A new memorandum of understanding between the University of St. Michael’s College, the University of Toronto, and the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies (PIMS) heralds a renewed spirit of collaboration, says Dr. David Sylvester, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of St. Michael’s College.
“This is much more than a piece of paper,” says Sylvester, who adds that having St. Mike’s Mediaeval Studies program, PIMS and U of T’s Centre for Medieval Studies all located in one city makes Toronto North America’s centre for research and study in the field. “[The MoU] reflects a new commitment from St. Mike’s to work with PIMS and U of T, and it opens doors to exciting possibilities for new cooperation.”
Dr. John Magee, who signed the MoU on behalf of U of T’s Centre for Medieval Studies (CMS), agrees.
“This is a starting point for future building and development,” explains Magee, who is a member of U of T’s Classics Department and the Collaborative Program in Ancient and Medieval Philosophy, as well as a Senior Fellow at PIMS. He assumes the role of Director of the Centre for Medieval Studies this coming July.
The five-year memorandum formally expresses a commitment on the part of the three signatories to work together to further engage with the mediaeval period through research, teaching, and publication. While each party remains distinct, the agreement suggests possibilities such as joint academic seminars or colloquia, as well as scholarly collaboration. It also notes that the PIMS library collection will continue to be housed in the John M. Kelly Library at St. Mike’s.
As a repository library with rare, non-circulating works, the PIMS library draws students from around the world to study everything from paleography to Latin, notes Sylvester.
Annual meetings will see the three parties discuss areas of mutual interest, opportunities for further engagement, and operational issues.
The agreement comes as the undergraduate Mediaeval Studies program, delivered at St. Mike’s as a sponsored program from Faculty of Arts and Sciences, is flourishing, and Sylvester notes that PIMs has “welcomed our undergrads with open arms,” inviting them to be part of the PIMS community.
Other natural “cross fertilization” sees PIMS’ Mellon Fellows teaching undergraduate students at St. Mike’s, for example, while PIMS has offered teaching and office space to St. Mike’s professors and students, adds Sylvester.
“This document summarizes the historic tripartite relationship between PIMS, St. Michael’s, and U of T and reflects people’s intentions going forward,” says PIMS Praeses (president) Dr. Richard Alway. “It builds on relationships in new ways and can be developed further.”
The first humanities research institute in Canada, PIMS was founded under the auspices of St. Michael’s and the Basilian Fathers in 1929, and was decreed a pontifical institute in 1939, notes Alway. From 1958 to 2005, it was a graduate school and research centre within St. Michael’s, but governance changes at the university saw PIMS establishing independent status to maintain its standing as a pontifical institute.
In addition to its world-class library, which Alway labels “a jewel, a centrepiece of our research,” and the post-doctoral Mellon Fellowships, PIMS also hosts a vibrant publishing program which produces about ten scholarly works a year, he notes, all added draws for mediaeval scholars.
“These are exciting times. St. Michael’s remains committed to undergraduate mediaeval studies, and students are attracted to what our professors and our supportive community can offer,” says Sylvester. “Our continuing goal is to build even more synergy with these important partners, precisely at this time when students and society are rediscovering the importance and the beauty of studying the humanities.”