Welcome to the first edition of what we’re calling GRADblog – a place for us in Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs (GSPA) to share with our friends and colleagues’ info on current initiatives and events of importance to graduate students and the graduate community.

GRADblog is part of an overall communication strategy to highlight the things that are happening in the grad world – from policy changes, to new academics, social opportunities and really, anything related to grad studies.

We’re also excited to grow the opportunities for us to hear from you.  If there are things that are on your mind, GSPA wants to know, so we can work with our partners to help answer any questions, address any concerns, or celebrate our many successes.

In upcoming weeks, my colleagues and I will use this space to let you know what we’ve been working on, what we’ve accomplished and what’s on the agenda going forward. 

To get us started, I’d like to share with you a couple of initiatives that are being advanced in graduate studies through the University’s strategic plan.  We know that our graduate students return to their studies because they want to be impactful – to improve their own professional opportunities and to make important and transformative contributions to their areas of study. 

Beyond our traditional academic programs, perhaps the most direct way for our students to achieve these goals is through Graduate Work Integrated Learning – GradWIL.  This title can refer to familiar methods of experiential learning – such as co-op placements for our graduate students – or through research sponsored by our many external partners.  GradWIL also takes the form of practica and internships, clinical placements, and other discipline-specific opportunities.

Waterloo is of course famous for its undergraduate Work Integrated Learning Programs.  It’s also true that we have really unique GradWIL programs already in place, including the Master of Public Service and the Applied Philosophy PhD, both in the Faculty of Arts.

With Co-operative and Experiential Education (CEE), our team in GSPA has been working with the faculties to create more options for GradWIL and to make it easier for students to participate in these opportunities.  With financial support from the University’s Provost Office, there are many possibilities being explored for both research students and for students enrolled in our course-based programs. 

Earlier this week, I had a chance to connect with leaders from a rapidly growing local company.  Having heard about the GradWIL initiative, our colleagues are keen to engage on projects that have value to the firm while offering a “real world” application of our research students.  We expect that this will be the first of many of these types of conversations.

We also know that our graduate students, particularly our PhD students, are at the cutting edge of their research fields, with many working on addressing global challenges – climate change, sustainable energy, water, health and aging, or the ethical and appropriate application of Artificial Intelligence.  Through the strategic plan, we’re creating opportunities for graduate students from across the University to come together to deliver courses on how we can address these “wicked problems.” 

Students will be supported – financially and academically – in developing and implementing a cohesive set of modules that present interdisciplinary perspectives on a theme.  Our goal is to create communities of graduate student instructors and undergraduate learners who share a common thematic interest, despite researching and learning in different faculties or programs.

The strategic plan is an incredibly exciting vehicle for the University to differentiate its graduate programs, its students’ learning, and the student research that happens at Waterloo. 

If these topics – GradWIL or Interdisciplinary courses on “wicked problems” - have piqued your interest, watch this space.  We’ll keep you updated on these opportunities here and in other venues.

I’ll look forward to hearing from you, and to sharing thoughts and ideas via GRADblog and other channels.


Jeff Casello, Associate Vice-President, Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs