Faculty of Graduate Studies celebrates 50 years

Faculty's far-reaching role envelops campus

by Bruce Mason
Staff writer

Although the Faculty of Graduate Studies encompasses the entire university, the person in charge says it's one of UBC's best-kept secrets.

"It's understandable," says Frieda Granot, the eighth dean of UBC's Faculty of Graduate Studies. "Only a handful of graduate schools across North America share a similar structure and play a similar institutional role."

Officially recognized by Senate in 1949 the Faculty of Graduate Studies was given a key role and a dual mandate -- to co-ordinate and promote interdisciplinary research and education and provide administrative services for graduate students across all faculties.

"The profound and pioneering vision which has guided us over 50 years is that a research-driven university has an opportunity to find innovative solutions to the challenges and problems facing society and to have an impact on the economy as well," says Granot.

The faculty embraces virtually all full-time faculty at the university and more than 6,200 graduate students. It is also home to almost 50 faculty, 15 interdisciplinary research units, two colleges, six graduate programs and one scholarly journal.

"We've come a long way since the establishment of the first interdisciplinary unit, the School of Community and Regional Planning, in 1949," she says.

"Today we hear buzzwords about the need to build bridges across traditional disciplines, but the Faculty of Graduate Studies has always been fundamentally grounded in interdisciplinary research," says Granot.

"We have always provided opportunities and encouraged disciplines to work together, to share and solve major societal and economic problems," she adds. "The result is that research has not only crossed boundaries, it has been elevated and expanded beyond what is usually possible in individual disciplines."

When it first began, the School of Community and Regional Planning tackled the myriad problems associated with an explosion of growth in B.C.'s population. That established a tradition.

The faculty continues to gather together the finest researchers to work on emerging issues such as genetics, applied ethics, the need for sustainable development and environmental policies, women's issues and the rise of the Pacific Rim and the global economy.

In combination with the shift to a knowledge-based society has come a set of urgent and interconnected challenges related to jobs, housing, resource depletion, crime and quality of life, says Granot. Increasingly, business and government require people with advanced degrees and familiarity with the latest research.

"Failure to compete in a more integrated global marketplace has swift repercussions," she says. "In such an environment, it is imperative for adequate resources to be devoted to research and for the results to be channeled into practice."

Despite the different research agendas there are common threads weaving through the faculty's history.

"These are interdisciplinarity, internationalization and community outreach -- a perfect fit with Trek 2000," says Granot.

Ensuring the academic quality and integrity of graduate programs and providing a supportive and equitable environment for faculty and students alike will continue to be priorities for the faculty as it enters the next millennium.

"It is no accident that Trek 2000 recognizes people as UBC's most important resource. We want people in every faculty to think of the Faculty of Graduate Studies as their second home."

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