A message to alumni from the Dean

Photo of Lisa Henderson outside on campus in the fall

October 2021

Dear Alumni,

On September 7, I had the remarkable experience of greeting close to 240 first-year MIT students for Faculty Day, face to face. I was followed by a greeting and performance of the Water Song by Dan and Mary Lou Smoke, local elders and for over 30 years co-hosts of the Indigenous radio program Smoke Signals, on Radio Western. Dan is a member of the Seneca Nation, Six Nations Grand River Territory, and Mary Lou a member of the Ojibway Nation from Batchawana on Lake Superior. They have both contributed so much to Western for so long. Under the guidance of Professor Paulette Rothbauer, FIMS Library Director Marni Harrington and MIT Alumna Serena Mendizabal (now a Western graduate student in Geography and Environment), FIMS is developing the Smoke Signals Archive, with over 600 episodes of the Smokes’ radio program already digitized and finding aids in preparation.

At Faculty Day, our new students were not too cool for school. They were warm, they were excited to see each other, they sang along with the Water Song. (You can sing along with Mary Lou here.) We are ecstatic to have a chance to gather again. The University has communicated the terms of our campus return: with few exceptions for medical and religious reasons, faculty, staff and students must be fully vaccinated and masked indoors. It has been a legally and ethically demanding set of decisions, and as Dean of FIMS I am grateful to the University community for promoting those decisions and to President Alan Shepard, Provost Sarah Prichard, and Vice President Lynn Logan for making them.

Our community is changing. As alumni will notice in our Newsletter contents, a big part of that change comes from our recognition at FIMS that our best world is multi-vocal—it includes people across Indigeneities, race, ethnicity, religion, nation, gender, sexuality, class, physical ability, age and language. It makes community dialogue and institutional accountability fundamental to teaching, learning, and knowing. It walks the walk of inclusion in curriculum, pedagogy, and research, and in faculty, staff and student recruitment and retention. Please welcome our new colleagues filmmaker Sally Kewayosh and cultural sociology and health scholar Sofia Locklear.

As we develop ourselves in each of these areas, we want to bring alumni into the conversation. We will make our updates on equity, diversity, inclusion and decolonization publicly available on our new EDID at FIMS webpage. We must make clear what we stand for in a world of truck attacks right here in London and unmarked graves across the country. We will consult with alumni and include you as we propose a FIMS EDID Council through our Faculty Council. We need your insights and we welcome them.

This month, the University Senate unanimously supported our new undergraduate program called Creative Arts and Production (CAP), jointly offered with the Faculty of Arts & Humanities and the Don Wright Faculty of Music. CAP will be a place for three C’s—creativity, collaboration, and community—and those three C’s will deepen our EDID practice. We envision an inclusive, joyful environment for creative experimentation and skill building, which graduates will take to all creative industries and environments and beyond—to communities, organizations, firms, schools, and professional life. There is no place separate from media and information, from the three C’s, or from EDID. Our integrated vision will support FIMS’ future as worldly, optimistic, compelling and just.

For Western’s recent Homecoming, we had collaborated with the Faculty of Arts & Humanities and the Don Wright Faculty of Music to offer a Homecoming Virtual Coffeehouse on Zoom, this year titled Create/Collaborate! and featuring a magnificent compilation of alumni and faculty-authored videos on the theme. We postponed that part of our Homecoming celebration in recognition of tragic events on campus early this Fall. It was not the time to celebrate, and indeed the Coffeehouse deserves a better moment. We will announce a new Fall date to our alumni network as soon as it’s confirmed.

Finally, everyone at FIMS was stricken to learn that our former Dean, Professor Catherine Sheldrick Ross, passed away on September 11th this year after long illness. Catherine Ross’ career and contributions are monumental and her network of family, friends, colleagues and former students reaches deep and far. They, too, are shaken. We invite you to read our tributes at the FIMS website, one about Catherine Ross' beautiful career, the second a memorial to a dear friend from four of Ross’ closest colleagues—Prof. Emerita Lynne McKechnie, Prof. Pam McKenzie, Prof. Paulette Rothbauer, and scholar, instructor and PhD alum Lucía Cedeira Serantes.

It was Professor Ross’ wish that student bursaries be set up in her name to support continued education in Library and Information Sciences and Media Studies. If you would like to contribute, you can do so here.

FIMS folk, you do us proud. In this newsletter, please take a look at all the ways FIMS alum, faculty and students are contributing insight and action to media, information and social justice and all the ways we’re making the world a more creative place.

Warm wishes,

Lisa Henderson
Professor and Dean