As my term as Dean of Osgoode Hall Law School is set to end tomorrow, I feel an enormous debt of gratitude to so many. I have experienced extraordinary support – more than I could do justice to in a single blog post. So, consider this just scratching the surface of the thanks that are due!
Often, Deans are associated with initiatives at the Law School during their term – at Osgoode, all the initiatives that have mattered (and will matter) over the last 8 years have been collective and collegial enterprises.
To begin with, I cannot think of a major advance in legal education at Osgoode that did not have students at its heart. The shift to experiential education; the focus on accessibility and inclusion; embarking on the journey of Reconciliation, new clinics and institutes, the broad engagement with research that matters, all have been driven by the passion of Osgoode’s students. Students were at the table designing the Income Contingent Loan Program, led the Osgoode@125 campaign for debt relief, and it was our Osgoode Indigenous Students Association leading the transformation of Hart House behind the Law School building into Skennen’kó:wa Gamig, and so many other projects and initiatives in every aspect of the life of the Law School.
I have enjoyed the experience of working with remarkable faculty colleagues. Some taught me when I was a student at Osgoode (luminaries like Mary Jane Mossman, Bruce Ryder, Alan Young, Kent McNeil, Brian Slattery and others), others went through Law School with me at Osgoode (including Stepan Wood and Fay Faraday), and some I had the pleasure to teach or get to know when they were students or supervise when they were TAs (Sonia Lawrence, Sean Rehaag, Amar Bhatia, and Jennifer Nadler, among others). It has been especially sweet, as Dean, to welcome over 25 new faculty members to Osgoode (including four terrific colleagues about to start this July). In part due to this faculty renewal, Osgoode reached gender parity on faculty for the first time in 2016, and is well on its way to reflecting the diversity of Canadian society in other respects as well. Many of the most ambitious changes that have occurred at Osgoode during my time as Dean – like the shift to an experiential curriculum highlighted by the “Praxicum” introduced in 2012, or the “Indigenous and Aboriginal Law” element just approved this Spring – reflect the vision and strength of Osgoode’s faculty leadership.
Beyond the Osgoode community, I also have felt kinship with and have received support from so many in the York community, from Presidents and Provosts, to other VPs and Deans, as well as the staff and leadership of many other divisions and offices at the University. I also have benefitted from the invaluable esprit de corps among the other Canadian Law Deans.
One of the singular pleasures of the Dean’s role is the daily contact with and reliance on superb staff. The staff community defines the Law School commitments to professionalism, excellence and warmth. I’ve had the pleasure to work with so many remarkable staff colleagues over the years, from those I saw every day in the Dean’s Office to those working at our downtown Osgoode Professional Development campus, Student Services, Law Library, Clinic, Centres, Institutes, IT and Executive Office communities. As assistants, coordinators, directors, program lawyers, counselors and managers, each member of Osgoode’s staff have played an indispensable role in the Law School’s success.
Deans also forge special and invaluable bonds with Law School alumni – many also contribute as adjunct faculty, mentors, Alumni Board members, but all inspire shared pride in their accomplishments. I was deeply inspired, for example, by our Black Law Students Association’s “A Celebration of Black Excellence” in which the students created a “graduating class” composite consisting of the pictures of every Black law graduate from Osgoode between 1900-2015, and by the South Asian Law Students and alumni who came together to mark the centenary of the Komagata Maru in 2014. The celebrations with alumni of the opening of the renovated Osgoode building, the Law Schools’s 125th anniversary and the 50th anniversary of Osgoode’s affiliation with York University all were highlights. Attending events to bring together our alumni not only took me to every corner of Canada but also to New York, London, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Delhi, Jerusalem, Sydney, Auckland and many other places where Osgoode’s graduates are making a difference. Finally, our Alumni Board and advisory councils over these last eight years have been unwaveringly supportive of Osgoode’s aspirations and have given back in so many ways that lift the Law School and extend our reach.
Serving as Dean of Osgoode Hall Law School unquestionably has been the high point of my career – the debt of gratitude I owe is one I hope to honour in all my future endeavours.
I like to tell each incoming class at Osgoode on the opening day of Law School to leave their community better than they found it. I hope I can say that about my role at Osgoode over these past 8 years, but I know can say with complete confidence that the Osgoode community, and the experiences I have had in this role, have left me better in every sense of the word. And for that, as for so much more, I am grateful!