Sheila AgerThe development of this strategic plan has been an unusually protracted one. Work began in the late fall of 2019 and the winter of 2020, with the establishment of the original Task Force that was to carry out initial consultations with all stakeholders. In March of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the shutdown of in-person activity across the campus for some time to come. The majority of consultations were carried out virtually, and in late 2020 the Task Force submitted its report (PDF). In 2021, I established four Working Groups to develop and elaborate on the recommendations of the Task Force; much of their work was also done virtually, as many of the constraints caused by the pandemic remained in place. I received reports from these groups in late 2021, but the continued impact of the pandemic, in addition to other unanticipated delays, have meant that this plan is only going forward for discussion and approval by the Faculty in late 2022/early 2023.

I have no doubt that the lengthy delays in the process of building this plan have caused frustrations and uncertainties, feelings which are likely to have been exacerbated by the challenges of living under the pandemic. But while acknowledging the genuine challenges presented by these delays, I would also like to reflect on the fitness of devising a strategic plan now rather than two years ago. Not only the pandemic, but other events over the past few years – continued racism, accelerating climate change, economic uncertainty, rapid technological transformations, aggressive war, fomentation of intolerance, aided by hate-speech and misinformation, and the rollback in human rights even in western democracies – have shown that it is time for a sea change.

Experiencing and observing these events and trends have given us all a renewed awareness of the vital need for humane solutions, informed by compassion, empathy, and a concern for the well-being of the individual and the community, locally and globally. The Faculty is now better poised than ever to bring to bear its talents in exploring, understanding, and improving the condition of humanity and our planet. Within the University as a whole there is a new spirit of collaboration and interdisciplinarity, and a renewed conviction that Arts is a crucial and integral part of Waterloo’s mission of higher learning and its impactful contribution to society.  

This plan is intended to bring together the ethos of what we are with the aspirations of what we want to be. It is also intended as a catalyst to address pragmatic issues of sustainability and potential structural change, with a view to assisting us in reaching our goals and maintaining the long-term health of the Faculty. Although the timeline embraced by this plan is seven years (2023-2030), the vision developed here is one intended to align with current thinking about where we want the University of Waterloo to be when it reaches its hundredth anniversary in 2057.

Sheila Ager, Dean of Arts
April 2023

NEXT: Executive Summary