Office of the President

IX. Strategic Issues: Collaborative Activities

Western is a university committed both to academic excellence and to academic innovation.  Our reputation as a research-intensive university has been built upon strength in the established scholarly disciplines and in professional education.  Although traditional areas of scholarship continue to retain their vitality, they are also in many instances expanding to encompass new areas of inquiry, posing challenges for research and teaching that are best met through collaborative effort.  At Western, faculty members have moved to meet these challenges through the establishment of a broad range of interdisciplinary research groups, centres, and institutes.  Collaboration has also been enhanced through programs such as the Special Faculty Renewal Initiative, which has seen the creation of a number of faculty positions which cross traditional disciplinary lines and improve our ability to respond in innovative ways to new areas of inquiry. 

Such collaborative efforts have achieved national and international recognition and have improved our ability to create the interdisciplinary networks often required to take full advantage of new research funding programs such as those of the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Ontario Research & Development Challenge Fund.  They have also led to the development of new and innovative interdisciplinary undergraduate programs and opened up opportunities for graduate students to become involved in broadly based programs of research.  Just as we support the individual researcher and teacher and affirm the continuing importance of discipline-based study, we must continue to work to ensure that the creativity engendered by collaborative activity is nurtured and supported at all levels of the University and to ensure that both formal and informal boundaries that might inhibit the career progress and academic creativity of faculty involved in interdisciplinary work are minimized. 

Many of the most interesting academic questions today cross the lines of the established disciplines.  Western has responded to many of these evolutions in scholarship by creating new programs, such as the undergraduate program in Media, Information and Technoculture and the graduate Neurosciences program, as well as establishing courses of study leading to joint degrees in such professional program areas as Medicine, Engineering, Law and Business.  In a somewhat different context, we must also work to encourage collaboration among faculty, staff, and students in the fulfilment of the University’s mission.  A collaborative spirit throughout the University must be a priority.  Among staff, for example, job sharing or exchange programs across academic units and administrative departments may provide an opportunity to enhance skills and to develop a broader appreciation of the challenges facing all areas of  the University.

The collaborative spirit must be extended beyond the University.  The University contributes significantly to the development and well-being of our surrounding communities through the substantial economic activity which it generates, as well as the participation of faculty, staff and student volunteers in community organizations and events.  For its part, the community and its citizens have strongly supported the University through donations, direct financial support for key projects such as the City of London’s multi-year capital grant as part of SuperBuild, and in providing a safe, welcoming and supportive environment for our faculty, staff, and students. While continuing to ensure that academic freedom and the intellectual integrity of the research process are maintained, we must continue to strengthen our links within the local community - governmental and non-governmental organizations, the private sector, and First Nations communities - to develop new partnerships.  Some key areas include the creative development of solutions to important social issues through applied research and curriculum reflective of our diverse society, educational and employment opportunities, technology transfer and industry liaison in the promotion of local and regional economic development, and continuing enrichment of the cultural life of London and the region.

Western must also work with the local community, as well as at the regional, provincial and national levels, to expand its international horizons, as befits a research-intensive university of its size and scope.  Currently, many members of the University community participate visibly on the international stage: faculty through publications, teaching, conference participation, and collaborative research; staff through professional associations and organizations; students through participation in an array of study-abroad and exchange programs.  Such accomplishments should be celebrated and actively expanded.  International research should become an institutional priority, and faculty collaboration should be encouraged in key areas of investigation where research strengths exist. Academic Plans at the Faculty, School, and Department levels should include components on potential international initiatives, and these should be consolidated into an overall institutional plan for the University’s international objectives.  Selective partnerships with a limited number of universities, in Canada and abroad, should be pursued, based upon the potential for collaboration in research, as well as student, staff, and faculty exchanges.  The University should also work to renew and enhance its commitment to Veritas et Utilitas well beyond the local area, encouraging new and innovative partnerships aimed at both assisting individuals and strengthening the capacities of institutions and governments in developing countries.

 

Our Commitments:

10.  Western will enhance mechanisms to promote collaboration and interdisciplinarity with in the University.  Our University community will:

10.1  Develop new and creative ways to appoint and retain faculty across disciplines and to  support them through the tenure and promotion process;

10.2  Promote program flexibility and encourage students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels to pursue areas of study which cross disciplinary lines and to become involved in both individual and collaborative research programs;

10.3  Ensure that  interdisciplinary programs, research groups, centres, and institutes are actively contributing to the mission of the University and support efforts by collaborative research groups to secure funding and to identify new areas for the development of research networks.

 

11.  Western will seek closer collaboration with local communities in support of community/University development.  Our University community will:

11.1  Strengthen the  communication between the University and local government, non-governmental organizations, First Nations communities, and the private sector;

11.2  Enhance engagement with our community and our region through such programs as student placements, Community Legal Services, and the ongoing rural and regional medicine initiatives;

11.3  Encourage activities which bring the local community onto the campus for cultural, athletic, and academic events using University facilities;

11.4    While protecting academic freedom and the integrity of the research process, promote the application of  research to social needs in the local community and beyond, and seek ways in which technology transfer and industry liaison can contribute to local and regional economic growth;

11.5  Celebrate the contribution of faculty, staff and students to the community through awards and other forms of recognition;

11.6  Collaborate with the local community in the development of initiatives designed to promote London to prospective faculty, staff, and students.

11.7  Build on the successes of neighbourhood cooperation in issues of interest to Western and those who share our community.

 

12.  Western will actively engage in a process of internationalization.  Our University community will:

12.1  Develop an International Strategic Plan for the University, based on a consolidation of initiatives identified by Faculties, Schools and Departments in their Academic Plans;

12.2   Recognize and validate existing individual and collaborative research and teaching activities in the international sphere; promote the development of course content and programs which deal explicitly with international issues; and develop partnerships with universities and institutes abroad to pursue research and teaching collaboration and to expand the University’s capacity for assistance to institutions and communities in developing areas;

12.3  Promote and expand opportunities for student participation in study-abroad and exchange programs.