As Diane Dupont nears the end of her appointment as Interim Dean, Faculty of Graduate Studies, the well-being of graduate students is at the top of her mind.
She has been hosting virtual lunch sessions to speak with students and address their concerns regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Being accessible to our students is very important to me,” says Dupont. “With so much uncertainty for graduate students during the past few months, I want them to be able to connect with me personally and ask any questions they may have.”
The weekly sessions have been attended by anywhere from five to 15 students, and Dupont often invites colleagues to join her. Past weeks have included guests such as Associate Dean of Graduate Studies, Wendy Ward, and Vice President, Research, Tim Kenyon.
While the meetings were created with students in mind, Dupont has also found them to be beneficial for herself.
“I enjoy attending these sessions and catching up with our students,” she says. “Not only is it a nice way to connect with them during these times where we are all feeling a little isolated, but it has allowed me to see what issues are pressing to students. I am pleased to report that we have been able to take issues presented at the lunches, have them resolved and report back the following week.”
Jocelyn Baker, a student in the Master of Sustainability program, took advantage of one of the earlier sessions, which she says was very helpful.
“I fully appreciated the opportunity to meet with some of the top administrators from the University who took the time to make themselves accessible to their graduate students,” she says. “This is what good leadership looks like.”
Baker also acknowledges that the lunches gave Dupont a chance to see first-hand some of the challenges graduate students are dealing with.
“Several of the students on the call had younger children who kept making appearances — mine included — showing how difficult it can be to fit in even a quick coffee break or a few minutes of solitude,” says Baker. “I found value in the discussions about time management and prioritization of tasks, knowing that we all have shared struggles was comforting. I appreciate all the work the Faculty of Graduate Studies does for its students. The actions show they truly care, and it’s not just lip service.”
Dupont originally planned to host these sessions throughout the month of May, but because of the success, has decided to continue offering them for the foreseeable future. This week, she has invited the incoming Dean of Graduate Studies, Suzanne Curtin, to attend.
“I’m pleased that Curtain will be able to join us, meet some of our outstanding graduate students and learn how their studies have been affected by this pandemic before she begins her post as Dean of Graduate Studies,” says Dupont.