Executive Director’s Report – March 31, 2021
Updated: Mar 24, 2022
Picture (above): A snapshot of ENG224 Shakespeare and Critical Hope with guest speaker Jesse Maclean (artistic director, Shakespeare by the Sea) to help the class navigate these uncertain times and move into the post-COVID world by looking into the past in order to renovate the present and innovate the future.
March is an interstitial space between seasons in the calendar year. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it is a month of snowstorms and spring thaws, of wildly unpredictable temperatures and unstable weather systems.
In the academy, it is also a time where deadlines loom and the term starts to take on a certain urgency as we move to the final stretch of exams and the wrap-up of the academic year. This is a period of beginnings and endings; now more than ever, it is also a time to look back in order to move forward into a space of new possibilities of what a post-COVID world might look like.
We have been working hard on many levels and across multiple communities of practice to ask – with curiosity, imaginative energy, and wonder – how we might enact change for the better.
In order to initiate change, we must deconstruct the narrative of a “monolithic institution” and understand that power – through a Foucauldian lens – is dispersed, local, “embodied and enacted rather than possessed, discursive rather than purely coercive, and constitutes agents rather than being deployed by them” (Gaventa 2003, 1, emphasis added). In order to change the institution, we must change ourselves. This requires a shift in thinking away from the sphere of epistemology (i.e. knowledge) into the sphere of ontology (i.e. identity). It is breathtakingly simple, and yet incredibly challenging: since – according to Foucault – we are the system, we have to change in order to change the system.
We’ve focussed on a few key pillars:
1. More Research
– Support and engage in scholarly perspectives on educational leadership, high impact practices, retention with our post-graduate fellows
– Encourage data collection and research on educational leadership, transformative learning, and innovation across our communities of practice
– Explore and support initiatives related to disciplinary pedagogy, including support for scholarly approaches (and dissemination) of disciplinary pedagogy through our V_MLTLC programming
2. More Support
– Design mentorship networks whereby senior faculty can benefit from younger generations and vice versa
– Create networks for emerging leaders (e.g. early-career faculty, students, etc.), affinity groups, and diverse eco-systems
– Facilitate conversations about power and privilege in our classrooms, meetings, communities of practice, workshops, and other programming
3. More Conversations
– Explore sustainability in its various forms
– Facilitate conversations across platforms like Teams to operationalize networks
– Build stronger community connections via interdisciplinarity and networks of friendship (how are we cross-pollinating the networks across groups and perspectives)
– Engage students in all these conversations
We invite you to look through the March report and find places and spaces that resonate with your own work. The days ahead are getting longer, the sun is shining brighter, and the work ahead is both hopeful and daunting. Together we can help amplify, commiserate, and celebrate these points on our messy journeys. Happy March, everyone.
— Dr. Jessica Riddell, Executive Director, Maple League of Universities