The Year at Smith

Dean’s Message

Well, as this is my last message to you, I thought I would share a few reflections rather than enumerate the school’s many achievements over the 2020-2021 year (although I do encourage you to read our highlights and feature stories in this Year in Review).

It’s been an incredible year of disruption, introspection, innovation and recalibration associated largely with two key events.

First, the declaration of COVID-19 as a global pandemic was a rip-off-the-Band-Aid event that took us out of our comfort zone and into a full-scale transformation to remote work within the span of a week, followed by a transition to online teaching and learning. For more than a year, we have been refining and delivering programs online, providing a wide variety of services remotely and interacting, socializing and celebrating virtually. We’ve redefined what’s possible and what’s achievable. The pandemic gave licence to experiment with doing things differently, resulting in best practices, new opportunities and new partnerships that have enriched the student experience and aided our community. (For example, our partnerships with Mitacs BSI and through the Kingston Region Business Support Network.)

Second, social activism and movements against racism, discrimination and systemic inequities and acts of hate reverberated here and around the world demanding action. Self-reflection, institutional reflection and acknowledgment of our responsibility called for accountability and change. I am proud of Smith’s Equity, Diversity, Inclusion & Indigenization (EDII) Strategy & Action Plan that we launched in March 2021 after many months of planning and consultation. It’s a beginning toward a better future. By learning from and building on our own and others’ experiences, continuing the dialogue, staying true to our values and making evidence-informed decisions, Smith will be successful in creating meaningful, lasting change.

Facing these challenges has had far-reaching impacts. Indeed, the EQUIS accreditation review team concluded that it brought the Smith community together with shared purpose and appreciation of what can be accomplished with the combined and co-ordinated efforts of the university. Pan-university initiatives, cross-faculty programs and multi-disciplinary research collaborations are elevating the work we do and adding value from which we all stand to gain. It’s part of being an inclusive community and leveraging complementary strengths and know-how to achieve great things and push boundaries.

At the end of the day, it’s all about people and relationships. I feel privileged to have been given the opportunity to serve as Interim Dean of Smith for the past 19 months. While I didn’t need to be face-to-face to experience the passion, commitment and depth of caring of our students, staff, faculty and alumni, I do hope that there will be an opportunity to say thank you in person.

As I rejoin my home Faculty of Health Sciences, I will follow Smith with great interest, celebrate your successes and likely cross paths now and again. I know the school is in good hands with Dean Wanda Costen and will welcome her with open arms and open minds.

I wish you all the best.

Brenda Brouwer, PhD
Interim Dean, Smith School of Business
(November 2019 to June 2021)