The College of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies strategic plan is guided by the University of Saskatchewan’s four principles of sustainability, diversity, connectivity, and creativity, the college continues to make progress within our three aspirational areas: Achieving Inclusive Academic Excellence, Creating Knowledge and Skills, and Rejuvenating Relationships.

I am immensely proud and grateful for the commitments and contributions made by our staff, the many volunteers who serve on our Standing Committees and Working Groups, and the ongoing engagement of Graduate Chairs, Administrators, and faculty as we move the dial to bring our college to the forefront of graduate education in Canada and on the world stage.

Our theme: Be Bold, Be Ambitious.

Aspirations

The fall semester (2023) is well underway, we are fully into the new funding scheme for graduate support, and discussions have begun to align CGPS’ strategy with OVPR under our new reporting structure. Since the launch of the plan in 2018, CGPS has seen significant changes in leadership, adjusted its operations to the emerging needs of its stakeholders, and continues to respond to institutional priorities for equity, decolonization, and reconciliation.

Achieving inclusive academic excellence

By mobilizing and reinforcing exceptional graduate student experiences. The CGPS will facilitate and support growth of its student body; strengthen its services by adopting a strategic approach to recruitment, enrolment, and retention; and discover ways to be flexible through updating policies and procedures.

Progress:

 

Admissions: RMS Recruit system fully implemented in 2021/22 to include a pre-application feature.

 

Analytics: Creating self-service dashboards to better understand our student body, and allow units direct access to data to inform decisions in real-time.

 

Student Payments: Developed communications to guide students, units, and service providers to prevent unnecessary delays in scholarship and employment pay.

We further commit to:

Enhanced Reporting: For example, calculate time-to-completion and attrition in more sophisticated ways and correlate with other demographic information.

Support Student-Centered Program Management: Improving systems that track individual student progress to support program management (e.g. automated notification of overdue advisory committee meetings).



Progress:

 

Centralized Strategic Recruitment: All recruitment positions moved from CGPS to Student Recruitment (TLSE) creating a collaborative approach. Central recruitment officers trained in graduate programs.

 

Increased domestic efforts: Leveraged new meeting platforms to hold virtual open houses for local students and have a presence at regional recruitment events.

 

Competitive Tuition Strategy: Fall 2022 removal of international differential fees for PhD students; Fall 2023 predicitable tuition rates

   

Strategic Enrolment Management: Inaugural Enrolment Report 2021/22 with demographics, patterns of student enrolment and key student outcomes. Intended to generate questions and discussion, the report will mature over time with additional metrics.

   

EDI and Admissions: Introduced the graduate community to evidence-based approaches for holistic admissions (Panel Discussion May 27, 2021)

   

Recruiting Indigenous Students: Created Indigenous Graduate Student Initiatives Coordinator position (term role) to support retention and recruitment.

Reframed Priorities: 

The goals around recruitment need to evolve. While many graduate programs are selectors, meaning their application pressure far exceeds capacity, others are recruiters, needing recruitment activity to position their program in competitive national and global contexts. Equity deserving groups need attention and international recruitment efforts should support diversity across programs and limit exposure by relying on a handful of regions. It is essential that we elevate our effort to recruit Indigenous students to be responsive to the TRC calls to action and ohpahotân.

We further commit to:

Ensure Centralized Recruitment is Strategic: Examples: i) liaise between colleges/schools and Student Recruitment ensuring needs are understood; ii) closely monitor return on investment (conversion of activities to quality applications; iii) enhance promotional materials.

 Promote EDI in admissions practices:

  • Review admission requirements and policies.
  • Educate units on best practices for admissions and for scholarships.
  • Institute unconscious bias training for faculty serving on academic affairs/admissions committees.

Increase Indigenous Recruitment and Retention: reach parity with the provincial demographics and broaden interest in a range of disciplines.

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The CGPS will complete a comprehensive review of its policies and processes to ensure they are responsive to EDI and that they enhance the ability of academic units to deliver the best possible programming. The administrative load will be reviewed to identify creative and innovative approaches to improve the experience of CGPS stakeholders. 

Progress:

 

Increasing flexibility overall was much accelerated by what was necessary to operate in the pandemic. Highlights include:

  • Improvements to Admissions: digital transcripts now preferred; piloting delegating approval for domestic admissions to select departments.
  • Student life-cycle process improvements: – expanding JIRA system to manage transactional processes, reducing forms, using electronic signoff, streamlined thesis submission to ETD, defenses by Zoom.

 

Policy Changes including advisory and examination committee composition and thesis/dissertation defence processes lessen demands on faculty time and empower departments for master’s defenses; revisions to time in program, extensions, leaves and several others.

We further commit to:

Service Focus: Through fostering a mindset of continuous improvement in our staff, we will adopt best practices and continue to streamline processes to provide outstanding service while containing costs.

Transparent service standards: Publish targets for turn-around of standard items and report on performance.

A comprehensive EDI review: Guided by the university’s EDI policy (2020), perform a systematic review of CGPS academic policies, procedures, and practices. Spring 2023 EDI Statement

Creating knowledge and Skills

To take graduate students beyond traditional degree outcomes and support them as scholars to be contributors to the world prepared for a variety of career paths. CGPS will look for ways to challenge the status quo through program innovation, elevating equity, decolonization, and inclusion, and work toward a lasting impact on our community and future graduates.

Progress:

 

Increased student support for onboarding, career exploration, and professional development:

  • The Grad HUB: a website of specially curated information that allows students to onboard themselves at their own pace and connects to services, activities, and central offerings.
  • The pilot of the Aurora platform: empowering PhDs to transition to meaningful careers through a unique external professional development training platform launched in partnership with Career Services.

 

Making change toward reconciliation: The 4 Seasons of Reconciliation short course (via GMCTL) designed specifically for graduate students - promotes anti-racism education through an Indigenous Peoples and Canadians lens.

   

Removing barriers to incorporating Indigenous ways of knowing in the doctoral process such as our first oral dissertation success “kihteyhayak pihkswestamawnan: Wisdom Keepers Will Speak for Us” by trailblazer Chris Scribe (Assistant Professor FNU), supervised by Dawn Wallin.

 

Elevating Interdisciplinary Studies: Guided by external reviewer recommendations, a Director of Interdisciplinary Programming is now embedded within the CGPS Dean’s Leadership Team. Increased resources to grow the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program and facilitate promoting activities of the program to a wide audience.

We further commit to:

Encouraging program innovations:  i) Foster distinguished learners through articulating degree-level learning outcomes. ii) Ensure an efficient approval process for certificates and diplomas and support micro-credential development that are stackable, transferable, and applicable.

Expanding Professional Skills:  i) Introduce individual development plan (IDP) tools for all graduate students. ii) create modular offerings in collaboration, leadership, innovation & entrepreneurship, project management, professional communication, EDI, and intercultural competencies for stand-alone use or to embed the training within the program curriculum.

Increasing efforts to decolonize graduate education through anti-racism training for staff and faculty and structural changes that enable and validate Indigenous ways of knowing as scholarly output.

Progress:

 

Rejuvenating development of international sponsorship agreements with new agreements for China Scholarship Council students and sponsored students from Egypt. 

 

Removing barriers for dual, cotutelle and visiting research students. For example, adopted the common cotutelle tuition model with to maintain registration while only charging students tuition in one institution at a time.

We further commit to:

Increasing opportunities for inbound and outbound mobility.

Progress:

 

Instituting multi-year commitments for graduate funding: The reimagine funding review proposal includes three-year rolling commitments.

 

Multi-year tuition plan.  A multi-year tuition plan was developed that leverages stable government funding to 2024.

We further commit to:

Implementing changes to the student funding streams: to allow academic units to make firm multi-year commitments at the point of admission.

Working with the senior administration to continue multi-year tuition planning.

Quality Assurance Process Change: In 2019, the academic program review was moved under the auspices of the Provost’s Office with a new format for the review. 

Progress:

 

Elevated Postdoctoral Fellow profile through website revisions that increased SPS membership, and refined communication channels.

 

Resources for Fellowship Success: Developed and provided fellowship application training and support.

 

Career Development: Tools and activities created that provide postdocs opportunities to acquire skills important for all career paths (e.g., Individual Development, free access to Aurora Career Planning platform, 3MP communication competition

 

Edel is an Assistant Professor at Université Laval, Département de Phytologie working with clubroot and the soil-borne obligate parasite Plasmodiophora brassicae, causal agent of clubroot, characterizing effector proteins and the mechanisms used by the pathogen to scape plant host immunity. (former USask Postdoctoral Scholar)

Embolden and activate USask’s internal and external graduate community

CGPS will bolster its value proposition, share its story, and look for ways to connect USask’s graduate community in a community of practice.

Participatory academic governance is the foundation of a strong, collegial, and nimble graduate community and the governance structures need to evolve to meet the needs of our programs, faculty, and students.  The existence of two senior governing structures of CGPS in the Graduate Faculty Council and the Graduate and Postdoctoral Council with overlapping mandates and authorities creates confusion. The approval pathways for new and revised programs are deemed slow and at times counterproductive. A new set of college bylaws will feature a revised governance structure designed with a commitment to transparency and streamlined processes.

Progress:

 

Improved Program Approvals: removed unnecessary steps for approval; co-located course and program approvals in one committee.

 

 

Governance Renewal: Undertook a phased approach to refresh and recalibrate the college governance that streamlined the number of committees, updated responsibilities and mandated an EDI lens be brought to each committee’s work.

We further commit to:

College bylaws - completion and implementation [link].

Membership Update – review and update policies and processes to better manage the membership and ensure services and supports are adequate.

Indigenization and decolonization - guided by Ohpahotân and supported by OVPIE, develop our college-level Indigenous Strategy to provide access, mentorship, changes to structures, and training for faculty and staff.

CGPS and the teaching colleges/schools share responsibility for graduate programs and graduate students. The colleges and schools manage and resource programs while CGPS provides leadership by setting institution-wide policy and standards, stewards millions of dollars in graduate funding from internal and external sources and performs many registrarial functions with respect to the management of graduate programs. CGPS also provides services for solving complex multi-party problems and conflicts.  Success for this joint responsibility requires continued collaboration and strong bidirectional communication.  CGPS is committed to supporting units in their work with graduate students through communicating, training, and providing resource materials.

Progress:

 

Improved Internal Communications: regularized internal communications and created various channels to enhance stakeholder engagement and college communication efforts (e.g. operational bulletins, newsletters, stakeholder forums).

 

Increased Resources for Training Staff: Developed training tools and opportunities to connect with others who support graduate programming and students (e.g. graduate administrator handbook, graduate chair guide recruiter onboarding).

   

Projects with stakeholder engagement:

We further commit to:

Sustained training for graduate administrators and graduate chairs.

Bringing ideas to the community: Catalyze change and best practices by inviting external experts to engage our community.

Rebalancing of decision-making authorities: Ensuring decisions are made at the right level (department, school/college or CGPS) by subject-matter experts and one-over-one approval required only as deemed necessary for risk to student or institution.

Formalized Communications Strategy: In 2019 the college adopted its first internal formal communication strategy and developed its Be Bold, Be Ambitious campaign. The key objectives of the strategy were to:

  • Communicate the college’s mission and vision and create brand awareness;
  • Deepen, strengthen, and rediscover relationships in celebration of graduate student and postdoctoral scholarly success;
  • Position the CGPS as a leader of graduate education.  

Progress:

 

Recent telling our story events features have included:

  • Rebranding the Distinguished Graduate Mentor award (2021);
  • Showcasing our emerging talent by featuring current graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to Saskatchewan’s Minister of Education (2021);
  • Hosting “A toast to graduating doctoral students” synchronous celebration (June 2021);
  • the 75th Anniversary magazine and website.

We further commit to:

Outstanding communications: through continued development of the college communication strategy with a heavy focus on stakeholder relationships and service ethos.

The experiences of our alumni while they were students and during their working careers can inform the evolution of our academic programs. Alumni will be invited to share their experiences to help our programs remain relevant and strong. Alumni will also be instrumental in helping us to anticipate changes, opportunities, and challenges within our global environment, ensuring that our programs and institution are responsive to the expectations of the next generation of scholars.

We further commit to:

Learning about and from our Alumni: Conducting a PhD/PDF Alumni Study, ongoing events that celebrate students and postdoctoral fellows’ achievements beyond their tenure at USask, and finding ways to connect current students with Alumni.