The University of Toronto’s Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education will launch a series of initiatives to enhance the graduate student experience.
The initiatives include an immediate increase in PhD minimum base funding and an expansion of graduate student support programs such as professional skills development and peer-mentorship.
“The quality of graduate education, both practice and research-based, is one of our strengths that we continue to be committed to advancing,” said Ashley Stirling, who is vice-dean of academic affairs at KPE and an associate professor, teaching stream.
“The increase in PhD funding is a first step in a list of initiatives that are underway to further advance graduate education in the faculty.”
PhD students in the funded cohort will receive over $1,000 more in their minimum base funding, to $25,490 from $24,460, in 2018-19. The change will take place immediately and current PhD students will see this top-up in their accounts by the end of the term.
In addition to the increased financial support going directly to students, KPE is investing more broadly in graduate student education and support through the expansion of student counselling across all graduate programs.
“We continually seek additional ways to support the academic success of our graduate students,” said Wendy Pais, director of student services at KPE. "In the near future, this will include the provision of peer mentorship and professional skills development through embedded learning strategists, career educators, accessibility advisors and health and wellness counsellors.”
The planning of these initiatives is underway and has been constructively influenced by feedback received from graduate students and representatives of the graduate society.
“Students will really appreciate the additional financial support. It shows the faculty recognizes and cares about the financial burden of its PhD students,” said Jessica Caterini, president of the KPE graduate society.
The peer mentorship program will tap into the leadership skills of current graduate students at KPE to help build a diverse, inclusive and welcoming community for incoming graduate students, introduce new graduate students to various resources at KPE and U of T and support them as they transition to graduate studies at the university.
“We understand how important PhD student success is to our faculty’s research goals and objectives,” said Luc Tremblay, KPE’s associate dean of research.
“These initiatives are priorities that align with the strategic objectives in our faculty’s academic plan to educate and graduate a diverse student body who will go on to become productive leaders and contributors in their fields, and to strengthen recognition and productivity in research, scholarship, innovation and creative activity.”
Meanwhile, Professor John Cairney, director of graduate studies at KPE, said the global relevance of kinesiology and sport and exercise sciences is reflected in the QS World University Rankings by Subject, which recently ranked U of T's sport-related disciplines sixth in the world for the second time in a row.
“We are proud to be able to recognize the education of graduate students across a breadth of disciplinary areas in the field of exercise sciences as a strength of our faculty,” Cairney said, “and we look forward to seeing the significant improvements these investments will make in their graduate school experience.”