"Dr. Dickinson encourages me to take risks in how I approach my subject of study, such as working across fields and learning new topics."

PhD candidate, Carolyne Clare

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2019 Award for Excellence in Supervision: Peter Dickinson

October 07, 2019

Professor Peter Dickinson joined SFU’s Department of English in 2002, before moving to a joint appointment with the School for the Contemporary Arts in 2015. He is now a full-time faculty member in Contemporary Arts, where he serves as Graduate Program Chair. He is also an Associate Member of the Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies.

Dickinson has many qualities that make him an extraordinary supervisor. However, there are three that particularly stand out when graduate students and staff speak of him: he possesses an ethics of care; he is accessible before, during and after a student has completed their degree; and, he has a strong sense of academic rigour.

Demonstrating an ethics of care, Dickinson is generous with his time and energy when helping students, including PhD candidate Carolyne Clare.

“Dr. Dickinson encourages me to take risks in how I approach my subject of study, such as working across fields and learning new topics. His feedback is always prompt and complete which makes evident his genuine interest in my learning and progress,” shares Clare.

His benevolence extends beyond his students, and towards others around him:

“Peter was not my supervisor when I began my PhD, but we lived near each other and would often see each other during our commute, and chat on the bus or train. When he saw that I was struggling to find a sure footing at the beginning of my degree, he began to mentor me informally,” says Dr. Heather Latimer, who later became Dickinson’s student.

Dickinson further shows his dedication by remaining accessible to students. He is open, thorough, and timely – even after his supervision period has ended.

Dr. Alana Gerecke, postdoctoral fellow, shares that Dickinson “reads and responds to papers, chapters, proposals, etc., in record time; offers valuable and detailed feedback; facilitates introductions that broaden professional research networks; and always does so with humour, grace, and wit.”

“And, despite the fact that our formal supervisor/supervisee relationship ended over two years ago, he continues to guide my career as I search for an appropriate job posting,” continues Gerecke.

His most recent PhD graduate, Dr. Kelsey Blair, also speaks about Dickinson’s quality of feedback:

“He is both aware of and transparent about the administrative components of degree completion; he understands the paperwork, completes it in a timely fashion, and communicates potential opportunities and challenges well in advance of deadlines. Most importantly, Dr. Dickinson's turn-around time for feedback and revision is beyond reproach. He has never taken more than two weeks to get me feedback on chapters and has, on occasion, retuned edits as quickly as three days later,” says Blair.

Beyond his character and commitment, Dickinson also possesses depth of knowledge in his field. Dr. Clint Burnham, Professor and current Graduate Chair of the English Department, admires his academic rigour:

“Specifics of Peter’s work range from mentorship and fine-grained responses to dissertation chapters and writing; they include aid with grant and job applications including coaching, reference-writing, strategizing and  encouragement; all of this work conducted from a place of absolutely rigorous intellectual knowledge in queer and gender and performance studies in particular; but also conducted — and this comes up again and again in the students' letters — with an impeccable ethics of care, of caring for the student as a whole person,” says Burnham.

“Dr. Dickinson has been a superb supervisor of graduate students. He is a credit to my department, he is a credit to our university, and he is a credit to the profession.”

The 2020 Dean of Graduate Studies Awards for Excellence are open for nominations. Deadline for nominations is March 15, 2020.