Dean’s Team repsonse to 2016 Town Halls

October 6/2016

Howard Hu, M.D., M.P.H., Sc.D.
Dean
Professor of Environmental Health, Epidemiology and Global Health
Professor of Medicine

Dear Students,

Two-way communication between students and Faculty leadership is critical to strengthening the Dalla Lana School of Public Health and ensuring our trajectory of growth is mutually beneficial for everyone.

A number of issues were raised at the spring 2016 Public Health Sciences (PHS) town hall meetings, including funding, diversity, communications, space, curriculum, and student experience. I assure you that all comments are heard and are carefully considered by the School’s Dean’s Team, comprised of academic, faculty, research, administration, communications and advancement leaders. On behalf of the Dean’s Team, I would like to provide an update on some of the issues raised at the town halls.

First and foremost, I know that PhD student funding is a critical issue. I responded to the open letter regarding the PhD basic funding package on September 1, 2016 and am committed to working with all students towards a solution that is equitable, fair and fiscally responsible. We commit to providing opportunities for the entire student body to provide input and feedback prior to moving forward.

Click here to read my September 1, 2016 open letter response.

 Second, I feel strongly that diversity is a core issue for any public health school and I am pleased to share that we are creating a DLSPH-wide Diversity Committee to be co-chaired by Arjumand Siddiqi, Associate Professor in the Division of Social and Behavioural Health Sciences and Rhonda Cockerill, Associate Director of IHPME.  Student representatives identified by the Public Health Student Association and the IHPME Graduate Student Association will work closely with faculty and staff to develop Faculty-wide education and training opportunities. The Diversity Committee co-chairs drafted a terms of reference document that includes many of the concerns expressed during the town hall meetings and much more. The committee’s first meeting will be held this fall.

With respect to Faculty-wide communications, all students are encouraged to contact the DLSPH Communications Office to share their idea for a story, event, new project, practicum placement update, hot public health or health systems topic, and more.

We absolutely want to help share your story or give you a platform to tell your own. As a dynamic learning community, there are a number of ways to receive news about the School and have your voice heard:

The Communications Office is always looking for student blog entries on a hot topic in public health or health systems and digital student profiles. Please contact communications.dlsph@utoronto.ca for more information.

Communications and branding materials, including logos, PowerPoint templates, business card ordering instructions and more are available online here.

All feedback about event calendar functionality, reducing list-serv e-mail fatigue, etc. has been heard and is under consideration.

In addition to funding, diversity and communications, I know that space is a recurring theme and students are keen to have access to better space and amenities that enhance your experience at the School. Over the past six to eight months, DLSPH Administration has been working with student representatives to discuss the issue of student space, understand their concerns and address where enhancements can be achieved.

In June 2016, a communication was sent to a select group of students clarifying the process for requesting student space, explaining that revisions to space and operational guidelines are underway and that updates will be provided as the project is finalized.

In mid-September, a communication was issued that outlined where we have re-assigned student space and why, as well as an update on the renovations taking place in DLSPH to improve various student spaces. It also provided a brief summary of the various student spaces and encouraged students to review the Student Handbook, section 13.3 — Policy on Space – Student Space Allocation Guidelines —which has been updated to include detailed descriptions of various student spaces, as well as the operational process and forms to complete to request student space.

On the topic of space, there were also issues raised with respect to classroom size and it is important to understand that classrooms are allocated and maintained by a centralized unit at the University known as Academic and Campus Events (ACE).  Classrooms booked for DLSPH are designated based on course enrolments and availability and are assigned accordingly. We do not have control selecting preferred classroom locations.

There are a number of amenities that I would like to update you on, including water stations, T-card stations and power bars. Additional bottle re-filling stations were installed this year and are located in the Health Sciences Building as follows:

  • 1st floor on the west side
  • 6th floor on the west side, outside of HSB610
  • 7th floor, opposite the elevators, near the washrooms

T-card Recharging Stations are strategically installed by the University. Click here to see all T-card locations.

Finally with respect to power bars, we raised the issue with U of T Facilities & Services, but due to electrical load issues, unfortunately we cannot place power bars in the HSB classrooms to provide more plugs for students.  However, we will raise this to the HSB Building committee in the hopes this committee can address planning and budgeting for future electrical outlets, which will also need to encompass a review of the circuit requirements to accommodate for more outlets inside classrooms.

At many town halls, students expressed a need for professional and career development, both in the formal curriculum and through extra-curricular opportunities. We are committed to ensuring our students are prepared to be highly functional public health professionals and welcome your feedback regarding how we can continue to improve. Some initiatives for the coming year include:

  1. Welcoming our new Practicum Placement and Professional Development Officer Sarah Ko into her role, where she will strive to ensure students have meaningful opportunities for skill development during their practica.
  2. Research + Practice Day will be held on November 25, 2016 and is being coordinated by Charlotte Lombardo with student input. This event will focus on PHS programs and feature poster presentations highlighting meaningful student work. This will be an opportunity to engage with local partner agencies bringing students, faculty and alumni from across all DLSPH programs, providing opportunities for networking and idea exchange.
  3. Creating an Interdisciplinary Professional Development seminar series. We are committed to working with the Public Health Students Association to provide a series of extra-curricular sessions that focus on key skills for PHS students. Professor Nancy Kreiger and other members of the faculty with student representative input will ensure that your needs drive the planned offerings for the current academic year.
  4. Expansion of career services support. We are hoping in the near future to have more support at the DLSPH for students as they launch their careers. Although these plans are in the development stage, we are excited by the potential for this role and will seek student feedback to ensure your needs are addressed. Stay tuned!
  5. Providing ongoing opportunities for feedback: Professor Nancy Baxter, in her new role as Associate Dean of Academic Affairs is holding a series of “Breakfasts with the ADAA” and hopes to meet with as many of you as possible over the course of the year. These meetings will provide an informal opportunity to touch base with the ADAA to ensure the DLSPH is creating an excellent learning experience for you.

I’d like to thank-you very much for your ongoing commitment and passionate championing of these important matters. I encourage all students to get involved in various DLSPH-wide committees, including the Diversity, Building and Communications committees to ensure the student body’s voice is heard. You can also send me an anonymous e-mail anytime by visiting the Dean’s Corner.

Sincerely,

Howard Hu
Dean, Dalla Lana School of Public Health