Dr. Julian Dierkes, Associate Dean, Funding at Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (G+PS), has been elected as the president of the Western Canadian Deans of Graduate Studies (WCDGS), an organization founded in 1974 whose purpose is to promote the effective pursuit of graduate studies at Western Canadian Universities.
Dr. Dierkes spoke about the role of organizations like WCDGS in the changing graduate education landscape. Find out more below:
G+PS: Why did you run for presidency of the WCDGS?
Dr. Dierkes: The WCDGS has always been a useful forum for us at the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies to “compare notes” with other institutions in our region. While UBC often leads the way by virtue of the size and age of our institutions, when we face new challenges, it is very useful to be able to hear ideas from other institutions. This has been the case even more so in the context of the past year of crisis management. As questions were coming up, for example around payment mechanisms to pay international students who were not actually coming to campus, or about extensions on milestones for academic progress, check-ins with colleagues were very helpful and as Secretary-Treasurer of WCDGS I helped move our discussions online for more regular exchanges. The group is friendly and collaborative in nature, so it is not just useful, but also enjoyable to invest some time and energy into facilitating these kinds of discussions as part of a very collaborative group of executives of the group.
G+PS: What should the graduate community at UBC know about the WCDGS?
Dr. Dierkes: The administrative core of the WCDGS is the Western Dean’s Agreement. Broadly speaking, this allows graduate students to take courses that are not offered at their home institutions at other universities in Western Canada. That remains a very useful mechanism for many graduate students. Over the past year or so, the organization has been updating some of the administrative processes associated with the WDA. But if anything, the rise of online instruction points toward a future of potentially more sharing of courses and the WCDGS is one forum to explore that.
G+PS: How is the work that the WCDGS do important?
Dr. Dierkes: Graduate education is changing. There are aspects of that change that reflect broader changes in society (for example, active discussions of how to implement strategic planning around inclusive excellence at the moment), and others are somewhat internal to discussions around graduate pedagogy or administration. We are constantly striving to improve training and graduate education, but also our own policy-making and service to students. Exchange with colleagues is one element in our pursuit of continuous improvement.