Priorities for Change

Jay Havens at a speaking event. He is wearing a medalian around his neck of intricate Indigenous beadwork

"We are launching this strategic plan at a time of rapid societal, technological, and environmental change. Universities are being called to improve society and drive prosperity in a responsible way by challenging traditional models of education."

— University of Waterloo Strategic Plan, Connecting Imagination with Impact, 2020-2025

The November 2020 Arts Strategic Plan Task Force Final Report (PDF), which was based on extensive consultations, identified four areas entitled “Pillars of Change”:

  • Faculty Identity: Global Leaders in Research and Teaching with Social Impact.
  • Governance and Organizational Change.
  • Student Experience and Success.
  • Connection, Community, and Collaboration through Interdisciplinarity.

The Task Force also recognized eight cross-cutting themes that underpinned more than one of these pillars. These themes were considered crucial, but rather than isolate them into separate pillars, the Task Force recommended that consideration be given to them wherever appropriate and necessary:

  • Equity, diversity, and inclusion
  • Interdisciplinarity in teaching and research
  • Identity within a STEM-focused university
  • Work-integrated learning and co-op
  • Graduate education, agile post-degree, lifelong learning
  • Community, space, and wellness
  • Metrics and benchmarks of success
  • Faculty organizational structure

The next stage of the process involved the creation of four working groups, each of which was tasked with consideration of one of the pillars of change identified by the Task Force, along with the cross-cutting themes. All of the working groups included at least one Associate Dean and were comprised of faculty, staff, student, and Affiliated and Federated Institutions of Waterloo (AFIW) representatives (the one exception was the governance working group, which did not include student or AFIW representation).

The working groups each submitted a report to the Dean; these reports included recommendations of goals and individual objectives to support change in the area under consideration. Further discussion, involving the Dean, the Associate Deans, and senior staff in the Dean’s office, resulted in a topical refinement of the pillars, now identified as three distinct “Priorities for Change”. It was determined that ideas proposed under the second pillar (governance and organizational change), rather than standing alone, were best considered as a means of achieving the goals identified under the other priority areas. These three priority areas each embrace the totality of our mission of teaching, learning, scholarship, and community, and are now arranged thematically. As the original Task Force discovered, it is not always possible to disentangle the skeins that tie our priorities together. The priority areas should therefore not be seen as independent stand-alone pillars; rather, they represent an interconnected matrix of mutually reinforcing goals:

Change is implicit in any strategic plan, but the change we envision is firmly embedded in our existing values, and indeed is already occurring organically. The timeless vision of the Faculty of Arts – making the world a better place through an understanding of humanity in all its dimensions – is embodied in everything we do and everything we stand for. It is also the best possible platform from which to launch a future-oriented operational plan for transformative renewal that will enable us to achieve the goals and objectives identified here.

NEXT: Building Connection through Interdisciplinarity