Charting a new path for Dr. Gwen Chapman

Posted on Monday, July 27th, 2020

On June 1, 2020 it was announced that Dr. Gwen Chapman, dean of the College of Social and Applied Human Sciences (CSAHS) will be stepping away from her role in the College to serve as interim provost and VP academic for the University of Guelph.

Dr. Chapman came to the College in 2016, from the University of British Columbia where she had been serving as associate dean academic of the Faculty of Land and Food Systems and as a professor in the Food, Nutrition and Health program.

As one of Canada's top-funded and leading experts in social science nutritional research, Dr. Chapman had an appreciation for the challenges and opportunities that faced CSAHS and its faculty. It has been under the direction of her capable leadership that the College has seen an expansion of interdisciplinary academic programming, the enhancement of its reputation for world-class research and an increase in supports and resources to help faculty, students and staff thrive.

"From the day Dr. Chapman began serving as dean, she has worked tirelessly to better the College and to help each one of us in our individual roles. It has been a privilege to work closely with her to reach the goals that she set for herself and the College when she first arrived."

— Byron Sheldrick | Associate Dean (Academic)

Dr. Chapman charted a course for the College through the development of a strategic plan that was informed by extensive engagement and consultation with members of the College community. Within the plan, she outlined three clear objectives for the College 1) To be a leader in disciplinary, interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, and engaged teaching and research that contributes to meaningful change in our communities and our world; 2) To make visible and compelling the quality, value, and societal impact of our teaching, research, and engagement for prospective and current students, the University of Guelph community, alumni, and the general public; 3) To provide a healthy and productive work and learning environment where diversity is encouraged and that fosters the ability of students, staff, faculty, and alumni to thrive and succeed.

In pursuit of these objectives, interdisciplinary programs such as the PhD program in Social Practice and Transformational Change and the newly minted BA in Justice and Legal studies were created. The interdisciplinary Guelph Institute for Development Studies was launched and many programs took on co-op options which allow students to gain hands on work experience and begin making an impact in their communities right away.

Quality of teaching and research was also important and Dr. Chapman saw the need for ongoing support and training in the pursuit of excellence. To assist, the Interdisciplinary Hub — a resource which included creation of a flexible space in the MacKinnon building designed to promote interaction — was formed. The Hub for Teaching and Learning Excellence was also initiated. This hub was designed to foster and encourage new innovative approaches to curriculum development and pedagogy.

The list of accomplishments which Dr. Chapman was able to achieve in her short few years at the College is lengthy. Yet, each of them was strategic. Whether it was the development of a College-wide Indigenous strategy and working group as a part of an inclusion and diversity plan or the establishment of research and academic partnerships in India and the United Kingdom to boost international recruitment and promote the College worldwide, each step was carefully considered.

Dr. Chapman prioritized relationships with our College alumni community, visiting dozens of reunion events and meeting hundreds of alumni during her time as dean. A strong advocate for the College, she helped to build external relationships and partnerships, leading to millions of dollars in philanthropic support.

As Dr. Chapman takes on her new interim leadership role within the University, she leaves the leadership of the College in the capable hands of the current associate dean academic, Dr. Byron Sheldrick.

"Byron and I have worked closely since my arrival, and I know that he will serve the College well in my absence," said Dr. Chapman.

The CSAHS family are reluctant to see Dr. Chapman go, yet they are happy that she will remain at the University of Guelph and look forward to seeing her enthusiasm and skillful leadership benefit the University as a whole.

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