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Vol 38  No 10
February 23, 2006


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Golfman to lead national humanities and social sciences federation

Dr. Noreen Golfman has been named president-elect of the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences. (Photo by Chris Hammond)

More than 25 years after she delivered her first academic paper at a Canadian Federation for the Humanities conference, Dr. Noreen Golfman is now president-elect of the national advocacy body.

Dr. Golfman, a professor of English and the associate dean of graduate studies, says she can draw a line straight from that first paper to her upcoming presidency.

“It was a very important event in my career in terms of entering a community of scholars, which allows one to have a much bigger, much richer conversation than you would otherwise have.”

Over the years, Dr. Golfman has become an active and dedicated participant in the Canadian Federation of the Humanities and Social Sciences. Known for its annual Congress of the Learned Societies, which brings thousands of academics together, the federation represents more than 30,000 scholars in universities, colleges and organizations throughout Canada. Its aim is to foster research and teaching, promote the importance of the social sciences and humanities, and lobby for improved federal support.

Such advocacy has become even more important, Dr. Golfman said, in a climate where arts faculties have been hit hard by retirements, shrinking resources, and a school of thought that suggests their contributions are less relevant than science, engineering or medicine.

“The social sciences and humanities represent a majority of the professoriate in Canada, but you’d never know it from the amount of attention or funding we receive,” she said, adding, “There is such a push on the disciplines to increase activities and train people for the so-called ‘knowledge economy.’ It puts huge pressure on universities to deliver, and raises a question of how to do that without increased funding.”

A principal role of the federation is lobbying for federal funds, whether in the form of provincial transfers earmarked for universities or research support for the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the federation’s main financial supporter.

Dr. Golfman said the impact a Conservative government could have on levels of support is still unclear. In the weeks ahead, a conference on post-secondary education will bring together provincial and federal government players and provide a starting point for engagement.

Beyond funding, several other issues are boiling on the federation’s front burner as Dr. Golfman prepares to take the reins. Helping new scholars learn the ropes as they step into a pressured environment (“Some universities do a better job of this than others. Memorial is good at it,” she said) is one federation initiative. Another is the development of an endowment fund to help end the federation’s dependency on SSHRC.

In addition, “open access” ­ the shift away from scholarly print publications to the electronic transmission of knowledge “so that any researcher, sitting anywhere in the world, can access it” ­ is an important file, and one in which Dr. Golfman has long played an active role.

Dr. Golfman and the federation have been working to educate the community about its benefits.

Dr. Golfman will succeed Dr. Don Fisher, an educational sociologist from the University of British Columbia, when she begins her two-year term as president in November.

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