A Message to Alumni from Dean Lisa Henderson

Head shot of Lisa HendersonApril 2022

Dear Alumni,

I write in a mid-April snowstorm, with students in shorts and campus trees artfully collecting snow. It’s a sign of the times—full of contradictions, transitions, threats and promises. At FIMS we are wrapping up a term that resumed on-campus operations between late January (graduate students and Year 2, 3 and 4 undergrads) and late February (Year 1 undergrads) as we contended with the Omicron variant of COVID-19. We appreciate the incredibly hard work of faculty and staff, especially staff in Graduate and Undergraduate Student Services. Many requests for academic consideration were reviewed and approved so that students who needed to self-isolate could do so without academic penalty. Staff and faculty have worked tirelessly to support our students through this difficult time while also meeting their own needs and their families’, and FIMS students have demonstrated remarkable perseverance and involvement. Now, we approach the final exam period with the hope that this is our last term of blended delivery. The COVID chapter isn’t over and has already been long, full of late-breaking plot twists and complex adjustments. There has been struggle, but the whole FIMS community has brought grit, commitment and invention to university education and scholarship during the pandemic.

We are also following the work of Svitlana Matviyenko, a former FIMS instructor and PhD alumna from Western’s Centre for the Study of Theory and Criticism. Prof. Matviyenko has previously collaborated with Professor Nick Dyer-Witheford and together they co-authored the book Cyberwar and Revolution: Digital Subterfuge in Global Capitalism (2019). Normally, Prof. Matviyenko would be in Vancouver, where she is Assistant Professor of Communication at Simon Fraser University. Instead, she is in Western Ukraine caring for her parents and writing a bi-weekly blog post about the war from her hometown of Kamianets-Podilskyi. You can visit Dispatches from the Place of Imminence here. We send Svitlana our solidarity, grateful for her witness. In this issue of the newsletter you can also look for insight on Ukraine from FIMS alumna Kadie Ward (MA’07, Media Studies) who provided her expertise to Western News in late February in an article titled “Ukraine’s unwavering resolve to fight for democracy.”

There are so many commitments and accomplishments from FIMS community members to be grateful for this cycle, including alumna Andrea Benoit’s (PhD'14, Media Studies) distinction in the field of business history; Erika Casupanan’s (BA'11) generosity as MIT alumna, Career Conference 2022 keynote speaker, and winner of the most recent season of Survivor; new faculty colleague and Canada Research Chair Sarah Smith’s co-curation with Kirsty Robertson (Visual Arts) of From Remote Stars: Buckminster Fuller, London, and Speculative Futures at Museum London until May 15; our incomparable Research Officer Karen Kueneman (MLIS'07), who received the annual Western Award of Excellence for outstanding service, creativity and innovation as a member of Western’s staff; and Assistant Professor Luke Stark, recipient of SSHRC research funds to study emotion AI and develop a framework to guide the design and best use of these technologies. This is just a selection of beautiful contributions from members of the FIMS community, including our alumni.

Earlier this Winter, I had a moving opportunity to travel to Toronto to meet with Juggun Kazim (BA’02, MIT), a distinguished television host in her home country of Pakistan. Juggun has used her FIMS training so expansively, bringing it to many roles in Bollywood film and 15 years of daily television hosting in Lahore. Juggun is a champion of creativity as a source of constraint—presented with a limit, she asks how do we expand our horizons, whether in the fields of art, language or television? You can feel Juggun’s insight and generosity at our video feature page of greetings offered especially to international students, international prospective students, and international alumni. Joining Juggun are Selena Guo (BA’21, MIT) and Mina Gerges (BA’16, MPI)

We are also moved to acknowledge that two of nine proposals accepted for tenancy in 450 Talbot Street, Western’s new building in downtown London, come from FIMS. Professors Sandra Smeltzer and Basil Chiasson (joining colleagues in Western’s Student Experience office) have proposed a Community Engaged Learning Hub for learning partnerships with community organizations, and some 20 colleagues led by Professors Joanna Redden and Melissa Adler have proposed the FIMS Community Studio, for media and information projects designed to deepen democratic participation in London and collaboration between Western students and the London and SWO community. Look for repair cafés where people learn to fix things, digitization instruction, community information services, a video studio, activist workshops, research collaborations, and screenings hosted by the London chapter of Cinema Politica headed up by Professor John Reed. Renovations to 450 Talbot start this Spring, aiming for tenancy in late Fall 2023. We will celebrate FIMS’ presence and projects and will keep you posted.

In this issue of the Alumni Newsletter, we recognize the passing of four members of the FIMS community, including Professor Emerita Carole Farber, who served as a founding member of the Faculty in the late 1990s and retired from Western in 2015. It is hard to lose FIMS people, as their families and communities know best. Here, we celebrate their beautiful and permanent contributions to FIMS, a contribution deeply connected to our alumni and the world.

FIMS alumni, we send you our wishes for health and safety and we always look forward to hearing from you.