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2016 Award for Excellence in Supervision: Ron Wakkary
We're delighted to profile the winners of the 2017 Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Awards for Excellence in Graduate Studies. Ron Wakkary receives an award for Excellence in Supervision.
When it comes to graduate supervision, Dr. Ron Wakkary goes above and beyond the expectations for support. He has made himself available to all his students within his innovative Everyday Design Studio. To facilitate a creative and collaborative environment, Dr. Wakkary has forgone his own office space out of preference for sitting with his graduate students.
Dr. Audrey Desjardins, former graduate student, now Assistant Professor at the University of Washington, explains, “The Everyday Design Studio is set up as one studio with one large table in the center of the room, with all the graduate students working around that table. Ron does not have a personal office, rather he sits with us in the studio. This layout is meant to encourage collaboration, discussion, and casual interactions between all the students and Ron.”
This arrangement has received much praise. “Not only does this social configuration afford a close and strong working relationship between supervisor and graduate student, it generates a critical and collaborative culture among all graduate students inhabiting this space,” says Everyday Design Studio co-director Dr. William Odom. “Through this approach, he is able to create a culture of open communication, hands-on collaboration, and critical reflection.”
It has also seen much success, as the open office space allows Dr. Wakkary to hold frequent group meetings with his graduate students where they can each discuss what they have been working on. This allows students to give and receive feedback, as well as share ideas with one another and explore different perspectives. As one of his current graduate students says, “[Dr. Wakkary's] accessible, open personality makes him an exemplary supervisor”.
It is clear that Dr. Wakkary cares aboute engaging with his students. He says, “I’ve very rarely seen graduate supervision as a task or a job. Rather it has been a daily opportunity to intellectually and socially engage with a very select group of talented individuals.” Dr. Wakkary has published over 75 articles with his students, the majority of which are first authored by the students themselves. Many of his former graduate students now hold prestigious positions at universities across Canada, the United States, and Europe.
In addition to supervising graduates, Dr. Wakkary is also the Director of the Interaction Design Research Centre in FCAT, and is a Design United Visiting Professor in Industrial Design at Eindhoven University in Technology.