Dr. Samantha Brennan has been reappointed dean of the College of Arts (COA) for a five-year term.

The decision follows a review by a committee of faculty, students and staff led by Dr. Gwen Chapman, provost and vice-president (academic). The effective renewal date is Jan. 1, 2023.

Head and shoulders photo of Dr. Samantha Brennan. She is wearing a black blazer and a purple and red scarf. She is standing in front of a white wall.
Dr. Samantha Brennan

Thanking the committee members for their work, Chapman said, “I’m delighted that Dr. Brennan will continue to provide strong leadership and advocacy for the College of Arts as well as University-wide.”

Since beginning her appointment as dean in early 2018, Brennan has fostered innovative and inclusive academic programs at both undergraduate and graduate levels, said Chapman.

Brennan led the creation of a major in sexualities, genders and social change and a graduate collaborative specialization in sexualities, genders and bodies, as well as major and minor programs in culture and technology studies.

She also led faculty members, notably Dr. Kimberley Francis and Dr. Jade Ferguson, in the development of a new interdisciplinary minor in Black Canadian studies. Set to launch this fall, the program promotes student engagement with community organizations including the Guelph Black Heritage Society.

The programs in Black Canadian studies and sexualities, genders and social change are a joint initiative of COA and the College of Social and Applied Human Sciences.

To coordinate cross-campus collaborations in those and other initiatives, the COA has appointed a new director of interdisciplinary programs.

“These initiatives enable students to explore advanced concepts relating to human identity, embodiment and self-expression, and to learn about the role of culture and creativity in an increasingly digital world,” said Chapman.

“Under Dr. Brennan’s leadership, the College of Arts and U of G are providing students with critical insights and strengths that will equip them to navigate and lead change as graduates.”

Supporting students transition from school to work

Brennan said that focus on graduate career success is reflected in COA initiatives including the new Guelph Arts Apprenticeship Program, co-op programs in history and French, and numerous experiential learning opportunities for arts and humanities students.

“We’re interested in ensuring support for students as they make the transition from their undergraduate arts education to the workforce,” said Brennan.

More than a dozen new faculty have joined COA in the past five years. Brennan said the college plans to hire yet more faculty members and increase faculty diversity to align with U of G’s hiring initiative to encourage diversity and inclusivity in teaching and learning.

She said the college will seek further support for projects including the Arts Research Centre, a new performing arts space in the MacKinnon Building that opened this summer. The facility will be home to live events and activities including theatre and music as well as improvisational events and studies run by U of G’s acclaimed International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation. An official launch event will take place in early 2023.

“I’ve been very happy and pleased with how much we’ve accomplished even with the pandemic,” said Brennan, who led development of the college’s first-ever strategic plan. “There’s a real energy and enthusiasm for the arts here, including connecting with students through theatre, music, experiential learning in history. There’s a lot going on.”

Chapman said Brennan has prioritized hiring and mentoring of junior faculty, enhanced students’ experiential learning opportunities, and served on numerous University committees and the decanal team – all while continuing her teaching and scholarship.

An award-winning professor, researcher and arts and humanities advocate, Brennan joined U of G in 2018 from Western University, where she chaired the Department of Philosophy. An expert in women’s studies and feminist research, she studies moral and political philosophy, especially contemporary normative ethics and feminist ethics.

This month, Brennan will join a group cycling from Toronto to Montreal for a charity fundraiser for the Toronto People With AIDS Foundation. As in past years, the group will cycle 660 kilometres over six days; they aim to raise $1.5 million this year.