Not much time this week… rushing to catch a plane shortly, another set of meetings on the mainland
October 14th, 2011

Not much time this week… rushing to catch a plane shortly, another set of meetings on the mainland. Will the Air Canada flight attendants be especially surly because they have been prevented from taking job action? I wouldn’t blame them.

October is always busy. It’s as if we keep ourselves manically overworked in order to keep the darkening days and attendant mood at bay. You can smell the cold air coming off the sea now, and it’s only a matter of time before we are changing back to winter tires. You can spot the international students at this time of year by their down-filled coats and their wool caps pulled down beyond their ears. They ain’t felt nothing yet! Offsetting the inevitability of the changing seasons is the Thanksgiving harvest and the imminent silliness of Halloween—satisfying rituals that keep the spirits buoyant and stomachs well lined.

On the graduate studies beat things are always busy. We held our annual graduate officers information session this week. It’s important to keep everyone apprised of the big picture. Enrolment is up again, well above the national average, and so we like to boast about that news, to congratulate those programs that are committed to more growth and worry those that might be shrinking somewhat. We also wanted to send the message that we are encouraging January admissions, to keep our momentum. Increasingly, departments are able to welcome students in the winter semester. Some have never even considered breaking out of the September enrolment box, but that view, as with so much these days about recruitment, is changing. Another key message is that our budget is in good health. We are aiming especially to attract more doctoral-level candidates to Memorial. A new initiative, a Dean’s Award, offers an additional $5000 a year for up to 4 years to incoming applicants who qualify with high academic standing. The mood seemed bright and no one complained, and so we are feeling pretty optimistic in the School of Graduate Studies right now, falling leaves and darkening days notwithstanding.

Someone who must be facing the season with a bright attitude is colleague Dale Kirby who was just elected this week to the house of Assembly as the autumn orange-themed NDP member for St. John’s North. Kirby is based in the Faculty of Education, but I vividly remember him from the days when he was regional leader of the Canadian Federation of Students and spoke so effectively about reducing tuition fees. He was relentless in a quietly forceful way, and so here is today, embarking on a whole new career path. His attentiveness to higher ed issues can only be healthy for debate in government. His success also shows you what can happen when you get a PhD. You might just end up in the House on the Hill. We wish Dale all the best…and  happy orange autumn.

Dr. Faye Murrin is Dean pro tempore of the School of Graduate Studies and Associate Professor in the Department of Biology. She completed her B.Sc. (Hons.) at Memorial University, her M.Sc. at Acadia University, and her Ph.D. at Queen's University. Her research interests have always been focused on fungi, in particular the cell biology of insect pathogenic fungi and, more recently, the ecology of mycorrhizal mushrooms in the boreal forest. Dr. Murrin has served in a number of positions on the Council of the Mycological Society of America and was awarded the title of MSA Fellow for her contributions. She was awarded the Women in Science and Engineering Lifetime Membership Award as founding co-director of the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Summer Program. Dr. Murrin participates in public lectures and workshops, and is a Director on the board of Newfoundland Foray, Inc.

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