Sciences and in the Physical/Life Sciences.

I am delighted to present to you the winners of the 2023 awards.

2023 JJ Berry Smith Doctoral Supervision Award

Prof. Brenda Cossman (Faculty of Law)and Prof. Jonathan Abbatt (Department ofChemistry) are the recipients of the 2023 JJ Berry Smith Doctoral Supervision Award, which recognizes outstanding performance in the multiple roles associated with doctoral supervision (PhD, EdD, DMA, SJD). 

  1. Brenda Cossman is the Goodman-Schipper Chair and Professor of Law at the University of Toronto. Her teaching and scholarly interests focus on the legal regulation of gender, sexuality and family. Since 2003, Prof. Cossman has supervised 8 LLM students and 14 SJD students, an unusually high number for the Faculty of Law, which typically admits fewer than 50 graduate students a year. She sees her role as a supervisor as not simply providing intellectual guidance, but as fostering community, providing professional mentoring, and supporting students to develop their own unique academic voice. 
  1. Jon Abbatt is a Professor in the Department of Chemistry with a special focus on atmospheric and environmental chemistry. Since 2000, Prof. Abbatt has supervised 16 PhD students and 12 master’s students, and in the past five years alone, has co-authored 45 publications with his students. In his supervision, he aims to provide an enriching environment, introduce students to the wider scientific discipline, support professional development, encourage a work-life balance, and embrace diversity in the broadest possible terms.

Please take a look at our SGS News story to learn more about Professors Cossman and Abbatt.

2023 SGS Early Career Supervision Award

Prof. Daphne Tan (Faculty of Music) and Prof. Kevin Golovin (Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering) are the 2023 recipients of SGS’ Early Career Supervision Award, which recognizes outstanding performance from early-career faculty members in the multiple roles associated with graduate supervision.

Daphne Tan is an Assistant Professor of Music Theory in the Faculty of Music. Her research explores questions about music and the mind, with methodologies and perspectives from the history of music theory and cognitive science. Since joining U of T in 2017, she has supervised four doctoral theses (two completed) and co-supervised a fifth, supervised seven master’s independent projects, and served as an advisory committee member on nine doctoral theses.

Kevin Golovin is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering at the University of Toronto. He is the principal investigator of the Durable Repellent Advanced Engineering Materials (DREAM) Laboratory, and together with his group – whom he affectionately calls the DREAM Team – investigates coatings, surface modification, the mechanics of interfaces, and sustainable methods for achieving solid and liquid repellency. Prof. Golovin joined U of T in 2021 and currently supervises 10 PhD students and three master’s students.

Learn more about Prof. Tan and Prof. Golovin and their impact on students through our SGS News story

Please join me in congratulating this year’s winners for their outstanding contributions to graduate mentorship and supervision.


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

March 14, 2023: Reminding Students to Complete the gradSERU Survey

Dear colleagues,

On March 14, U of T launched the Graduate Student Experience in the Research University (gradSERU) survey, one of two crucial surveys of the graduate experience at U of T. This survey, which closes on May 9, is one of the best ways for graduate students to tell us what is working well at the University and what we can do better. For SGS as well as individual graduate units, these survey results inform the development of programs, curricula, research opportunities, and student services, while also providing a great way to track our progress over time.

SGS would appreciate it very much if you would use the departmental communication channels at your disposal to encourage participation in this survey. Our current response rates are considerably lower than they were at this time during the last survey period in 2021 (currently 13% and hoping to secure a response rate of at least 20%). I am hoping we can make a concerted effort in these last two weeks of the survey period to boost participation.

For your convenience, we have put together a folder of promotional materials – including email copy, newsletter copy, and sample tweets – that you can use to reach your students: gradSERU promo materials

We appreciate all outreach efforts you’re able to make in this home stretch for gradSERU. If you have any questions about promoting the survey, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Gayatri Kumar, our Communications Officer: gayatri.kumar@utoronto.ca. For questions about gradSERU, please email gradSERU@utoronto.ca.

Thank you for your attention.


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

February 17, 2023: 60th Anniversary Bursary for International Junior Fellows at Massey College

Dear Graduate Chairs, Associate Chairs and Coordinators,

I am writing to alert you to an exciting new funding opportunity that will be helpful in recruiting your incoming cohort of top international PhD candidates.

In celebration of its 60th anniversary, Massey College is announcing 5 new $20,000 bursaries for international Junior Fellows. Recognizing that a minimum of one quarter of the Junior Fellowship at Massey College is composed of international students, these bursaries support the College’s mission to bring together future leaders across a range of disciplines to nurture learning and serve the public good.

New for 2023, as a one-time opportunity, all first-round Connaught International Scholarship recipients, in addition to receiving a $10,000 Connaught Scholarship offer, will be shortlisted as nominees to become one of five Massey Junior Fellows to receive a $20,000 residency bursary. 

During the first week of March, Graduate Units with successful Connaught International Scholarship candidates will receive both an SGS scholarship offer letter for the candidate as well as a letter from Massey College advising them of their nomination and details regarding the selection process should they accept. As per the usual timeline, Connaught candidates will have two weeks to accept the Connaught Scholarship offer and indicate their willingness to accept the Massey College nomination.

Candidates will be contacted by Massey College directly regarding any additional requirements.

For your information, Massey College has provided the attached promotional document and will be sharing additional details via their website. Questions may be directed to Alison Mackenzie at: amackenzie@masseycollege.ca.


Laura Stathopoulos
Director, School of Graduate Studies


October 7, 2022: Support for International Applicants and Current Graduate Students — Iran

Dear colleagues,  

I am writing to follow-up on President Meric Gertler’s recent message regarding events in Iran.  As you know, the past few weeks have been a difficult time for many U of T students and community members with personal ties to Iran. I am writing to encourage graduate units to remain flexible and to remind you of the various supports available to students, staff, and faculty members.

Steps Graduate Units Can Take 

I encourage you to offer extensions, consider admission deferrals and make allowances wherever possible for both students and staff through this challenging time. If you can, please remember to check in on your students and colleagues – a kind word or gesture can make a big difference. 

In addition, 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 Iran. 

Deciding to put into place one of these options remains the decision of the graduate unit. 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). We also can extend deadlines for satisfying admission conditions if needed.

Supports through SGS  

In his statement, President Meric Gertler outlined some of the supports available for students in Iran who are seeking refuge or asylum in Canada and hoping to continue their studies at U of T. I also wish to remind you of supports that are available to graduate students through SGS. 

We are offering emergency grants for current graduate students in need, as well as interest-free loans for students with limited or restricted access to personal funds. If you have any questions about these measures, you may contact our Financial Aid & Advising Team at sgs.financial.assistance@utoronto.ca

For members of the U of T community who need support, we have the following student resources available at our three campuses:

I encourage you to stay informed about the developments in Iran. We will continue to monitor the situation and adapt our supports as needed.


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

CC:           SGS Council of Graduate Deans
                SGS Staff

September 27, 2022: Research and Academic Resiliency and Adaptation Tool Kit

Dear Graduate Colleagues,

We are pleased to have launched our Research and Academic Resiliency and Adaptation Tool Kit. This tool kit outlines approaches and supports to help graduate students with timely program completion in the face of disruptions or otherwise impacted trajectories. Please feel free to share this resource with faculty in your units. We will share this tool kit with graduate students in our monthly e-newsletter series.

Highlights of the tool kit include:

  • A model to transition, pivot, and/or extend a student’s academic and research trajectory
  • Guidance on how to create a research and academic plan for an individual student
  • SGS academic supports (e.g., course load substitutions, extensions, our three Centres)
  • SGS financial aid supports (e.g., emergency grants, bursaries, and loans, SGS parental grant, SGS Master’s Completion Bursary)
  • A confidential section for graduate faculty leaders on supports (e.g., reduction of program requirements, locally funded bursary program, financial registration-related supports)

We would be happy to work with units wanting to further their academic and research resiliency programmatically or dealing with individual student situations. Please join us for a Conversations with SGS session on this topic:

November 15th 10-11am – Academic and Research Resiliency: Managing Impacted Student Trajectories (Requires registration); Panelists: Vina Goghari, Vice-Dean, Research and Program Innovation, SGS & SGS Directors

I am grateful to my Vice-Dean, Research and Program Innovation, Vina Goghari for developing this valuable tool kit. If you have questions, please attend the session above or reach out to Prof. Goghari’s office directly at vina.goghari@utoronto.ca.


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

August 17, 2022: Personal Time Off Policy & Final Oral Examination Guidelines

Dear Graduate Chairs, Graduate Coordinators, and Graduate Administrators,

I am writing to inform you of a few important policy changes that were discussed and approved at the last meeting of the Graduate Education Council (GEC) on April 19, 2022. These changes mark significant  – and positive – shifts in how we approach graduate education at SGS, and I am very pleased to share these developments with you.

Personal Time Off Policy

This past spring SGS created a Personal Time Off Policy that enables graduate students (in both research- and professional-stream programs) to take personal time off each academic year. Under this policy, a graduate student can to take up to 15 days off annually during an academic year (September to August) to support their wellbeing and mental and physical health.

Since research- and professional-stream programs are structured differently, there are some key differences between the implementation of this policy across these two types of programs.

  • Research-stream programs – For students in a research-stream program, the timing of personal time off can be flexible, as long as it does not interfere with their coursework or their grant/scholarship application deadlines.
  • Professional-stream programs – For students in a professional-stream program that are longer than 12 months, personal time off will be determined by the program’s curriculum, considering both coursework and internships/placements schedules. Programs will be required to implement this policy within 2 academic years past its inception (April 19, 2022).

You can visit our Understanding Personal Time Off page to learn more about the specific details of the policy.

Please share this news with your graduate students and encourage them to use the new policy to support their wellbeing. Questions can be directed to Josie Lalonde, Director, Student Academic Services: josie.lalonde@utoronto.ca.

Final Oral Examinations

The GEC has also approved two important changes to the conduct of the Final Oral Examination (FOE).

Remote Participation

The first change formalizes the practice first piloted in March 2020 of allowing all participants in a FOE to join remotely. We think this change will allow our graduate students and their committees to conduct the examination in the way that works best for them.

The new FOE Guidelines are available on the SGS Program Completion page, as well as on the SGS Final Oral Examination webpage for Faculty & Staff. These guidelines should be used for all examinations, at the latest by September 1st.

Since there are many considerations that go into setting up a remote FOE, I strongly recommend that you look through the full text on the FOE webpage for Faculty & Staff. In particular, please take a few moments to familiarize yourselves with the “Recommendations for Remote Participation” section of the page to ensure a successful and efficient remote FOE.

Voting Results

The second change clarifies the wording of the three successful voting outcomes for the FOE. These outcomes also align better with the categories of changes requested by academic publishers. Committee members who find the thesis acceptable must also indicate whether the thesis is acceptable in a) its present form, b) with editorial corrections or c) with minor revisions.

  1. Acceptable in its present form replaces Acceptable as it stands
  2. Acceptable with editorial corrections replaces Acceptable with Minor Corrections
  3. Acceptable with minor revisions replaces Acceptable with Minor Modifications

Again, please make sure you read through the finer details of these changes on the SGS Final Oral Examination webpage. Should you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Jonathan Turner, Manager, Program Completion & Postdoctoral Services: jonathan.turner@utoronto.ca.

Thank you for your attention to these matters, and for your efforts in ensuring a positive graduate student experience.

Warm regards,

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

CC:         SGS Council of Graduate Deans
              SGS Staff

August 2, 2022: Annual Reminder: Graduate Department Academic Appeals Committee (GDAAC)

Good Morning,

We are writing to provide an annual reminder to 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 a previous annual report (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 the process for bringing forward an appeal.

All Graduate Chairs should undertake the following:

  1. Strike a Graduate Department Academic Appeals Committee:
    • Guidelines on the formation and procedures of the Graduate Department Academic Appeals Committee can be found on the SGS website, https://www.sgs.utoronto.ca/policies-guidelines/graduate-department-academic-appeals-committee/.
    • 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 list of committees requiring appointees every year. Please have this committee in place by the beginning of the academic year in early September.
  2. 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/Chair 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 or student handbook, we recommend that you primarily rely on the language from that SGS webpage, altering where necessary to reference your own committee. Please have your webpages updated with this information by the end of September.

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. Yana Yunusova, Acting Vice-Dean, Students at sgs.vdeanstudents@utoronto.ca  or Ms. Angelique Plata at sgs.vdeanea@utoronto.ca.


Vina Goghari, Ph.D., C Psych.
Acting Dean of Graduate Studies and
Acting Vice-Provost, Graduate Research & Education
Professor & Vice-Dean, Research and Program Innovation.

July 6, 2022: Research and Academic Resiliency and Adaptation Tool Kit

Dear Council of Graduate Dean Colleagues,

We are pleased to have launched the online version of our Research and Academic Resiliency and Adaptation Tool Kit. This tool kit details from an SGS perspective, graduate faculty and departmental supports for academic, personal, and financial advice, to help graduate students with timely program completion in the face of disruptions or otherwise impacted trajectories. Please feel free to share this resource with graduate faculty leaders in your divisions. We will be sharing this tool kit widely in the Fall with faculty and students, and will also host a Conversations with SGS learning session with graduate faculty leaders. We will be also replacing our COVID-19 academic and research information pages with this broader tool kit.

I would also like to take this opportunity to clarify that the proposed Extending Registration with Tuition Fee Exemption discussed at CGD in March has been replaced by the optional locally funded bursary program, which allows divisions more control over the implementation of tuition cost relief for graduate students (e.g., at-risk students, students with accommodations who need a longer degree completion time, delays in research, personal circumstances, COVID-19 delays for students registered after Winter 2020). You can find this under the section on “Information for Graduate Units” that requires a faculty log in. The original Tuition Exemption On Basis of Progress Delays due to COVID-19 for students registered before or during the Winter 2020 session is still in effect as you will note in the tool kit.

We would be happy to work with units wanting to further their academic and research resiliency programmatically or dealing with individual student situations.


Vina Goghari, Ph.D., C Psych.
Professor & Vice-Dean, Research and Program Innovation