5.0 Infrastructure and support

Build our institutional capacities

Dalhousie carries out its mission using a diverse set of buildings, property and other infrastructure across five campuses. That infrastructure represents the biggest asset managed by the university, and the funds for renewal, replacement or expansion of major elements of that asset must be managed strategically in order to efficiently and effectively support the university’s mission.

5.1 Develop a human resource strategy that allows us to attract, support, and reward the best faculty and staff

VP Finance & Admin

Assistant Vice-President, Human Resources (Jasmine Walsh)

(June 2019):

  • 90 % first-choice candidates hired (staff and faculty)
  • Successful launch of Talent Pathways (TP) program providing temporary employment opportunities at Dalhousie for equity-seeking candidates; partnerships established with local organizations including ISANS and Greater Halifax Partnership; growing roster of candidates (currently over 100 screened and pre-qualified candidates at the ready); 12 successful placements to date and more in progress; development of TP program phase two underway focusing on providing career development opportunities for internal equity-seeking candidates, including leadership opportunities, e.g. secondments, acting assignments and other temporary opportunities
  • Continued growth and diversification of leadership development programming, including an updated Supervisory Development Program for early career managers and the launch/completion of first wave of the new Academic Leadership Certificate program, facilitated by Dalhousie Executive Education
  • Establishment of Dalhousie’s Workplace Wellness Grants Program to fund projects that support workplace wellness at the faculty/unit level

Read more about priority 5.1

INFLUENCING: 2.2, 3.1, 4.2, 4.3, 5.2, 5.7


People are the cornerstone of any institution, but particularly at a university. Our ability to fulfill our mission depends critically on our ability to attract, develop, reward and retain the best faculty and staff.

Our annual workplace survey and the 100 Days consultation indicate a number of strengths Dalhousie has as an employer. These include satisfaction with our overall compensation and benefits and people feeling they are treated fairly by chairs or supervisors. The greatest areas for improvement include more regular performance feedback between staff and supervisors and creating opportunities for employee recognition and career development.

The 100 Days consultations identified other areas of concern and desire for potential improvement, including faculty/administration relationships, faculty renewal, status of grant-paid employees and input on compensation and benefits packages. This feedback should continue to guide the efforts of senior administration and the central Human Resources unit as we work to develop a stronger workplace.


  1. Develop strategies and mechanisms to recruit at least 85% of first choice candidates.
  2. Implement a performance development plan by 2017.
  3. Develop a leadership development program to identify future leaders and align with institutional needs.
  4. Increase promotion of internal candidates for leadership roles by 2018 with a particular focus on promoting qualified candidates from under-represented groups designated by Dalhousie’s Employment Equity Policy.

Download the charter [PDF-135kB]


5.2 Foster a collegial culture grounded in diversity and inclusiveness

: President

PROJECT LEAD: Assistant Vice-President, Human Resources (Jasmine Walsh) and Barb Hamilton-Hinch (Assistant Professor, School of Health and Human Performance)

(June 2019):

The fourth annual Be Counted Census was completed November 2018 with employee response rate at 90%; student self-identification information at 71%; since its launch in 2015, 4,413 faculty and staff and 106,407 students have completed the census, including admission applications 

Dalhousie’s Diversity and Inclusiveness Strategy focuses on four primary pillars of campus activity:

  1. Climate and Intergroup Relations
  2. Student Access and Success
  3. Education and Research
  4. Structures – Institutional Viability and Vitality

Highlights from 2018-2019 include:

Climate and Intergroup Relations:

  • Scholarly Panel to examine Lord Dalhousie’s legacy concerning the Black community and Dalhousie University’s historic links to the institution of slavery presented preliminary results in November 2018
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  • Inaugural Mi’kmaq Grand Council flag flying on Agricultural Campus in 2018
  • Mural installed at Faculty of Agriculture recognizing Mi’kmaq territory
  • Renamed River Road on Agricultural Campus using Mi’kmaq language
  • Belong Forum speaker series presenters were signature events in Dalhousie’s 200 Anniversary celebration
  • Angela Davis was featured as the Inaugural Viola Desmond Lecture, with the lecture series to continue annually
  • Articulated commitment to the UN Declaration of the Decade of People of African Descent with related action
  • Worked with African Nova Scotian faculty, staff and students to develop an embedded institutional strategy
  • Developed an independent wellness strategy for equity seeking groups at Dalhousie University where need is identified under the Quality of Work Life Survey
  • Relocated and invested in Imhotep Legacy Space infrastructure; unveiled in Winter 2019

Student Access and Success:

  • Inventory of Educational Equity policies (ie. equitable admission policies) is complete
  • Targeted outreach to African Nova Scotian and Indigenous students and communities with facilitated follow-up processes designed to remove barriers to access implemented
  • Developed video resource for students, faculty and staff highlighting Dalhousie’s EDI commitments
  • Indigenous Student Access Pathway launched September 2018 for first students
  • Revisions are in progress for bursary and scholarship disbursement plans
  • The Black Student Advising Centre has begun work with South House to offer self-care and wellness sessions for students
  • The Bissett Student Success Centre hosted a campus-wide Advising and Social Justice Symposium in 2018 and 2019
  •  Student Affairs is developing a studio course on Social Justice and Advising

Education and Research:

  • Training is ongoing for academic leaders and search committees regarding the importance of diversity considerations in academic career development
  • DFA Collective agreement language was negotiated recognizing diverse ways of knowing, teaching and research
  • DFA Collective agreement language was negotiated to ensure that collegial committees (ex. T&P) are culturally competent
  • Discussions are underway to develop a university-level program for embedding EDI into curricula
  • Embedded into the draft Senate Policy for Faculty-led reviews in academic programs a policy statement relating to reviewing through the lens of diversity and inclusiveness, including curricular content, methods of delivery and assessment of learners’ knowledge and skills
  • MacEachen Institute’s Public Policy Speaker series contains regular EDI content
  • Developed fellowship award for pre-tenure faculty in equity seeking groups; inaugural awards granted to five faculty members in 2018/2019
  • Preparation of procedures document to complement the in-progress Senate Policy for Academic Program Reviews; passed by Senate in December 2018

Structures - Institutional Viability and Vitality:

  • 18 of 22 identified FCP equity gaps have been reduced or closed
  • Developed and implemented working strategy on overcoming barriers to accessing employment; significant outreach work with community groups has begun; database of candidates is developing and first hires have occurred
  • Developed a working strategy to support accessibility of leadership opportunities for designated community members; revisions to the Senior Administrative Appointments Policy are being considered
  • Faculty of Medicine struck a Diversity in Leadership task force to explore professional pathways to leadership position
  • Developed and implemented comprehensive diversity professional development program in all Faculties and Departments;  program has been developed and was approved by the Provost Committee in March 2018
  • Dalhousie’s first Sexualized Violence Policy is complete
  • Dalhousie’s first Gender Affirmation Policy is complete
  • Dalhousie Athletics has adopted the U Sports Policy for Transgender Student Athletes
  • 55 new accessible washrooms have been installed or renovated on Dalhousie campuses
  • Dalplex universal change room and accessible washrooms are now available
  • New position created and hired for Accessibility Planning Specialist
  • Accessibility audit of 3.3 million square feet on Dalhousie campuses complete, with an additional 2.5 million square feet outstanding
  • Created an annual award for individuals, faculties and units who demonstrate commitment to diversity in the Dalhousie community; first annual award was granted in 2018 to Imhotep’s Legacy Academy at Dalhousie’s inaugural Legacy Awards event

Read more about priority 5.2

INFLUENCING: Overriding links with all strategic initiatives, particularly 5.1 and 2.2


Inclusiveness and diversity are inherent in Dalhousie's founding values. However, we recognize that no one action is sufficient and that there is not some moment in time at which we will be able to cease our efforts to foster a culture grounded in diversity and inclusiveness.

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  1. Develop a Diversity Strategy for faculty, staff and students at Dalhousie University.
  2. Track and advance progress on recommendations from the following reports:
    • belong: Supporting an Inclusive and Diverse University
    • The National Truth and Reconciliation Report
    • Report of the Task Force on Misogyny, Sexism and Homophobia in Dalhousie University Faculty of Dentistry
    • Report from the Restorative Justice Process at the Dalhousie University Faculty of Dentistry
    • A Report from the Committee on Aboriginal and Black/African Canadian Student Access and Retention: A Focus on Financial support



5.3 Develop a multi-year, integrated budget

: Provost & VP Academic (VP Finance & Admin)

Vice-Provost, Planning and Analytics (Susan Spence) and Assistant Vice-President, Financial Services (Susan Robertson)

(June 2019):

The maturation of the multi-year planning process has strengthened linkages and integration with strategic plans, resources and infrastructure improvements; infrastructure implications are being considered as university strategic plans are developed, with Faculties and other units encouraged to state infrastructure requirements at least one year ahead of planned projects and Facilities Management to be provided with updated strategic plans at the time of their completion; discussions with Research Services are ongoing to address source of funds for legacy systems and to better anticipate and plan for infrastructure requirements associated with major grant awards.

Read more about priority 5.3

INFLUENCED BY: 5.4, 5.5, 5.6
INFLUENCING: 1.4, 1.5, 2.2, 2.3, 2.5, 5.5


Linkage among the university's academic plans (teaching & research), capital plans and the operating budget is essential to ensure alignment of strategic priorities with resources. An integrated budget is a core component in achieving Dalhousie's strategic objectives and fulfilling our mission of teaching, research and service.

The university anticipates a period of relatively flat enrolment. Securing revenue from government and other sources will continue to be challenging. Balancing the operating budget will require a careful examination of existing and potential revenue sources, as well as cost and productivity improvements.

An assessment of lessons learned and approaches taken by peer universities across Canada and abroad will provide important reference information.


  1. Develop a rolling 3-year integrated budget model that fully aligns with the university's Strategic Direction for the 2016-17 fiscal year.

Download the charter [PDF-137kB]


5.4 Reduce the deficit and stabilize the on-going cost of the pension plan

: VP Finance & Admin

PROJECT LEAD: Assistant Vice-President, Human Resources (Jasmine Walsh)

(June 2019):

Collaborative discussions with employee groups through Pension Advisory Commitee continue regarding changes to the Dalhousie University Staff Pension Plan that would yield a reduction in the amount and/or volatility of contributions.

Read more about priority 5.4



In light of changing demographics, defined benefit pension plans nationwide are facing financial challenges that could worsen in the years ahead. Faculty and staff value Dalhousie's defined benefit pension plan and many also expressed concern about its financial sustainability. The Valuation of the plan as at March 31, 2014 reports a going concern deficit of $68 million (2013 - $84 million). Dalhousie's administration has committed to working with the university's employee groups in a transparent way to ensure that the pension plan is financially stable and sustainable.


  1. Develop recommended plan revisions with the Joint Pension Committee that will reduce the deficit and stabilize the on-going cost to the university of the pension plan by 2018.

Download the charter [PDF-137kB]




5.5/5.6 Enhance our infrastructure with a multiyear capital plan that promotes environmentally sustainable development / Improve the quality and inventory of research and teaching spaces

: VP Finance & Admin

PROJECT LEAD: Assistant Vice-President, Facilities Management (Peter Coutts) and Vice-Provost, Planning and Analytics (Susan Spence) 

(June 2019):

Major projects completed in 2018:

  • Tupper energy performance contract ($13M) May 2018
  • AC Learning Commons ($2M) May 2018
  • Fitness Centre project ($23M) June 2018
  • AC biomass plant renewal project ($26.5M) June 2018
  • Strategic Investment Fund IDEA Projects ($64M): March 2018
    • IDEA Emera Innovation Hub
    • IDEA Design Building
    • Advanced Manufacturing and Ocean Engineering Hubs in C and C1 Buildings
    • Clean Technology Hub in F & P Buildings
    • D Building envelope renewal
    • Related projects – Green Corridor, Collider, Tech and Imhotep

Major projects started in 2018:

  • Fountain School of Performing Arts facilities project  
  • Halifax Thermal Plant Renewal Project  
  • Accessibility audits per Nova Scotia Accessibility Act will be complete winter 2019
  • Multi-year Capital Management Plan started in 2018 will be complete in fall 2019
  • The major work over the past year was completion of a review and revision for deferred maintenance; process will be going to the Board Capital Planning and Facilities Committee in Fall 2019
  • Improved linkages between Faculties and admin units continue to better anticipate infrastructure planning and construction; classroom planning cycle has improved to the goal set to have a 2- to 3-year planning window (apart from the emergency issues that arise

Teaching and Learning Spaces

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Student Experience

  • Expenditures of $8.7M including $1.7M renewal of bleachers and fieldhouse floor in Dalplex; $3.9M in washroom and envelope renewal of residence buildings in Halifax and Agricultural Campuses


  • $3.1M upgrades and renovation to research labs and equipment, including $620k in Cox Building, $1.1M in Tupper Building, and $220k in Dunn Building

Read more about priority 5.5/5.6

(5.5) INFLUENCED BY: 5.3, 5.6
(5.5) INFLUENCING: 1.4, 2.5, 4.5, 5.3

(5.6) INFLUENCED BY: 1.1, 2.5, 5.3, 5.5
(5.6) INFLUENCING: 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.5, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, 2.5, 3.1, 4.2, 4.3, 5.3, 5.5


The university's infrastructure represents the largest asset managed by the university. The funds for operation, renewal, replacement or expansion of major elements of that asset must be managed strategically in order to efficiently and effectively support the university's mission.

Given the age and physical condition of our campus, and the need to provide a supportive environment for our academic mission, it is clear that Dalhousie will continue to make significant investments in physical and IT infrastructure in the years ahead. The challenge is defining the priorities and obtaining the financial support for them.

While the Campus Master Plan guides the university's long-term planning, a 5 to 10 year capital plan for buildings, grounds, heating and cooling systems, and IT infrastructure is required. The capital plan will align our academic and research priorities, fit within our financial realities and debt capacity policy and support our sustainbility objectives.


  1. Update the capital project program annually.
  2. Develop a draft multiyear capital plan in 2015 to be finalized by 2016-17.

Download the charter [PDF-135kB]


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Teaching Space: Traditional teaching space is broadly the purview of the Classroom Planning Committee, with an ongoing Room Quality Index assessment process to provide a baseline of quality of teaching spaces. The incorporation of new and evolving concepts of teaching spaces is essential.

Student Learning Spaces: The physical environment has a strong influence on student learning. Outside of the formal teaching spaces, students require environments that promote reflection, discussion or group work, and provide informal gathering space where students can interact with other students and faculty.

Research Space: Research space is currently managed largely by Deans, who have the primary responsibility for the provision and management of the space. Funding is provided from a wide variety of sources, many of which are one-time in nature. Measures to better coordinate research activities and facilities are proposed in the Institutional Framework for the Support of Research which is the basis for Strategic Priority 2.5.

Standards, such as COU averages, are published for both research and teaching spaces in terms of quantity. Established quality standards are more difficult, particularly in the research area, although the Room Quality Index is useful for traditional teaching spaces.


  1. Improve teaching and student learning space quality and quantity to established standards by 2018.
  2. Improve research space quality and quantity to the standards established in the Institutional Framework for the Support of Research.

Download the charter [PDF-140kB]


5.7 Improve the effectiveness and efficiency of administrative and operational processes aligned with our academic mission

: VP Finance & Admin

PROJECT LEAD: Director, Internal Audit Services (Margaret Sterns)

(June 2019): 

  • Online grant paid payroll form launched April 2019, with video instruction; improved process will ensure pay is accurate and on time and will reduce time required from researchers, departments, research accounting, academic staff relations and payroll
  • Time required to recruit and hire NSGEU 99 employees will be significantly reduced by removing redundant steps and inspections and by providing tailored training on standard process and resources
  • Elapsed time required for academic program proposals will be reduced as the processes for assessment by Finance, ITS, FM, Library and Centre for Learning and Teaching are clarified, process flow improved and standard criteria for assessment established
  • Number of internal experts has increased and capacity for process improvement in Dalhousie’s service units continues to grow through training and coaching employees in Dalhousie’s Lean Process Improvement methodology
  • Seven process improvement projects introduced (Facilities Management Budget Development, Variance Reporting and Monitoring; Procurement Card; Arts Centre Rental Client Payments; Energy and Utility Budget Development, Variance Reporting & Monitoring; Research Financial Account Opening; Classroom Renewal; and Standard Form Research Contracts) that will improve quality, remove complexity and work to deliver service that meets customer expectations, enabling leaders and process owners to engage their employees in a meaningful way to improve service, facilitate co-operation between units, motivate and build momentum for positive change

Read more about priority 5.7

INFLUENCING: 5.1, 5.3, 5.5


Dalhousie needs effective and cost efficient administrative and operational processes to support the core mission of teaching, research and service to students, faculty and staff.


  1. Establish cyclical and systemic reviews of administrative services.
  2. Improve “customer” satisfaction in service areas by 2018.

Download the charter [PDF-133kB]