Report: UTM Academic Affairs Committee - January 11, 2021

Via Virtual Meeting


JANUARY 11, 2021

To the Campus Council, University of Toronto Mississauga

Your Committee reports that it held a meeting on January 11, 2021 at 3:10 p.m. via a Virtual Meeting Room.

Laura Taylor (Chair), Sanja Hinic-Frlog (Vice-Chair), Alexandra Gillespie (Vice-President & Principal), Amrita Daniere (Vice-Principal, Academic & Dean), Heather Miller (Vice-Dean, Teaching & Learning), Kent Moore (Vice-Principal, Research), Varouj Aivazian, Sultan Akif, Andreas Bendlin, Randy Besco, Mitchell Bonney, Laura Brown, Jill Caskey, Ruth Childs, Laura Cocuzzi, Jenny Cui, Bryan Wenchao Du, Margarida Duarte, Ulrich Fekl, Jacob Gallagher Ross, Philip Goodman, Monika Havelka, Shelley Hawrychuk, Rosa Hong, Nathan Innocente, Stuart Kamenetsky, Irenius Konkor, Michael Lettieri, Rhonda McEwen, Diane Matias, Ashley Monks Andrew Nicholson, Jay Nirula, Andrea Olive, Andreas Park, Esteban Parra, Gurpreet Rattan, Adriano Senatore, Alvin Stanislaus, Steve Szigeti, Jaimal Thind, Mihkel Tombak, Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi, Ron Wener.

Non-Voting Assessors:
Yen Du (Program and Curriculum Officer), Lorretta Neebar (Registrar & Director of Enrolment Management), Mark Overton (Dean of Student Affairs)

Marc Dryer, Sherry Fukuzawa, Shashi Kant, Konstantin Khanin, Emmanuel Nikiema, Aanchal Raza, Mev Saiyed, Lindsay Schoenbohm, Andrew Sepielli, Ekam Singh, Meghan Sutherland

In Attendance:
Tara Vinodrai (Master of Urban Innovation)

Cindy Ferencz Hammond, Assistant Secretary of the Governing Council Kristi Gourlay, Assistant Secretary of the Governing Council

  1. Chair’s Remarks

    The Chair welcomed members and provided some reminders about the upcoming governance elections and the available positions for the Academic Affairs Committee. The nomination period will open on January 12 and close on January 22, 2021. The AAC will have nine teaching staff positions available from various departments, seven student positions and one administrative staff and one librarian position available. She encouraged members to be in touch with the Deputy Returning Officer, Cindy Ferencz Hammond, should they have any questions about the new online nominations process.
  2. Registrarial Services in the Pandemic and Enrolment Update

    The Chair invited Ms Lorretta Neebar, Registrar and Director of Enrolment Management to present.

    Ms. Neebar explained that in 2003, when UTM had separated from the Faculty of Arts & Science, the UTM Office of the Registrar had provided all of its services through paper based processes. The Office’s philosophy had been focused on putting students first, with the motto of “online instead of in line.” Since then, all paper based registrarial services have been migrated to an electronic format and have been enhanced. In 2017 the Office started to develop a new version of many of these electronic tools, with the goal of connecting the entire campus. These services were primarily focused in the beginning on advising notes for students as well as referrals across academic and student services departments. At the start of the pandemic, the UTM Office of the Registrar moved their in person triage to an email triage system, so that rather than lining up for general inquiries, advising or other services, students were able to contact the office through email. With the existing online service measures in place, it was easier to transition to offering these services continuously during the pandemic.

    Ms Neebar explained that during the pandemic email was not a sustainable way to triage student issues because of the sheer number of emails received each day. As a result, in August of 2020, her office moved to using “Service Now”, a modification of a system already in use by Information, and Instructional Technology Services (I&ITS) for managing internal service ticketing. Her team was able to pivot an existing project focused on developing an internal ticketing system into a student facing system called “Ask the Registrar”. This meant that students now had access to the UTM Office of the Registrar 24 hours a day in terms of submitting requests, easier access to articles and other information and to connect with the advising team and book their own appointments. Ms Neebar extended her thanks to staff in I&ITS for their assistance. She added that these systems have not only provided better access to students, but has allowed her Office to have concrete data on service demand.

    Moving to the enrolment report part of her presentation, Ms Neebar, noted that her presentation encompassed undergraduate student headcount, which included part-time students and other special students that were not normally counted in other such reports. She reported that new student intake was smaller this year than was the target, but overall headcount was very strong due to high retention, with 15,503 undergraduate students, as of November 1, 2020. With respect to international student intake, the numbers were lower than the last two years.

    With respect to domestic undergraduate student intake, Ms Neebar explained that more students than had been the case in previous years, had chosen to go to other universities, based on data from the Ontario University Application Centre. She speculated that this may be, in part because of the online learning environment offered and without having to incur the expense of living away from home. Some students had also elected to defer their offer of admission for a year.

    Regarding international student intake, Ms Neebar noted that the Faculty of Arts & Science made many more offers and had a very high international student intake, which may have affected UTM numbers. However, she noted that overall, UTM’s international student enrollment for new intakenwas still strong, at 32%.

    Ms Neebar continued her presentation with data on country of citizenship and noted that a large proportion of UTM’s international students, 744, came from Canadian institutions.

    Ms Neebar reported that overall admission averages stayed high, at 85.6% for Ontario High School Students and that the quality of the current intake was strong. She further showed a breakdown of scholarships and noted that UTM had been able to attract very high quality students.

    With respect to the graduating class, Ms Neebar noted that in June 2020, UTM had 2064 graduates, the highest number so far in UTM’s history. Speaking to the cumulative graduation rate, Ms Neebar noted that UTM had made some progress in bettering these rates, in part due to measures taken by the Office of the Vice-Principal Academic & Dean, the Student Affairs office and the Office of the Registrar through outreach programs to increase retention.

    In response to a member’s question about lessons learned during the pandemic and how this might affect future plans, Ms Neebar responded that in April of 2020, her office had been more cautious than necessary regarding the grades of potential incoming students. As a result, UTM was not as aggressive in making offers as other institutions. In future, and with more information available, her office plans to have a more balanced approach in making offers. Additionally, also as a result of the pandemic and changes in how high schools were delivering curriculum (e.g., in quadmesters), offers would be made on a monthly basis rather than in three large rounds, which provided greater control and ability to respond during the cycle. She also noted that as a result of lessons learned during the pandemic, UofT’s undergraduate divisions were working together much more closely than in the past with regards to admissions.

    A member asked about the potential risk associated with having a high number of international students coming from just a handful of countries and what the University was doing to mitigate these risks. Ms Neebar answered that the University had been making a concerted effort to diversity international intake by increasing recruitment efforts and by creating some scholarship opportunities to previously underrepresented source countries.

    A member acknowledged the incredible efforts made by the Office of the Registrar in moving so successfully to offer all of its services in an online environment.
  3. Program Closure: Specialist in Geocomputational Sciences, UTM

    The Chair invited Professor Laura Brown, from the Department of Geography, Geomatics and Environment, to present. Professor Brown stated that the program was launched in 2008 as a 14 credit undergraduate specialist program, which combined Geography and Computer Science. The program was a typical course load for Geographical Information Systems (GIS) Majors, with extra courses added for computer science, mathematics and statistics. Since its launch, the program did not attract student interest, and it was administratively closed in 2013. She noted that the department was now focusing its efforts on the successful GIS programs, and some recent modifications to those programs have helped students facilitate program pairing between GIS and computer science for their degrees.

    On motion duly made, seconded and carried, YOUR COMMITTEE RECOMMENDED,

    THAT the Program Closure of the Geocomputational Science Specialist Program, UTM, recommended by the Vice-Principal Academic & Dean, Professor Amrita Daniere, and described in the proposal dated October 13, 2020, be approved, effective September 1, 2021.
  4. Minor Modification: Undergraduate Curriculum Changes, UTM

    The Chair invited Professor Heather Miller, Vice-Dean, Teaching & Learning, to present. Professor Miller stated that UTM was increasingly seeing interdisciplinary and cross disciplinary developments, even beyond the humanities, social sciences and sciences divisions. For example, new Indigenous Studies courses in Historical Studies will qualify as either Humanities or Social Science distribution credits due to their intersectional instruction materials. Program wide developments, such as those in progress for English and Drama, also include a perspective of inclusion and diversity. A common theme among all of these minor modifications is thus a focus on interdisciplinary and cross disciplinary diversity and inclusion.

    Professor Miller noted that a second theme in the proposed changes had to do with updates to reflect innovations in various disciplines, as well as new faculty hires, across all three divisions. She also extended her thanks to Yen Du, Curriculum Officer and her staff for their work in the standardization of the Special Topics classes, which will allow extra flexibility in the curriculum, allowing faculty to teach in ways most suited to their courses.

    On motion duly made, seconded and carried, YOUR COMMITTEE RESOLVED,

    THAT the proposed Humanities, Sciences and Social Sciences undergraduate curriculum changes for the 2021-22 academic year, as detailed in the respective curriculum reports, be approved.
  5. Minor Modification: Graduate Curriculum Changes, UTM

    The Chair invited Professor Heather Miller, Vice-Dean, Teaching & Learning, to present. Professor Miller noted that the proposed changes in both programs were to increase the flexibility of the programs and their disciplines to be able to better reflect changes in the workplace, since most of UTM’s graduate programs are professional masters programs. Proposed individual course changes were focused on providing additional time for guided applied work, both with the expansion of project-based courses and with the expansion of project placements.

    On motion duly made, seconded and carried, YOUR COMMITTEE RESOLVED,

    THAT the curriculum changes in the Master of Biotechnology (MBiotech) Program and the Master of Urban Innovation Program (MUI), as recommended by the Vice-Principal Academic & Dean, Professor Amrita Daniere, and as described in their respective proposals, be approved, effective on September 1, 2021.
  6. Reports of the Presidential Assessors

    The Chair invited Amrita Daniere, Vice-Principal Academic & Dean to provider her report.

    Professor Daniere noted that for the Committee’s next meeting, her office hopes to bring for consideration a new minor in Chinese Language and Culture and more changes in UTM’s graduate program offerings.

    Reporting on COVID-19 and how UTM was handling the lockdown, Professor Daniere noted that only approximately 10 courses were currently being offered in person, with all safety protocols being strictly observed. She noted that more courses would be offered in person following the lockdown, and in the meantime, the vast majority of UTM courses were being offered online.

    Professor Daniere reported that she had seen mostly positive feedback when she recently reviewed student feedback on the online learning environment. She expressed her hope that UTM would soon be allowed to offer more and more opportunities for students to be on campus. She reported that much ongoing work was occurring in her office, including hiring and future planning with respect to experiential learning.

    A member commented that feedback from his students had been on the positive aspects of not having a regular commute and encouraged UTM administration to be aware of this when re- opening the campus. Professor Daniere said that the University was very aware and there were ongoing discussions about this issue.
  7. Other Business

    There was no other business.
  8. Report of the Previous Meeting: Report 38 – September 15, 2020 Report number 38, from the meeting of September 15, 2020 was approved.
  9. Business Arising from the Report of the Previous Meeting

    There was no business arising from the report of the previous meeting.
  10. Date of the Next Meeting – Thursday, February 11, 2021 at 3:10 p.m.

    The meeting adjourned at 4:15 p.m.

January 12, 2021