A fresh start


Professor Dianne Taylor-Gearing

While the calendar tells us that January is the beginning of the year, for many of us in academia, September is our fresh start. The sketchbooks are clean and bright and those white pages beckon to be covered in creativity. Classes begin and we scan the room looking for familiar faces.

At NSCAD, this is the time when we see folks looking bewildered and lost, gazing at that map beside the elevator as if it’s an Escher drawing. At least that’s what I’ve heard, because I’m new here too, NSCAD University’s 21st President effective August 4, 2014.

I’ve been having lots of meetings and introductions to help get up to speed. I’ve sat down with Board Chair Grant Machum, several members of the Board of Governors, the executive of SUNSCAD and members of the NSCAD Alumni Association at their annual general meeting. I even had an interview with Don Connolly on CBC’s Information Morning; I hope my excitement about being here came through! I do hope to get acquainted with everyone here at NSCAD in the days and weeks to come. Please don’t feel shy about coming by and saying hello; just poke your head in if you see my door open or arrange a time with Stephanie Willan.

You may run into me during Orientation Week; SUNSCAD has a full slate of activities planned to welcome new and returning students and I’m delighted to be a part of it. Some of the highlights include: airport pick-up on Saturday, Aug. 30 and Sunday, Aug. 31 and a student orientation presentation and campus tours on Tuesday, Sept. 2. Later in the week, there’s a Halifax Gallery Tour and the Granville Block Party, both taking place on Saturday, Sept. 6. (Click for the full list of activities.)

This feels like the start of a very special academic year at NSCAD, thanks in large part to Margaret and David Fountain and their $3-million investment in NSCAD. This gives us a much-needed boost of confidence—not to mention the funds—to go forward and make improvements on our old and character-filled downtown campus. Get ready to hear a lot more about this in the weeks to come.

A big welcome to Dr. Ann Barbara Graff, also new to NSCAD. Dr. Graff is NSCAD’s new Dean and you can find her office on the third floor (Duke), Academic Affairs and Research.

As I wrap my first blog post as President 21, I’d like to say thank you to Dr. Daniel O’Brien for his tremendous contribution to NSCAD over the past two years. Thanks to him also for starting this blog as a way of keeping in touch with the NSCAD community near and far. I commit to continuing the communication and use it as one of the ways to get to know me as we move our university forward together.

Very best,

Professor Dianne Taylor-Gearing

Robert Frank

Coming soon: Robert Frank, Books, Films, 1947-2014 opens the fall season at the Anna Leonowens Gallery from Sept. 6 to 12. This image comes from the cover of his seminal book The Americans.


Also in September: From the Collection of Haruko Watanabe: MEISEN, an exhibition of kimonos from 1930s-1940s Japan, is being organized by Nancy Price and Naoko Furue. These boldly patterned and vibrantly colored kimonos and haoris are on display Sept. 16 to 27 at the Anna Leonowens Gallery. (Photo by Nancy Price)

A fond farewell

As this is my last blog post before I take my leave, I thought it fitting to recount the many changes at NSCAD over the past couple of years as we collectively addressed our financial management and enrolment challenges. If I had to list in order of importance the accomplishments we have shared the list would look something like this:

1. Virtual elimination of operating deficit – This was made even more significant as our move toward gaining financial stability occurred during a time when provincial grants decreased by 10 per cent and tuition revenue decreased by an almost similar amount.
2. Debt Reduction – We were able to allay concerns over the size of our debt by demonstrating that by simply servicing our debt it reduces by $1 million per year. Simple tables projecting debt reduction for several years forward provided the Province with the evidence we were making progress.
3. Government relations – By demonstrating good stewardship in reducing our annual deficit; by meeting all report requirements (which incidentally were frequent and numerous); and by introducing strong management controls, we were able to gain the confidence of our provincial partners.
4. Media relations – The shift from negative to positive treatment by the media has been most apparent and most beneficial.
5. Internal governance Improvements – Our new board governance structure has resulted in greater operational clarity, focus and efficiency in board operations.
6. Major consultant-led studies – We have successfully completed two major consultant studies: Space and Affiliation. Both studies have great consequence to the future of NSCAD and provided the Board with evidence-based information on which we were able to chart our future with confidence.
7. Strategic Plan – While behind schedule (on track now), the ultimate outcome will prove very beneficial in informing future directions and priorities for NSCAD.
8. Labour relations – We have successfully negotiated collective agreements with all unionized employees without work disruption, and we continue to enjoy good relations.
9. Presidential and Academic Dean searches – We have concluded two national searches for these important positions with great success. The attraction of many fine candidates for these important leadership positions is yet another indication of our improved status within the university community.
10. Academic programs – We have completed external reviews of all academic programs. When processed, the review findings will be very helpful in the consideration of important program refinements.
11. Enhanced program collaboration – We have added or are in the process of adding many new programs in cooperation with Nova Scotia Community College, University of King’s College and other local universities.
12. Student recruitment improvements – With the assistance of specially earmarked donor funds, our registration and admissions personnel have introduced numerous robust strategies to augment our recruitment efforts.
13. Institute of Applied Creativity – IAC, while still experiencing growing challenges, has been successful in securing significant government grants, hosting significant events and forging important partnerships.
14. Groundbreaking capital donation – The recent generous donation from Margaret and David Fountain is significant for two reasons. First, the gift will allow NSCAD to make significant improvements to the Granville Block (now Fountain Campus). This solidifies our earlier decision to declare our intention to hold onto this historic site for the foreseeable future. Second, the donation conveys confidence in NSCAD’s future as Atlantic Canada’s only exclusive art and design University.

All in all, I believe NSCAD has its worst days behind it and can, with renewed and justly warranted confidence chart a future rich with potential and greatness.

Please allow me to close on a note of appreciation and thanks to all in our community – Board of Governors, faculty, staff, students, and alumni for their collective welcome and support to me, an outsider, during my stay. In particular, I wish to acknowledge the support and assistance provided my most immediate administrative team.

It has been a pleasure, frustrating and exhausting at times, but always rewarding.


Here I am with Kelly Toughill, Director of King’s School of Journalism, and Dr. George Cooper, President of the University of King’s College, after signing a Memorandum of Understanding for a new collaboration. Eliot Wright Photo.


A great day for NSCAD: Margaret and David Fountain pledge $3 million to NSCAD and our historic downtown campus is named “Fountain Campus” in appreciation. Eliot Wright Photo.

Here's a picture of myself and my wife Valerie with a painting by Professor Alex Livingston. This photo was taken the same day the Board of Governors considered the Affiliation Study and resolved to keep our autonomy.

A picture of myself and my wife Valerie with a painting by Professor Alex Livingston. This was the same day the Board of Governors considered the Affiliation Report and resolved to keep our autonomy. Eliot Wright Photo.