Arts & Science Program welcomes new director

Circular headshots of Jean and Beth on a white background.

Beth Marquis, right, began her five-year term as director of the unique ArtSci program on July 1, when longtime director Jean Wilson, left, completed her tenure.

One of the university’s unique programs has welcomed a new leader as its longtime director, Jean Wilson, completed her tenure after 12 years.

Beth Marquis, who has been a part of the Arts & Science program for the past decade, began her five-year term as the new director on July 1.

“I feel honoured to succeed someone like Jean Wilson, who accomplished so much over her time as director,” Marquis says.

“She was successful not only in growing the program, but also in building an engaged and collaborative community of students, faculty and alumni that extends far beyond our campus.”

McMaster’s Arts & Science program is recognized for producing graduates who go on to become leaders in a remarkable array of fields around the world, which is a reflection of Jean Wilson’s creative leadership over the years, says Susan Tighe, provost and vice-president (Academic).

“It is great to welcome Beth Marquis as the next director,” Tighe says.

“Her familiarity with the program, with students and alumni will help preserve the engaged community that has contributed so much to the program’s success.”

Arts & Science was established in 1981 with the goal of providing students with a broad-based, interdisciplinary education in sciences, social sciences and humanities. That pioneering approach set the stage for much of the cross-discipline collaboration seen at McMaster today.

“There was an understanding of the need to bring together multiple epistemologies, methodologies and perspectives to tackle the major challenges affecting us around the world,” Marquis says. “Arts & Science prepares students to work across a range of fields as engaged and informed citizens.”

The program has an enrolment target of 72 students and Marquis says her goal as director will be to sustain the initiatives Wilson developed, including working with Arts & Science’s varied communities to continue to refine the program’s approach to interdisciplinary, equity-minded, socially-engaged education.

“I’m grateful for the many contributions that Jean Wilson made to the Arts & Science program,” says Kim Dej, vice-provost, Teaching and learning. “She has been a caring mentor to students and to faculty colleagues who taught in the program.

“It will be a pleasure to work with Beth Marquis in her new role and see the program continue shaping students as people and as scholars.”

To Wilson, Marquis’ selection as the next director creates an opportunity to continue developing future leaders with a social conscience, and offers a reassuring transition as she embarks on a year-long research leave, which will centre on projects in comparative literature and interdisciplinary studies.

“The Arts & Science Program has been a major part of my life for 30 years,” Wilson says.

“I’m feeling immensely grateful to have had this opportunity to be involved with the program, to teach and supervise phenomenal students, and to have served as director. It has been an absolute joy.”

Wilson began teaching in Arts & Science in 1992. She was appointed director of the program in 2010, a time when there had been key retirements.

She worked to bring in new faculty, restructure administrative staff positions and collaborate with a wide range of people on curricular renewal. This resulted in the introduction of a fresh slate of courses, including a core first-year offering in Indigenous Studies, new combined honours options in subjects from Music to Sustainable Chemistry, interdisciplinary minors in Sustainability and Community Engagement, and significant research and experiential learning opportunities for students.

Continuing the emphasis of the program on social engagement, Wilson brought in inspiring speakers — many of them alumni of the program — and played a major role in launching the McMaster Discovery Program, a free, non-credit university course for adults in the Hamilton area who want to experience university in a supportive and welcoming learning community.

She also assisted in the creation of the New World of Work Forum, which enables students to understand and communicate their professional value to the dynamic world of work.

Wilson was also instrumental in finding a new home for Arts & Science. In 2017, she garnered support to move the program to L. R. Wilson Hall, a new state-of-the-art facility.

“This was a wonderful move,” Wilson says. “It is a student-focused space that provides opportunities for everyone to gather, work together and get to know each other.”

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