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Embarking on new challenges

Welcome back from what I hope was a refreshing and enjoyable holiday break. It is important to use breaks like these to take time for yourself and maintain a healthy life balance so you have the energy and motivation to successfully complete your program.

I would like to wish a fond farewell to Andrew Watson, PhD, who served in the capacity of Associate Dean for the past seven years. As many of you graduate trainees and postdoctoral fellows know, Andy is a warm and friendly person with a booming laugh who has always been approachable and knowledgeable about issues you may face. It was evident he always had the interest of all trainees and fellows as his number one priority. We thank him for the dedication he brought to the role.

With that, we welcome and now look forward to direction from Susanne Schmid, PhD, who recently served as the Director of the Graduate Neuroscience Program.

Susanne is best known for being a key player in the delicate balance of interfacing with multiple Faculties as well as well as the diversity of the supervisors and their distinct research programs. Students know her for her approachable nature, getting to know the names of the students and enhancing the Program as well as sustaining the monthly “Neurobeer” at the Grad Club.

Moving forward, one of the most pressing issues for our graduate programs has been the change in the way the provincial government is providing funding for all post-secondary institutions. There will now be a fixed amount transferred, based on the November 2016 count of registered students.

At least for the foreseeable future, there will be no increased funding for any increased enrolment. This is a complete change to the immediate past where there was incentive to increase student numbers. With increased costs of running the institution, the University will be looking at the potential of a deficit budget and for graduate programs as funding was transferred into “base”. This means less per student as well as all Western’s “base” budgets are subjected to a 3 per cent cut each year.

This will be a challenge which the decanal team as well as the departmental chairs and the graduate chairs will be tackling, as the Dean is setting up several task forces to explore mechanisms for mitigating the impact. In addition, there will be a push for meeting the increasing demand for professional, non-thesis master’s degrees, which are outside the corridor funding of the provincial budget and innovative ways of working within the Western system to find opportunities for enhancing our programs. Stay tuned for more updates.

Doug L. Jones, BSc, MSc, PhD, FACC, FCCS
Vice-Dean, Basic Medical Sciences