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.

King's

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.

Announcement

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.

An opportunity for emerging artists

Looks like the Province of Nova Scotia is catching up to us. It’s just announced that it will bring in a new February holiday starting next year and the first occasion will honour Viola Desmond. In succeeding years, Nova Scotia students will suggest a permanent name for the new holiday and give ideas for the next 12 people to be honored.

Anna Leonowens would be a good choice—just a thought.

In any case, I trust our staff had a relaxing NSCAD Day. And, I hope our students have a safe and productive study break.

I wanted to tell students about some of the efforts we’ve made to lessen the impact of the closing of Seeds Gallery. The gallery, which serves students and alumni, will close on March 31.

We’ve signed an agreement with Art Sales and Rental Gallery, the commercial gallery associated with the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. The Hollis Street gallery is very open to carrying the artwork of NSCAD students and a new website will make that even easier. Recently, Mark Bovey, chair of Fine Arts, Rory MacDonald, chair of Craft, and I met with Andrea Smith, the gallery’s executive director, and a few of its dedicated volunteers, who are all very enthusiastic NSCAD supporters.

With its new website (yet to be launched), the gallery will be able to carry up to five pieces per student. Artworks can be in a variety of media, including sculpture, ceramics, painting, prints, drawings and textiles. All the work submitted goes before the gallery’s Accessions Committee for acceptance. If sold through the gallery, the student would receive 65 per cent of the purchase price, with the gallery getting the remaining 35 per cent.

Students who are interested in taking advantage of this opportunity should get in touch with ASAR by email (asar@gov.ns.ca) or make an appointment to drop by in person by calling 424-3087. For further information, see the gallery’s Guidelines to Submit.

I want to thank Art Sales and Rental Gallery for already being so supportive of student and alumni artists. The gallery is now hosting an exhibition by three young alumni—Jimy Sloan, Hangama Amiri and Samantha Battaglia. All three artists have been artistic residents with our NSCAD Community Studio Residencies; in fact, Samantha is now a resident with the Lunenburg program. Their show is called This is the Canadian Earth and it’s on display until the end of the month. It’s a beautiful show, which arts reporter Elissa Barnard reviewed in The Chronicle Herald last week.

We’ve been also talking to other local galleries about carrying student work and we are working on organizing a large show and sale of art and craft by students and alumni at the end of the fall 2014 term for the Christmas gift-buying season. We’ll have more details on that as the time approaches.

Senior administration continues to work on peeling back assumptions contained in the space utilization study to assist the Board of Governors in reaching decisions on optimizing space at our three campuses. Meanwhile, the consultants working on the affiliation study are in the final stages of preparing cost scenarios for affiliation with either Saint Mary’s University or Dalhousie University. Recall that our Board has stated that affiliation will only be considered if there are demonstrated cost savings in the short- and long-term futures. Finally, stay tuned for important calls for input by your strategic planning committee led by Board vice chair Julia Dexter and announcements of a short list from our Presidential Search Committee.

In the meantime, I wish all good health and energy to push into the second half of the academic term.

Winter painting

The image used in the header above is a detail from “Winter, Northwest Arm” by Elizabeth Styring Nutt. Painted in 1927 while she was principal of the Nova Scotia College of Art, Miss Nutt had only recently changed the name of the school from the Victoria School of Art and Design and given the school a new motto, “Heart and Head and Hand.” (Elizabeth Styring Nutt,” Winter, Northwest Arm,” 1927.  Oil on canvas, 63.6 x 76.1 cm, Collection of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. Gift of Robert L. Stanfield, Ottawa, Ontario, in memory of Mary Hall Stanfield, 1979)

 

 

 

Fall into fall

Now that the new academic year is well underway with the inevitable whirl of start-up activities behind us I thought I would take to my blog to bring you up to date on recent happenings.

First, here’s a recap of September’s special events. My office has been involved in the following events: Welcome event for new students; welcome reception for new international students; faculty and staff long service ceremony; external meetings with the Council of Nova Scotia University Presidents, Association of Atlantic Universities, MOU meeting with NS University Presidents and the Provincial Government.

I also attended the announcement of the finalists for the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia’s Masterworks Art Award—congratulations to the three finalists: Steve Higgins, NSCAD part-time faculty, for his sculpture, Beyond the Terminating Vista; Jason Buxton, NSCAD alumnus, for his feature film Blackbird; and 2b Theatre for the play When It Rains. You will recall that NSCAD professor Kim Morgan was the winner of this prestigious award last year.

I also attended two major fund- and friend-raising event. The first, ROAR: An Art Auction for NSCAD, was entirely organized by our dedicated folks in University Relations. I will not repeat the details on the event, as you have already received full debriefings from communications, except to say this was a premier event which exceeded our expectations in every way. All around it was a great evening for NSCAD. Thanks again to the folks in University Relations, the artists and the cast of volunteers who gave generously of their time and talent to showcase the university.

Karen Koppernaes’ body language demonstrates the excitement of live bidding during ROAR: An Art Auction for NSCAD. (Steve Farmer Photo)

The second event was also special—a dining and design extravaganza called Dine By Design East. This event, which encompassed both public viewings and a gala evening, selected NSCAD as the benefactor for the event in memory of Amber Harkins, the former creative director at Metro Guide Publishing. NSCAD’s room “Unravelled” was curated by recent NSCAD graduate Heath Simpson and featured the President’s Dinnerware Collection, a set of eight different place settings made by eight prominent NSCAD ceramics alumni. For the gala, NSCAD was paired with the restaurant Gio and chef David Woodley; Gio served “unravelled” versions of comfort food staples—wieners and beans, peanut butter and jam sandwiches, grilled cheese and Neapolitan dessert— as you’ve never tasted them before. Spectacular! The food was served on small ceramic tasting dishes that Heath and friends made especially for the evening.

The Gio chefs are kept busy during the gala evening for Dine by Design East on Thursday, Oct. 3 at the Olympic Community Centre. (Marilyn Smulders Photo)

You will know from previous blog posts that we are still awaiting the final completion of the Affiliation Study. Since I wrote last we have finally come to terms with the consulting firm on the work remaining to be done. The completion date is January 31. The space study is complete and will be reviewed by the Board of Governors at a special meeting to be held in early November.

Also on the planning front, the Strategic Planning Committee under the lead of Vice Chair Julia Rivard Dexter has selected the firm Novita, a very experienced group with loads of experience working in the arts and culture fields, to lead the process. Early planning is underway and you should expect more detailed information on the approach which will be used. Briefly, the approach will contain numerous opportunities for input and advice from our various stakeholder groups as we attempt to fashion our future vision together. All combined, we have a very busy fall planned so stay tuned.

On the staffing front I am happy to report that our Academic Dean Dr. Christine Holzer Hunt has returned from sick leave and is easing back to full duties. Welcome back Christine. Jason Blackburn, with the Office of Research Services, remains out on sick leave as does Linda Hutchison, director of University Relations, who only recently became ill. We wish Jason and Linda speedy recoveries.

Finally, we have been advised recently that Fran Cameron, Senior Secretary for Governance will be retiring at the end of October. While her announcement came as a surprise I am sure everyone will join me in wishing Fran, a major player at NSCAD, our very best wishes.

Talk soon,

Dan

Let’s go for a coffee

As we move into the summer season, I thought you might be interested in hearing about what has been on my plate.

First, we are rapidly closing in on the completion dates for our two major studies—the Affiliation Study and the Space Study. Much of my time has been devoted to providing information to the consultants and reviewing briefing updates. As you know, these studies will require important consideration and decisions by NSCAD. Accordingly, I expect that we will be convening information and discussion opportunities with internal stakeholder groups towards the end of the summer. Please stay posted.

DeWolfe

I had the pleasure of meeting Judith Rickard and Jean Hogan recently. Their dear friend, Joan DeWolfe, bequeathed half her estate to NSCAD. The significant gift provides endowed funding for graduate scholarships and support for youth to participate in Extended Studies programs.

Second, upon receiving funding from the Province, we will be posting an RFP for consultants to lead a comprehensive re-visioning and strategic planning exercise through the fall. Like the prior item, this will be a significant undertaking for NSCAD and will include participation opportunities from all our stakeholder groups.

Speaking of an RFP, Impact Communications was the design firm that was successful in winning the NSCAD rebranding project. The funding for this project, which relates specifically to student recruitment, comes from a significant donation received last year by an anonymous donor.

Design student Brittney Annand received first honorarium at the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission’s Art and Design Exposition, which took place at CASHRA’s National Human Rights Conference at the end of May. Congratulations to the students and professors involved in this impressive project.

Third, a small task for the Board of Governors has been finalizing bylaw resolutions necessary to operationalize board governance changes. These changes consist of reducing the number of standing committee through consolidation, greater specificity of committee mandates, and reporting protocols. The intention is to make the changes at the AGM in September.

Aside from these major files, I have been very busy on the representational front, attending numerous meetings and public events and talking to people about NSCAD and the significant progress we’ve made.

I intend to be on site for the summer and would enjoy having coffee with anyone who reads this blog. I am interested in hearing more of the day-to-day responsibilities and challenges faced by members of the community and receiving any advice you wish to share. Please feel free to call or to drop by the office to schedule a time to meet.

In the meantime, I wish you all an enjoyable and safe summer.

Yours truly,

Dan

Wood mayhem

This room-sized sculpture by NSCAD part-time faculty member Steve Higgins is on display at Mount Saint Vincent University Art Gallery until the end of July.

A report on reports

I want to bring you up to date on the status of the two Requests for Proposals (RFPs) which were a component of our Framework for Sustainability (PDF). As you will recall, the Province of Nova Scotia agreed to fund the studies late in November.

The RFPs were posted in early December and attracted eight submissions. Following careful vetting, the firms ATN Consulting Inc. and Educational Consulting Services were selected and both are in the early phases of their work.

To oversee their work, we have established a liaison committee. Representing NSCAD on the committee are: myself, Acting President; Sharon Johnson Legere, VP Finance & Administration; Kenn Honeychurch, VP Academic and Provost; Sarah Trower, President, SUNSCAD; Professor Glen Hougan; Board members Ian Austen and Ross Cantwell. Representing the province on the committee are: Ava Czapalay, Senior Executive Director Higher Education; and Nancy Vanstone, consultant to the Department of Labour and Advanced Education.

Here’s a bit more information on the studies. The Space Utilization Study being conducted by ECS will examine two sets of questions we need answered. First, how much space does NSCAD require given our existing program mix? Do our three campuses adequately serve our space requirements? Secondly, could either of our potential partner universities accommodate new construction on their campuses sufficient to satisfy NSCAD’s needs should affiliation occur and assuming the Granville Campus will no longer be used? I should mention that ECS is very familiar with our type of educational institution, having done most of the spatial studies for art and design universities in Canada.

The second study, A Feasibility Study to Explore an Affiliation Between NSCAD University and Dalhousie University or NSCAD University and Saint Mary’s University, will be done by ATN Consulting Inc., a local firm with solid credentials and familiarity with each of the universities with which we are exploring affiliation potential.

I know that even the mention of the word “affiliation” conjures up negative associations for many. However, I should remind you that we have been obligated by the Province through the Windsor Report (PDF) to be open to exploration of enhanced collaborations with local universities.

In signaling its openness to explore closer relationships, the Board of Governors placed numerous conditions on the type of relationship that could be explored. Specifically, the proposal identifies the strategic option to be explored is: “to fully investigate opportunities for affiliation with Dalhousie University or Saint Mary’s University which does not adversely affect NSCAD’s academic, financial and governance sovereignty.” Furthermore, this mandate is qualified by 18 conditions which must be adhered to in the investigation.

I know there has been much confusion around the terms “collaboration,” “merger,” “amalgamation,” and “affiliation.” These terms mean much different things. The only form of closer association between NSCAD and the other two universities being investigated in this study is affiliation. We believe that this is the only form of institutional realignment which will protect NSCAD’s autonomy and independence.

I invite you to look at the terms of both studies:

Please note that the heart of both proposals begins on page 22. The first 21 pages contain tender specifications.

I addition to the two RFPs, I am making another report mandated by the Province available for your reference. All of Nova Scotia’s universities were expected to prepare this report using a common template of seven overarching questions in which to describe its hopes and aspirations for the future.

The Bilateral Report: Institutional Outlook (PDF) was submitted to the Province on January 31, 2013 and represents the work of senior academic and administrative officers of the university who worked tirelessly to meet the tight deadline.

As always, your comments are invited.