Stepping into summer

Here I am, a month later, still finding myself occasionally lost in a strange hallway or stairwell. But I’ve been having a grand time—thanks to everyone for the warm welcome.

I can’t remember ever having so many meetings, but then there’s a lot for me to catch up on. I’ve met with members of SUNSCAD, FUNSCAD, the board executive and senior staff—not to mention donors, government reps and reporters. So you might say I’m rapidly expanding my understanding of NSCAD. It’s been heartening to hear about NSCAD as I’ve been out and about, introducing myself and talking up the university; there’s a lot of interest and goodwill out there for NSCAD and our students past and present.

One of the big things on my plate is the Framework for Sustainability. There’s still been no substantial response from the government, other than ‘go ahead and do what you can do on your own and we’ll examine your proposals in more detail.’ We take that to mean ‘Proceed with Plan A of your Framework for Sustainability.’

NSCAD’s 2012-2013 operating budget, which we presented to the Board of Governors this week, does exactly that. Under Plan A, we’ve been able to trim the operating deficit by almost half—a substantial improvement from the 2011-12 budget which put NSCAD in the red by $2.6 million. We’ve done this by some belt-tightening: by offering fewer multi-section classes and under-enrolled required classes less frequently, imposing a university-wide spending freeze, and not replacing all positions when they become vacant (some, of course, such as the registrar and head librarian will need to be replaced). Other aspects of the budget include a three per cent tuition hike, approved by the provincial government under the MOU with all Nova Scotia universities, and the introduction of three student fees (a facility fee of $45/semester, a technology renewal fee of $50/semester, and a one-time graduation fee of $50.)

One other aspect of the Framework for Sustainability is also going ahead and that is to seek out collaborations with other Nova Scotia universities. We’ve made an application through the Department of Labour and Advanced Education for funding to engage arm’s length consultants to conduct a comprehensive cost benefit study to align closer with Dalhousie or Saint Mary’s. Such a study would compare the academic and research synergies of a closer association, benefits to students, potential facilities improvements and cost efficiencies. I’ll let you know more when there’s news on that front.

Some good news to share: student enrolment in the fall appears to be on par with fall 2011, even a little ahead. As of this point, the number of acceptances (student who have applied and offered acceptance) exceeds the number recorded at the same time last year. However, the number of registrants is down slightly. I’ve asked Kenn Honeychurch, VP Academic, to reach out to those students who have accepted but not yet registered. It certainly speaks to the excellence of NSCAD’s reputation and programs that enrolment has not been adversely affected by all the publicity over the past year. Terry Bailey, the Director of Admissions and Enrolment Services, says he’s been seeing some very strong portfolios and reading compelling admissions essays. I look forward to meeting some of these students myself in the fall.

Some more good news: the NSCAD Alumni Association has some very ambitious plans to celebrate NSCAD’s 125th anniversary in the fall. I invite you to circle the weekend of September 21-23 on your calendar right now. There’s going to be historical exhibitions, a big concert called the “Back to School Special” and a group performance that Linda Hutchison in University Relations has dubbed “ANNAmotion-LOGOmotion” and involves creating Anna Leonowens’ likeness on the side of Citadel Hill. Not sure how that’s going to work, but I sure am interested to see it happen. Members of the alumni association had their Annual General Meeting on Wednesday, June 27 and I took the opportunity to meet with them.  Afterwards, I popped in next door where a reception was being held to congratulate Eleanor King, acting director of the Anna Leonowens Gallery, as a finalist for the Sobey Art Award. I am continually humbled by the accomplishments of NSCAD faculty, staff and students; what an amazing place this is.

So that’s it for now. Enjoy the summer weather whenever it gets here!

Notes from the fourth floor

Greetings,

Welcome to my blog. I’ve never had one before but I thought this might be a good way to introduce myself and let you know what I’ve been up to since I arrived at NSCAD University about three weeks ago.

Did I say three weeks? The time has flown by as I’ve become more acquainted with ongoing issues at the university and met with stakeholders both on and off campus.

In saying hello, I must bid adieu to two important members of our NSCAD team: Laurelle LeVert, NSCAD’s Registrar and Director of Student Services, who is taking a position at the University of New Brunswick, and Tanja Harrison, University Librarian, who has already started at Mount Saint Vincent University. All the best to you both — you will be missed here at NSCAD!

There is, of course, one big file that is getting my attention and that is NSCAD’s Framework for Sustainability, which was prepared for the Department of Labour and Advanced Education at the end of March. In the coming days and weeks, I will be re-examining the plan in consultation with senior staff and the Board of Governors to decide how to proceed while we await the government’s official response. Some aspects, however, are already in play. You may notice that the university is getting some new tenants at the Granville campus; that is part of a plan to bring in new revenue by maximizing the campus’s rental potential.

I’ve arrived at a wonderful time for the university. NSCAD has been getting some terrific exposure in the media for two events in particular: Artist for a Day which happened on the Halifax waterfront on May 12 and the opening of Oh, Canada at MASS MoCA (the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art) in North Adams, Mass., on May 26th weekend. I’ve heard nothing but raves for Artist for a Day, which turned into such a great family event for Halifax. No doubt some of the kids who had their hands in clay, hammed it up in front of the green screen or watched the steamroller press a print that day will be applying to become NSCAD students in a few years.

NSCAD should be justly proud of its representation in Oh, Canada, the largest exhibition of Canadian contemporary art north or south of the border in years. One-third of the artists and curators at the show have NSCAD connections—which speaks to the university’s incredible role in shaping generations of artists and critical thinkers.

“I remember when I was in college, in grad school, I remember hearing about this place called NSCAD,” said Oh, Canada curator Denise Markonish, in an interview with CBC Radio. “So when I started doing the show and I discovered it for myself, (I realized) what an amazing legacy this place has had. It’s unbelievable that a college like this exists that has bred generation after generation of phenomenal artists. I’m really proud of having all these NSCAD connections here.”

Linda Hutchison, director of University Relations, alumni & development, tells me it felt like old home week at MASS MoCA since there were so many familiar faces there, including alumni and faculty members past and present. I should mention that Linda was able to organize an alumni event during Oh, Canada’s opening weekend through the generosity of NSCAD board member Rob Dimitrieff (BFA 2003). A big thank you to Rob. I wasn’t able to make the opening myself, but the show will be up for almost a year so there’s plenty of time to make plans for a visit.

As for this blog, I hope to update it regularly and let you know what I’m up to. Throughout the summer, I hope to meet with faculty and staff in small groups to introduce myself and to find out more about the programs at NSCAD. I’ve got a lot to learn and I want to listen to what you say.

In the meantime, if you see me in the hall or in the elevator, please say hello. I’m the guy in the suit (at least until July). Or, come up to the fourth floor anytime. I’m looking forward to meeting you.

Until next time,

Dan