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Executive summary

Building on strengths: Arts for the 21st century

The Faculty of Arts at the University of Waterloo is known for its innovative liberal arts programs and scholarship. Our Strategic Plan builds upon these strengths, ensuring we will deliver on our potential while aligning ourselves firmly with the objectives and priorities of the University of Waterloo’s strategic plan, A Distinguished Past – a Distinctive Future. 

This Faculty has a long history of putting research and scholarship into action – whether through co-op programming, or in our many unique undergraduate and graduate programs, such as Arts and Business, Accounting and Financial Management, Global Business and Digital Arts, the Master of Public Service, or our PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience amongst others. Our scholarship and teaching is increasingly embedded within wider national and international networks, through the activities of both formal projects and units, such as the Balsillie School of International Affairs, the unique joint MA in German with Mannheim University, and the French language immersion programs offered with Trois Rivieres and Nantes, and the many informal partnerships forged between Arts faculty members and international collaborators. These initiatives, combined with such research centres as the Games Institute and the Centre for Mental Health Research, demonstrate the best of liberal arts scholarship and responsiveness to societal needs.

We are committed to the application of knowledge through increased experiential learning across programs and a revitalized undergraduate curriculum that allows students to combine majors and minors in practical and meaningful ways. We will enable more disciplinary combinations through joint honours programs, launch a suite of interdisciplinary and career-focused minors, facilitate more international exchanges, and articulate the learning outcomes for our first year curriculum. Our undergraduates will be able to identify their paths forward sooner in their programs, and they will acquire core skills in communications, information literacy, and analysis during their first year, forming a foundation for success both here and in the future.  Our graduate students will be better outfitted through dedicated programming for the range of careers that await them, and we will pursue funding packages that attract those best suited to our distinctive programs.

We will foster creativity and entrepreneurship amongst our faculty, staff, and students, and we will cultivate the preconditions for a stronger sense of community by promoting greater interaction and collaboration. We will create improved space in response to both the changing needs of our researchers as well as the pressing demand for study and social space for our undergraduate and graduate students. An atrium dedicated to our students will be added to Hagey Hall and we will initiate planning for a new Arts building to accommodate research needs and dynamic learning spaces in the coming years.  Current space will be more effectively managed, and necessary renovations will be pursued, matching resources with the demands of teaching and research. We will invest in our researchers across the disciplines, with resources being allocated transparently, sustainably, and with accountability.

Our Advancement and Communications will be aligned with and support our Strategic Plan. We will ensure that our strengths become better known, and that the achievements of faculty, students, and staff are well publicized nationally and internationally. We are revitalizing our links to Arts alumni and other external friends, engaging with them as both members of our community and as potential employers of our students.  Fundraising initiatives will be periodically assessed and prioritized to satisfy the most critical needs of our community and to generate sustainable resources as we move forward.

The final priority in our Strategic Plan focuses on governance and organization. We will consult and determine how our organizational structures, policies, and practices can be revitalized to provide the appropriate platform upon which we can build.  We will review and update committee structures, administrative divisions, and decision-making processes – with the goal of better engaging our community, enhancing communications, and facilitating timely and sustainable planning for the Faculty.

We deliberately took time to develop this plan so that we could undertake extensive consultations both within the Faculty as well as beyond. The initial task force, assembled under professors David DeVidi and Theresa Libby in January 2012, held more than forty consultations with staff, students, faculty, and alumni. Their discussions were firmly anchored in a number of overarching principles: transparency, collegiality, responsiveness to the aspirations of students, staff and faculty, engaged citizenship, sustainable resource allocation, and striking the right balance between promoting interdisciplinarity initiated by faculty members while continuing to foster discipline-specific scholarship and learning. Out of these consultations emerged a clear sense of the Faculty today and an appreciation of the opportunities lying ahead and how we should respond.

The Task Force report, approved by Arts Faculty Council in April 2012, was the focus for a retreat of chairs and directors, which led to the refinement of key priorities. In turn, four working groups comprising faculty, staff and students addressed the priorities and developed specific objectives and action plans. Our extensive planning process allowed us to continually refine, ensuring our goals are both inclusive and achievable. We are pleased and confident that our Strategic Plan meets not only the needs and aspirations of the Arts community but also aligns our goals with those of the University as a whole.