Provost’s report to the 703rd meeting of Senate

It is customary for the the Provost & Vice-President, Academic to provide a report to each meeting of Senate outlining plans, priorities, issues and other news. As these reports are already public through the University Secretariat Office, they will also be shared regularly through this memorandum page.

Note that appendices to the report can be found on the University Secretariat Office website.


Report to Senate of the Provost & Interim President – October 5, 2022


Dear colleagues,

September 30 was the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a federal statutory holiday and for the first time at Brock a non-instructional day as we joined colleagues in the sector to honour the children who never returned home and survivors of residential schools, as well as their families and communities. It was a day for us all to listen to survivors and to their stories, and to reflect on our role as Canadians in the pursuit of reconciliation.

A number of events took place both on campus and in the broader community to mark the occasion. These included:

  • A visit on September 23 by Phyllis Webstad, who sparked the movement that would eventually become Orange Shirt Day and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Webstad participating in the raising of the Survivors’ Flag on campus before sharing lunch with Indigenous students and staff, and signing books at the former Aboriginal Student Services, now renamed Hadiyaˀdagénhahs – the First Nations, Métis and Inuit Student Centre.
  • On September 26, Webstad joined an intergenerational discussion at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre about the impact of residential schools on Indigenous children and families.
  • On September 27, Professor Robyn Bourgeois hosted a launch event for local author Patty Krawec’s book Becoming Kin: An Indigenous Call to Unforgetting the Past and Reimagining our Future.
  • Brock’s Decolonial Reading Circle held a virtual information session on September 28, where participants could learn about the Circle’s plans to explore the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and to host discussions with Indigenous creators.
  • On September 30, Schmon Tower was illuminated in orange. Those seeking to mark the day were also invited to wear orange shirts and to visit the heart garden in front of the Rankin Family Pavilion.
  • Hosted by the Centre for Pedagogical Innovation, in partnership with Co-op, Career, and Experiential Education, Human Rights & Equity, Student Life and Success, Graduate Studies and the University Library, a series of reflective activities took place both on campus and online based on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. The University Library also screened Indigenous films from the National Film Board throughout the day in the Matheson Learning Commons.
  • Finally, on October 1, Brock co-sponsored the Niagara Regional Native Centre’s powwow devoted to residential school survivors at the Meridian Centre.


Update on senior academic searches

Senior academic administrative searches continue into the new academic year, with a number of them reaching critical junctures.

  • I was pleased to announce on September 14 that Professor Peter Berg will be joining Brock from the University of Alberta on January 1 as the new Dean of the Faculty of Math & Science. I look forward to working with him as Brock continues to advance a number of key projects in the Faculty, most notably the pursuit of academic programming in Engineering.
  • The Advisory Committee on the Vice-Provost, Indigenous Engagement welcomed two candidates to campus in late September:
    • September 19 – Dr. Robyn Bourgeois
    • September 21 – Dr. Ric Ouellet

Public presentations were posted on September 22, with comments invited until October 7. The committee will be meeting again in October to deliberate and identify a preferred candidate.

  • The Advisory Committee on the Dean, Goodman School of Business met with a long list of candidates for a first round of interviews. Second-round interviews, including on-campus visits and public presentations, are taking place this week:
    • October 3 – Dr. Bouchaib Bahli
    • October 5 – Dr. Ozgur Turetken
    • October 7 – Dr. Barry Wright
  • The Advisory Committee on the Dean, Faculty of Education met with a long list of candidates at the end of September and will be holding a second round of interviews on campus at the end of October. More information, including candidate names and visit dates, will be released shortly.

Finally, preparations continue to launch reviews of the Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences and the Vice-Provost & Associate Vice-President, Academic, with a second call for faculty representatives having gone out from the Governance Committee. I encourage all interested parties to submit their names as soon as possible.


Increasing student flexibility

As the post-COVID environment continues to be challenging, competition in the sector and between sectors grows, and geo-political conditions complicate international student recruitment, Brock will have to continue to evolve and innovate in order to attract students and remain at the top of its game.

With this in mind, I identify the following areas for discussion, where I hope we can work together this year to review our policies and practices through a student experience lens.

  • Program mix. Year after year, application data tell us that student interest is not spread evenly among our programs, and that a relatively small proportion of academic programs attract the overwhelming majority of student interest. This situation cannot continue if Brock is to use its resources effectively.
  • Program viability and revitalization. Similarly, while departments put significant effort into creating new academic programs that are on the cutting edge of their discipline, the allocation of resources to these new endeavours cannot always be net new. If we want to build new things – which I would argue, we should – we must also decide where to allocate and where to withhold resources.
  • Streamlining new program approvals. While recognizing that much of the process is outside of our control and lies with government agencies, I will be working with the Vice-Provost & Associate Vice-President, Academic this year to consider how we might streamline and expedite our internal program approvals processes, without compromising the integrity of new academic programming.
  • Full-year campus model. I understand that the institutional discussion around the development of a full-year model for academic program delivery, including potentially a formal trimester, has been long and at times fraught. However, the potential benefits for students and for faculty members are too significant for me to abandon the topic. A full-year model would maximize flexibility for both students and faculty members, potentially creating new points of entry and new possibilities for student recruitment. The advantages for co-op programs would be greater still, allowing Brock to join institutional leaders in that area by permitting students to take placements in the Fall or Winter terms. Students who fall behind or who want to get ahead would find new opportunities to do so, which would in turn benefit student retention. Recognizing that some Brock programs already operate on a full-year model, I would like us to consider a Faculty-wide pilot project to gather data, to test the benefits and challenges, and to help dispel long-held misconceptions.
  • Core and context. With regard to another long-standing topic of discussion, I continue to believe that we need to revisit our core and context credit systems, both to expand the system to all Faculties in order to increase student choice, and to allow for as much student flexibility as possible. In short, the more rigid and prescriptive a program is, the less room there is to recover for students who fall behind. Our current core and context system risks harming student retention. Instead, our focus should be on student progression, student persistence, and student success.

These topics, and many others, will be raised by the Academic Plan, which is undergoing its final rounds of consultation over the next few months. I look forward to the collegial discussions of the Plan that will occur in Senate committees as we move towards approval and implementation.




Lynn Wells

Interim President and Vice-Chancellor
Provost and Vice-President, Academic

Categories: October 2022