Plyley aims to keep momentum going in Grad Studies

Michael Plyley

Michael Plyley

Michael Plyley only has to walk a few feet from his office to see an example of Brock’s commitment to research and graduate studies.

The Faculty of Graduate Studies office is a short jaunt from the Cairns Family Health and Bioscience Research Complex. In a few steps, the new Dean of Graduate Studies can look out on the $111-million project that will house research space for various Brock researchers, and ultimately help recruit some of the country’s top graduate students.

It’s not just the additional bench space it brings for researchers and graduate students, he said. It’s the concept – one that promotes interaction and the exchange of ideas amongst researchers from various programs.

“It’s a relatively small pool of talent we’re after, so we need to be competitive,” Plyley said. “Investments in research facilities and space for graduate students are hugely helpful in this regard. Future graduate students are also attracted to an institution that is committed to their overall development and provides opportunities for the academic exchange of thoughts and ideas from all disciplines.”

Plyley assumed his new role on July 1, taking over for Marilyn Rose, who was in the position for seven years. Prior to this, he was Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies in the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences.

Graduate studies is nothing new for Plyley, who has served as an associate dean of graduate studies somewhere – whether at Brock or for his former employer, the University of Toronto – since 1998.

“I’ve been running a graduate program for a good portion of my career,” he said.

That career began in 1979 as an assistant professor in the Department of Physical Education at Ball State University in Muncie, IN. He returned to Canada in 1980 and spent 20 years in research and faculty posts at the University of Toronto.

He first came to Brock on sabbatical in 2000, when he investigated the feasibility of establishing a centre for aging and mobility at Brock. He returned to Toronto after his sabbatical, but Brock made an impression on him.

“The building and expansion process was just starting, but I could sense the energy,” he said. “It seemed like there was an opportunity to be part of building something of consequence to the development of the University.”

He came to Brock as an Associate Dean of Applied Health Sciences in 2001. With his colleagues, he helped build the existing Faculty, nurturing new researchers and working for grants and lab space.

But his love of graduate studies, and seeing graduate students flourish, drew him to his new position.

“There’s always been something about training and mentoring future faculty and researchers that excites me,” he said.

Drawing the country’s top graduate students to Brock will require the development of additional scholarships and research infrastructure, he said. That’s where the Cairns Complex comes into play. He sees graduate studies as taking an increasingly visible role at the University.

“As we continue to grow as a comprehensive university, graduate studies is going to be at the forefront,” he said. “The research that graduate students do with their supervisors will go a long ways in developing our reputation and our comprehensiveness.”

Plyley’s wife Gail is a family doctor in Oakville. They have two children, and his son David graduated from Brock last year with a degree in Community Health Sciences, and is training as a paramedic. Daughter Kate begins PhD studies in law at University of Victoria in September. Plyley’s research involves capillaries, which are the smallest blood vessels in the body, and their functional relationship with muscle fibres in health and disease.

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