State of Grad Studies: an opening gambit

Ashok Mathur - Dean, Graduate Studies
Saturday, March 10, 2018

Greetings everyone.

Mera naam Ashok Mathur, and as some of you know, and I’m finding out with increasing regularity, I’m the new Dean of Graduate Studies here at OCAD U. As of today, I have been in the dean’s seat for two months now, adjusting from a very creative (and relaxed) administrative leave from my position as Head of Creative Studies at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus. And, to be frank, I would still be there, enjoying the second part of my leave with its unrestricted freedoms, had I not been enticed by a number of forces and sources to relocate to Toronto and take on what amount to considerable though by no means insurmountable challenges at this, the largest art+design uni in the nation. Why did I come here? Onto that in a moment, but first, a bit about myself, stuff that goes beyond what you might have read in formal press releases and promo materials.

I was born in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, barely more than a decade into post-independence India. My mother, now passed, was a Parsi, a formidable woman with a dedication to heart and life, and my father, a Hindu of the Kyasth caste, a community often engaged in various professions of a bookish nature. Their mixed marriage, contested to various degrees by their families at the time, convinced them to carve their futures abroad. This eventually brought us to the eastern shores of this continent, Mi’kmaq territories, then west to the Prairies where we landed at the intersection of Siksika, Tsuu T’ina, and Stoney nations. After growing up in a small city and watching it mature from a culturally monolithic to considerably diverse cosmopolitan centre, I began teaching at the Alberta College of Art and Design as well as at Old Sun College (a University of Calgary satellite campus, converted from a one-time residential school, on the Siksika nation).

After a few years of teaching itinerantly, I earned a doctorate in literature at the University of Calgary, focussing on art and racialization that commensurated with my then-experience working with artists of colour and Indigenous artists. I returned to ACAD for a brief sessional stint, but soon after accepted my first tenure-stream position at the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design (now Emily Carr University) in Vancouver. I was excited by this shift as I knew many Indigenous and other racialized art-colleagues in Vancouver who had been active on an equity front for years, some of them teaching at Emily Carr, others known voices in the city. When I accepted the position, I suggested to the Provost that I initiate a working group of racialized artist-instructors (a precursor to the more recent BIPOC movements). While she was supportive of this gesture, the Provost informed me that at that time I would be the only non-white tenured or tenure-stream professor in the entire institute. This came as some surprise since I knew the demographics of the undergraduate student body represented a far more diverse population, and it was one of many indicators I have encountered over the years to suggest that institutions shift at glacial paces compared to their student intake and regional populations.

I realized that in order to see progressive shifts, I had to work with the institution to change hiring practices, adjust curriculum, and otherwise make the space more welcoming for a radically diverse faculty, something I dedicated my time to as I took on the Headship of Critical Studies and endorsed multiple initiatives to these effects. By the time I left Emily Carr, these changes had started with the hiring of several Indigenous and racialized faculty, and while slow, at least it was a steady move in the right direction.

Following my time in Vancouver, I took on two different posts in the interior of B.C. The first was as Canada Research Chair in Cultural and Artistic Inquiry for the brand new Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops. I set up a centre for innovation in research-creation, working with numerous artists and collectives regionally, nationally, and internationally, and producing work that fed my interests in anti-racist and anti-oppressive change. Following this, and my last move before coming to OCAD U, I took up the Headship of Creative Studies at UBC Okanagan, a dynamic department that combined performance, visual art, creative writing, and various elements of computational graphics and design under one departmental roof (a rarity in the Canadian postsecondary landscape). The major reason for taking on this most recent posting was that UBCO had been hosting a most remarkable Summer Indigenous Institute on its campus and I was delighted to join that team, helping to grow it over the past four years to become one of the largest such intensive curricula in the country. Indeed, I still retain an adjunct professorial post there and hope to develop continued affiliations between UBCO and OCAD U, as I have noted further down this message.

So, why did I leave such a rewarding post, you might ask? Well, there are a number of contributing factors, including my solid interest in graduate studies in creative environments and the challenge of a new situation, but perhaps the most pressing is that when the hiring firm contacted me to ascertain my interest in this decanal post, I asked them point blank about OCAD U’s intended practice. As I noted then, I wasn’t interested in moving to an institution that was speaking the right language but not committed to doing the right thing. This is all too common in organizations such as government agencies and postsecondary sites, and too many of us are too familiar with this practice! But upon conferral with the hiring firm, and then with colleagues at OCAD U, and finally with hiring committee, I became less leery and then quite excited by what I saw as an agile and forward-thinking creative-based institution that was taking a big step forward where others trepidatiously feared to tread. And so when the offer came, I realized this was a chance for real and critical institutional movement in precisely the areas I have cared about throughout my academic and artistic career.

As might be clear from the rolling out of my history, I very much want to engage BIPOC and other marginalized communities at the student, faculty, and regional level, not just to foster a greater awareness of issues faced by our communities, but to determine ways to strengthen our position within the university. By this I do not mean integrating into a mainstream, but making this mainstream more accountable and responsible to those of us who inhabit what are variously determined precarious spaces of identity. And I emphasize here that such precarity is not uniform by any stretch of the social fabric we at one time called identity politics in Canada. Anti-black racism is a serious blight on our consciousness and needs to be addressed at all levels including the institutional; colonial oppression that resulted in the residential school system amongst many other atrocities continues to damage and deny basic human rights to Indigenous individuals and communities; Islamaphobia is becoming rampant at home and abroad; refugees are unfairly criminalized and incarcerated in a state that purports to welcome immigrants; and if we look back at our history, from the Komagatu Maru to the Chinese Exclusion Act to the Toronto Bath House Raids, to incidents both legal and customary and far too many to enumerate, we begin to see the patterns of social oppression from which we must necessarily disentangle to create a just future. With this in context, I come to the present, then, and the path ahead.

First, I’d like to increase the availability of financial support for graduate student research, particularly for first generation students and those from outside the GTA. One way in which grad students can benefit from their studies is by travelling and sharing their research with colleagues in the region, the nation, and internationally. To this end, I have instituted a new graduate student travel fund with multiple annual deadlines. The monies may not be large, but they will get students to places where they can perform or disseminate their research. I anticipate we will be able to fund about ten projects at each of the competitions which will be held three times per year.

Second, to engage with OCAD U’s academic plan and its first stated priority to enhance Indigenous education, I am implementing a Graduate Studies Indigenous Innovation fund which is intended to support projects around teaching and learning at the graduate level. This may be development of new programs, enhancement of existing ones, or any other innovation that can engage Indigenous ways of knowing and encourage Indigenous participation, including other BIPOC communities, at the student to faculty level.

Third, and somewhat related, I want to encourage partnerships across institutions to engage in Indigenous learning, and to that end I will be supporting a program this year to enrol up to five current graduate students in an independent study and residency that will take our small group to the Vancouver Art Gallery’s inaugural exhibition by its first Indigenous Curatorial Fellow, and to the Summer Indigenous Intensive in Kelowna at UBCO. This will be a portfolio-driven course which means rather than readings and regularly scheduled lectures, the students will engage with the exhibitions, guest artists, visiting speakers, and each other over an intensive 16-day trip, at the end of which they will have a learning experience quite unlike others they may have undertaken in their masters education. I am in the process of rolling out an information session followed by selection criteria, and the successful candidates will be asked to deliver a presentation in the Fall 2018 about their experience.

Fourth, I am working with my fellow Deans at finding ways to direct more teaching assistantships to our current graduate students. As we all know, one of the strongest elements of professionalization at the graduate level often comes with such GTAs, plus it has the added benefit of further albeit limited financial support for students, many of whom cannot afford to come here or stay here without such support.

Fifth, any graduate studies program in art and design needs to look toward its community to find mechanisms for support, and I will be working with the Advancement Office to encourage benefactors, alumni, and philanthropists who want to support OCAD U’s graduate studies through scholarships, bursaries, and other financial means, again to ensure that this is a place for all including those who haven’t the privilege or access to attend.

Sixth, upon reviewing many international contexts of art and design graduate education, it is apparent that we need to further investigate a doctoral program to complement our seven and growing existing masters degrees. To date, Canada does not have such a program, though there are a few places where practice-based research can lead to such a degree in some limited fashion. It would be impressive to see this take off at OCAD U, particularly with a socially-progressive mandate, and it looks like there will be a will at the school to pursue this in some capacity.

There are, of course, many more avenues of approach to what Graduate Studies can be at OCAD U, and needless to say, the day to day operations are also very critical to student satisfaction and a pursuit of best practices. So that too is at the forefront as I enter into the third month of an extremely challenging yet unrelentingly rewarding task. I look forward to travelling this road with many of you in the days ahead.

 

Ashok Mathur
Dean, Graduate Studies

New dean of Graduate Studies

OCAD University has appointed Dr. Ashok Mathur as Dean of Graduate Studies, effective January 1, 2018. As Dean, reporting to the Vice-President Academic & Provost, Dr. Mathur will be responsible for the educational and research leadership, development and supervision of Graduate Studies and its alignment with the academic plan and integration into the larger strategic plan of the university.

Dr. Mathur holds a Ph.D. in Postcolonial Literature from the University of Calgary. He recently completed a term as Head of Creative Studies at the Okanagan campus of the University of British Columbia. Dr. Mathur served as a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Cultural and Artistic Inquiry, and Director of the Centre for Innovation in Culture and the Arts in Canada (CiCAC) at Thompson Rivers University.

A long-time advocate of critical race theory as it pertains to the postsecondary institution, Dr. Mathur works continuously to address radical forms of equity and Indigenous knowledge.

Dr. Ashok Mathur named Dean of Graduate Studies

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

OCAD University is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Ashok Mathur as Dean of Graduate Studies, effective January 1, 2018. Dr. Mathur recently completed a term as Head of Creative Studies at the Okanagan campus of the University of British Columbia, which began January, 2014.

“We are delighted to have Dr. Mathur join OCAD U,” said Dr. Gillian Siddall, Vice President Academic & Provost. “He brings with him tremendous administrative and teaching experience, as well as a significant record of research and creative practice. He is very well positioned to contribute to advancing the priorities of the academic plan.”

Before joining UBC, Dr. Mathur served as a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Cultural and Artistic Inquiry, and Director of the Centre for Innovation in Culture and the Arts in Canada (CiCAC) at Thompson Rivers University. Prior to that, Dr. Mathur served as Head of Critical and Cultural Studies at the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design (2001-05).

Dr. Mathur has produced five books and numerous projects, both creative and critical, that focus on and feature the intersections of artistic engagement. His most recent book is a long poem entitled The First Black White Man, which, supported by a Canada Council writing grant, was incorporated into a ‘living arts’ space revolving around one of Kamloops’s early Black immigrants and his role in developing the city. Dr. Mathur is a long-time advocate of critical race theory as it pertains to the postsecondary institution, and works continuously to address radical forms of equity and Indigenous knowledge.

"I am thrilled to join the diverse and progressive environment of OCAD U, and keen to work with students, faculty, and administration to continue to develop excellent graduate level programming in the years to come," said Dr. Mathur.

Dr. Mathur holds a Ph.D. in Postcolonial Literature from the University of Calgary. As Dean, reporting to the Vice-President Academic & Provost, Dr. Mathur will be responsible for the educational and research leadership, development and supervision of Graduate Studies and its alignment with the academic plan and integration into the larger strategic plan of the university.

Faculty of Design Office move underway

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Faculty of Design Office closed at 2 p.m. on Monday, July 3 and will reopen Wednesday, July 5th at 11 a.m. in a new location: 230 Richmond St. West on the 9th floor.

Unless it is URGENT, please consider the office out of commission for the full week.

Any questions related to the move can be directed to Faculty of Design Office Manager, Margot Jeffery.

The offices of the Deans of Faculty of Art and FOLASS/IS are tentatively scheduled to move to the 9th floor of 230 Richmond St. W. in December 2017. The location of the Deans’ offices will be reviewed as the Creative City Campus project progresses.

 

 

 

 

OCAD U hosts Canadian Association of Fine Arts Deans conference

Woman painting portraits
Monday, October 17, 2016 - 3:15pm

OCAD University is hosting the 2016 conference of the Canadian Association of Fine Arts Deans (CAFAD), Creative Leadership and Inclusion, October 20-22. .

CAFAD is a nationwide organization of post-secondary Fine Arts faculties, institutions and other academic units with a mission to be the national voice for post-secondary programs in the Fine Arts to the public at large, government and within the academic community. The CAFAD conferences are held annually and hosted by its member institutions.  Last year the conference was held at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan.

This year’s conference was designed to engage decanal academic leaders in reflection and dialogue on a number of important topics including: Indigenizing art curriculum, research creation and community engagement, creativity in academic planning, change management, as well as focused presentations on the role of Canadian Art magazine in the 21st century and LandMarks/Reperes 2017 – a national collaborative project developed in collaboration between Partners in Art, Parks Canada and CAFAD.

“I am delighted to welcome CAFAD members and host this important gathering at OCAD U that champions creativity and inclusion as pivotal to the ideas of leadership, social change and the democratization of education through the arts,” says Vladimir Spicanovic, Dean of FoA and Chair of CAFAD. The conference also features a keynote address by Stephanie Smith, Chief Curator, Art Gallery of Ontario and a talk by Gerald McMaster, OCAD U’s first Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Visual Culture and Curatorial Studies. The conference will also generate unique opportunities for networking and professional development for the deans.

 

 

Dr. Elizabeth (Dori) Tunstall appointed Dean, Faculty of Design

Portrait of Dori Tunstall taken by Martin Iskander
Monday, September 26, 2016 - 4:00am

OCAD University has appointed Dr. Elizabeth (Dori) Tunstall as Dean of the Faculty of Design, effective August 29, 2016. Reporting to the Vice-President, Academic & Provost, Tunstall will be responsible for the educational and research leadership, development and supervision of the Faculty of Design.

“Dr. Tunstall is a wonderful addition to the academic leadership at OCAD University.  She brings a significant background in academic administration, fundraising and international partnerships, as well as pedagogy and curriculum development, particularly in building Indigenous knowledge into curriculum and enhancing support for Indigenous staff and students,” said Gillian Siddall, Vice-President, Academic & Provost.

A design leader, professional design anthropologist, advocate and educator, Tunstall held the role of Associate Dean of Learning and Teaching in the Faculty of Design at Swinburne University of Technology in Australia. While at Swinburne, she established the Master’s and Graduate Diploma of Design (Design Anthropology) program, which focused on developing students and practitioners who could understand people’s values, design, and evaluate people’s experiences respectfully within and across cultures.

“I am excited to be the first black Dean of a Faculty of Design anywhere,” said Dr. Tunstall, “The fact that this milestone is happening at OCAD University aligns with its commitment to becoming a global leader of inclusive, decolonizing and Indigenizing design curriculum, practice, and scholarship—what I describe as Respectful Design.”

Tunstall founded the Cultures-Based Innovation Initiative (a global network of designers, anthropologists, Indigenous scholars and activists, innovation consultants, computer scientists and leadership scholars across 24 nations) to define and implement more inclusive and decolonizing perspectives on innovation.

Prior to her teaching career, Tunstall worked as a strategist for Sapient Corporation and Arc Worldwide. She studied at Bryn Mawr College, going on to earn a PhD in Anthropology from Stanford University.

Student Social: Tom Barker, Candidate, Dean, Faculty of Design

Friday, May 2, 2008 - 7:00pm to 8:00pm

Tom Barker, Candidate, Dean, Faculty of Design will give a presentation to the OCAD community at 2 pm in Room 240, followed by a student social in the Lambert Lounge (Room 187) from 3 to 4 pm.

Venue & Address: 
Lambert Lounge (Room 187) 100 McCaul St., Toronto, Ontario
Cost: 
Free

Student Social: Ted Krueger, Candidate, Dean, Faculty of Design

Monday, April 28, 2008 - 7:00pm to 8:00pm

Ted Krueger, Candidate, Dean, Faculty of Design will give a presentation to the OCAD community in Room 230 (Central Hall, Level 2) at 2 pm, followed by a student social in the Lambert Lounge (Room 187) from 3 to 4 pm.

Venue & Address: 
Lambert Lounge (Room 187) 100 McCaul St., Toronto, Ontario
Cost: 
Free

Public Presentation: Tom Barker, Candidate, Dean, Faculty of Design

Friday, May 2, 2008 - 6:00pm

Tom Barker, Candidate, Dean, Faculty of Design will give a presentation to the OCAD community, followed by a student social in the Lambert Lounge (Room 187) from 3 to 4 pm.

Venue & Address: 
Room 240 (Level 2) 100 McCaul St., Toronto, Ontario
Cost: 
Free

Public Presentation: Ted Krueger, Candidate, Dean, Faculty of Design

Monday, April 28, 2008 - 6:00pm

Ted Krueger, Candidate, Dean, Faculty of Design will give a presentation to the OCAD community, followed by a student social in the Lambert Lounge (Room 187) from 3 to 4 pm.

Venue & Address: 
Room 230 (Level 2) 100 McCaul St., Toronto, Ontario
Cost: 
Free

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