I am honoured to have become President of the Academy of Arts and Humanities at the end of the COEE meeting in Calgary, November 2022. The last month has brought an additional change for me, in that I am now seconded from York University to be interim President and Vice-Chancellor of Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario. Thus I am now writing to you from the traditional lands of the Atikameksheng Anishnawbek, and the city of Greater Sudbury includes the traditional lands of the Wahnapitae First Nation.
I would like to thank my immediate predecessor, Dr. Julia Wright from Dalhousie University, for her tireless work over the last few years on behalf of this Academy and indeed the whole RSC. She was instrumental in the recent major and modernizing revisions of the RSC by-laws, as well as the RSC’s extensive public engagement around COVID-19, in addition to being an exemplary President of this Academy. I count on the fact that she will continue, beyond the next year during which she will serve as Past President, to be deeply involved in this Academy, the RSC more broadly, as well as advocating for the role of the Humanities and the Arts not only in our institutions of higher learning but also in contemporary society as a whole.
The RSC has an excellent new strategic plan for 2023-2025, Next Steps, Together, which I encourage you to read. There are three priorities to guide us: Inclusive Excellence, Independent Expertise, and International Engagement. RSC-wide initiatives in Inclusive Excellence include implementation of the recommendations of the recent Committee on Membership concerning Decolonization, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, particularly those around Knowledge Systems, as well as furthering the At-Risk and Displaced Academics and Artists programme. As part of Inclusive Excellence, I also specifically aim to foster more involvement from francophone scholars, from smaller and more regional universities (something I am now getting much more firsthand experience with), from the newer and emerging disciplines within the humanities, from those primarily engaged in community-based scholarship and from a broader and larger spectrum of those involved in the arts. With respect to this latter, I applaud the RSC’s decision to embark on a three-year pilot project of financial support for unaffiliated artists to attend their Induction Ceremony and to waive their membership fees, in the hope of stimulating more nominations from this group which is under-represented within the RSC. Independent Expertise builds on the huge success of the RSC Task Force on COVID-19 and its partnerships with the Globe and Mail, Canadian Science Publishing, Acfas, and others, to focus on urgent themes, specifically including the new RSC Task Force on One Health. In all these truly interdisciplinary initiatives, the Humanities and the Arts have been very visible, and must continue to be so, as a concrete demonstration of how integral the Humanities and the Arts are to all contemporary issues. International Engagement continues the RSC’s focus on collaboration and knowledge-sharing with our sibling academies around the world, including the “young” academies, crossing disciplines, generations, and national boundaries. All three strategic plan priorities relate to multiple different ways of breaking barriers – all types of barriers wherever they may exist as an impediment to the advancement of the human condition globally.
As Academy President, I serve on the RSC Board and Council. I also chair the Governance and Ethics Committee and serve as the RSC’s Vice-President designate. I look forward to working with all the other members of the Board, Council, Committees and Task Forces, all under the leadership of our President, Alain-G Gagnon. Within our Academy, I oversee the selection process for the next cohort of new Fellows and for the medals and awards for our Academy. In everything it does, our Academy receives exceptional support from the dedicated staff at Walter House in Ottawa.
I welcome your views and comments, encouraging you to write to me at email@example.com. I also hope to meet as many of you as possible at next year’s COEE, in Waterloo, Ontario. The COEE is always a wonderful celebration and unparalleled opportunity to meet colleagues old and new, formally and informally, and to engage in interdisciplinary discussions relevant to the issues and challenges the world is facing.
With best wishes,
Dr. Sheila Embleton, FRSC
President, Academy of the Arts and Humanities