A Message from the Dean

Headshot of Lisa Henderson smilingJune 2024

Dear Alumni,

I send you warm wishes from the brightest season on Western’s campus. It is lush, green, and sun-drenched. Elementary school classes and camps are using the playing fields across the road from FIMS and everyone is gearing up for Convocation, which began this week. Convocation this year is the context for the demanding practice of co-existence, as University leadership and members of the Western Divestment Coalition encampment continue their conversation, like students, activists, colleges and universities in so many places. You can read about Western’s response here.

Encampments to protest the war in Gaza and institutional investment strategies have arisen across North America. The legal, political and social issues around property and free expression are thorny—and being considered in court in several places—and the geopolitical context is demanding. At FIMS, our goal since last Fall has been to communicate with faculty, staff and students and to convene academic events to address the issues in the most pluralistic, inclusive and scholarly way we can. We cannot reconcile long conflicts and their reach into University life, but we can do what we do best: examine, talk, read, sustain a dialogue across often heated circumstances and deep vulnerabilities, and protect space for the full University community. I am grateful to the FIMS community for generosity and commitment.

Since our 25th Anniversary event at TIFF in late January, we’ve undertaken a lot, fueled by the warmth and enthusiasm so many of you brought to that occasion. We’ve appointed accomplished journalist and teacher Chris Arsenault to lead our MMJC Program, and have jointly appointed Dr. Katelyn Esmonde, from the Berman Institute of Bioethics at Johns Hopkins University, to chair the Health Information Science program we offer with the Faculty of Health Sciences. We continue to adjust our approach to teaching journalism and communications in ways that recognize news industry career losses amid a greater-than-ever need for evidence-based storytelling with a conscience. We are equally broadening theoretical and applied instruction in Health Information Science to develop well-informed, ethical and professional capacity for a health sector driven by so many information demands among citizens and practitioners.

Our Creative Arts and Production program, offered jointly with the Don Wright Faculty of Music and the Faculty of Arts & Humanities, is in full swing, and we’ve just been approved by the University Senate to develop an on-line MLIS program to be offered alongside our top-ranked, on-campus program. With professors Heather Hill and Pam McKenzie’s leadership and the participation of our truly creative LIS faculty colleagues, the on-line program is taking shape around the principle of access, including geographical access in and beyond Canada and the financial, physical, and cognitive access that an on-line program offers. We have long been wary of on-line MLIS development, though interestingly it was the delivery of courses remotely during COVID that convinced us that on-line instruction can offer advantages for many prospective students that our residential program does not. As we build and prepare to launch the program, we will carefully broaden our LIS pedagogy along the way.

Our scholar-teachers and students are doing remarkable things, which you can keep up with on our website, and we know our alumni are equally doing remarkable things. Alongside our new Development Officer Susannah Gergich, whom some of you have met, it remains a highlight of my work as Dean to be in conversation with FIMS, the Graduate School of Journalism, and the Graduate School of Library and Information Science alumni. You can read Alumni Stories here. With Susannah, I look forward to continued opportunities to speak with you. After last January’s success, we will likely convene an annual opportunity for alumni to gather in the GTA. Until then, I am truly open to hearing from you individually (lhende44@uwo.ca) about queries and ideas you may have.

Warm wishes for the summer and more as Fall approaches,

Lisa Henderson