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Dean’s Message: Welcome to the Winter Term

Submitted on Monday, January 11, 2021

It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost 10 months since classes moved online and even harder to believe that by the time this term ends, it will have been more than a year since we’ve all been together on campus. There’s a brand new class of students who I’ve only seen via Zoom.

That’s why I was so thrilled to see a tweet last week from a student looking forward to the iSkills workshops she had enrolled in. “Excited for the start of my second last sem of Grad School at @UofTInfoFaculty next week and these super cool workshops!!! #ischool #personaldevs,” Sasja Mardevi tweeted.

Sasja Mardevi tweet about iSkills workshops

It’s heartening to know that even COVID-19 and the prospect of bleak months to come can’t end enthusiasm for getting back to school, and new courses and workshops.

For some time now, our students have been chronicling their journey with their Living the iLife blog, where they cover the academic, professional and student life aspects of studying at the Faculty during the pandemic. As the new year gets underway, they are starting a new series of interviews, profiling instructors whose online teaching stood out last term.

The first interview is with Christoph Becker, who says, among other things, that he was surprised to find that “breakout group discussions sometimes work almost better online than in person.

“It’s great fun to see everyone working simultaneously on a huge online whiteboard,” he explains. “Having a shared workspace for each session makes it possible for everyone to see each other’s outputs – a really useful affordance of the online environment. Other than that, pets in the classroom are a big win.”

I second the motion re pets. My dog Austen (below) loves to be on camera and check out who I’m talking to.

Wendy Duff and Austen

Another item for the much-needed good news column is the four new professors who start teaching this term. They are:

  • Stacy Allison-Cassin, who will teach INF1321H:  Representing, Documenting and Accessing the Cultural Record, and INF1005/6H section 0118:  Knowledge Organization, Equity, and Justice
  • Priyank Chandra, who will teach INF2201H:  Information & Communication Technologies, Design and Marginality
  • Shion Guha, who will teach INF2178H: Experimental Design for Data Science
  • Anastasia Kuzminykh, who will teach INF2169H: User-Centred Information Systems Development

While we began the hiring process for these wonderful new faculty members before the University moved online, most of it was completed online. It’s a reminder that people are still landing jobs despite the pandemic, including our students.

And, finally, I want to mention our alumni, who always do so much for our students, and have successfully moved their mentoring efforts online. They have two events planned for this month and two for February.

Here’s hoping that this good news brightens your start to the winter semester.


Wendy Duff