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.

The end-of-term rush

The end of the academic year is coming and now everything seems to be moving at fast-forward speed. Let’s all take a collective breath as I report on recent developments at NSCAD.

Natasha

Natasha Hope-Simpson with the prototype prosthetic that she helped design. (Eliot Wright Photo)

Last weekend, NSCAD’s Institute of Applied Creativity hosted the Seaport Maker Symposium. I was delighted to meet Natasha Hope-Simpson, the inspiring young NSCAD grad who gave the keynote address along with Kendall Joudrie and Jourdan Davok from Thinking Robot Studios in Truro and Mike Fanning from NovaCAD Systems. Natasha has been able to turn around a life-altering experience into something creative and energizing; she talked about her desire to design a prosthetic for her left leg that would be both functional and beautiful and the collaboration that made it possible.

Dr. Kenn Honeychurch and I recently visited the Nova Scotia Community College’s Leeds Campus to formalize new joint programs between our two institutions in film and photography. NSCC President Don Bureaux and I signed some paperwork, posed for photographs, and made it official. The two new jointly offered programs allow students to complete a two-year diploma program at NSCC and then finish a BFA at NSCAD in two more years.

These “two-plus-two” arrangements will make it easier for students to transfer from NSCC to NSCAD for a different, more flexible approach to post-secondary education that bridges the college and university systems. Dr. Honeychurch is already discussing other synergies between our two schools and we will also be making announcements soon regarding joint programming with other Halifax universities.

NSCC NSCAD signing

NSCC and NSCAD will offer “2+2″ programs in film and photography, in addition to the one already offered in design. Front row: NSCC president Don Bureaux, NSCAD president Dan O’Brien. Back row: Ian MacLeod, NSCC Acting Dean, Applied Arts and New Media, Rosalind Penfound, NSCC VP Academic, and Dr. Kenn Honeychurch, NSCAD VP Academic and Provost. (Matthew Madden Photo)

Finding alternate ways to enter NSCAD was one among many subjects discussed during the Strategic Planning Committee’s weekend retreat held recently in Lunenburg. I wasn’t able to attend myself, but I understand more than 40 people did and that it was an intensive and productive session. And now the dialogue continues. Coming up on Wednesday, April 9, members of your Board of Governors will be serving up fresh waffles to students, staff and faculty. At the same time, they’ll be open to your ideas for improving NSCAD –  so bring those ideas along with your appetite to the Port Campus, second floor, anytime between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. See you there. (FYI – I like my waffles slightly crispy, not overcooked, with fruit on the side.)

Discussions regarding the kind of NSCAD we all want and how we get there are also being raised as candidates for my successor are on campus this week. The process is still rather contained at this point, but suffice to say, key members of the NSCAD community are getting a chance to meet the candidates for NSCAD President and ask questions. Following the visits to campus by the candidates, the Presidential Search Committee will convene, consider feedback from those who met the candidates and make a recommendation to the Board of Governors. Stay tuned.

On Wednesday night after class (my wife Valerie and I are auditing Survey of 19th Century Art), I was able to catch the reception at Attica for all the folks involved in last fall’s very successful Dine by Design East event. Through the design showcase and gala event, $20,000 was raised to create a scholarship fund at NSCAD in memory of Amber Harkins, a former editor and creative director at East Coast Living magazine. On behalf of NSCAD, I would like to express my appreciation for this significant gift which is a wonderful tribute to Ms. Harkins’ creative spirit. Dine by Design East will be held again this fall and build on last year’s success.  Mark your calendar: the Dine by Design East Gala is set for October 9, with public viewings October 10 to 12 at Olympic Gardens.

Dine by Design

Proceeds from last fall’s Dine by Design East event went to create a scholarship fund for design students at NSCAD. Here, Patty Baxter, publisher of East Coast Living magazine, gives Michael LeBlanc, chair of the Design Division, the cheque for $20,000. Also pictured are Dine by Design East founders Suzanne Saul and Jonathan Legate.

Here are more events coming as we charge toward the end of term:

  • NSCAD Public Lecture Series with artist Spencer Finch. Friday, April 4, 7 p.m. in the Bell Auditorium.
  • In the Offing, an exhibition of NSCAD Foundation student art work, at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. Opening reception, Tuesday, April 8, 5- p.m. (The image used above of the Peggy’s Cove lighthouse is by NSCAD student Janeva Faircloth.)
  • Keen, the NSCAD Interdisciplinary Design Show. Friday, April 11, 7 p.m. at NSCAD’s Institute of Applied Creativity.
  • The Master of Design Exposition. Monday, April 14, 5 p.m. in N400, North Block, Granville campus.
  • End-of-term film screenings. For Film 1 & Film 2 – Monday, April 14, 6 p.m. at Park Lane. For Film 3 & 4 – Thursday, April 17, 6 p.m. Both at Park Lane. Admission by donation.
  • NSACSW/NSCAD Poster Design Project in support of Women’s History Month. Tuesday, April 15, 11 a.m. at NSCAD’s Institute of Applied Creativity.
  • Wearable Art Show. Thursday, April 17, 8 p.m. at the Marquee Ballroom. Admission $10.
  • NSCAD Fashion Show. Saturday, April 19, 8 p.m. at the Port Campus. Tickets $15, $10.
  • Starfish Student Art Awards Gala. Thursday, May 1, 7 p.m. at the Port Campus. Tickets $75.

Autumn update

It’s been awhile since I last made a post—so let’s get right to it.

So hard to decide! They were all so interesting.

Hungry Bowls

Students in the ceramics department did a terrific job with Hungry Bowls, the fundraiser in which you buy a bowl of delicious soup and get to take home the bowl. Approximately 250 people took in the event on Thursday, Oct. 25, many of whom bought extra bowls when they just couldn’t decide on one. More than $7,000 was raised for Adsum House and Hope Cottage. Many people need to be thanked for this wonderful event—the students, the staff and faculty, as well as the restaurants which so generously donated soup and bread.

Enrolment

After the usual fluctuation in enrolment numbers, I can now report the following: our full-time undergraduate has decreased by 26 students or -3.3 per cent. Our graduate enrolment has increased by two students (29 total) or +7.4 per cent. Our total full-time enrolment, undergraduate and graduate, stands at 797, which is 24 fewer students than last year, or a 2.9 per cent decrease.

Visa student enrolment presents a more positive picture. We registered 28 more students than last year or a 31.1 per cent increase which is the highest percentage increase in the Atlantic region. We now have 118 visa students at NSCAD.

Interestingly, our full-time first year enrolment is up by 16 students or 13.9 per cent. This increase is offset by a decrease in new transfer students—down 16 students.

Comparatively, NSCAD did relatively well this year. Undergraduate enrolment in the Atlantic region was virtually flat (.4 per cent increase). Seven universities recorded decreases with full-time students and eight regional universities recording decreases with part-time students. In both cases, NSCAD’s decreases were not the worst.

Of the 16 regional universities, only five universities recorded increases in full-time first-year enrolment—with NSCAD reporting the highest increase.

In summary, we missed some targets and exceeded others. In the months ahead, we will give priority to refining and increasing our recruitment efforts with the aim of reversing overall trends and expanding opportunities in areas in which we have experienced growth.

Framework for Sustainability

We are still awaiting decisions from the Department of Labour and Advanced Education on several fronts, including support for early retirement incentive funding; a cost/benefit study on affiliation with either Saint Mary’s University or Dalhousie; and a thorough space utilization study.

With luck, we should have clarification from the Province on these issues by early November.

Meetings

Over the past month, I have represented NSCAD at numerous meetings and events, notably CONSUP (Council of Nova Scotia University Presidents), AAU (Association of Atlantic Universities), AUCC (Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada) and AICAD (Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design). The latter meeting was very beneficial as I was able to learn of experiences and challenges facing art and design schools across the continent. I was particularly interested in an AICAD initiative which may have immediate benefit for NSCAD. AICAD is in the final stages of a rebranding and communications project which will advance the value of all art and design schools. While developed primarily for an American audience, I can see many applications to our efforts to revise and update our recruitment and communication materials.

Kudos

Range Light

NSCAD professor Kim Morgan won the Masterworks Art Award for Range Light, Borden-Carleton.

Several of our NSCAD faculty members and alumni did very well at the Creative Nova Scotia bash on Saturday, Oct. 27. Professor Kim Morgan, a sculptor and installation artist, won the big prize, the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia Masterworks Art Award for her work of art, Range Light Borden-Carleton PEI. This incredible work is now on display as part of Oh, Canada at MASS MoCA in the U.S.; it was created in the summer of 2010 with the help of a crew of NSCAD students and is an actual latex cast of a decommissioned range light.

Other NSCAD alumni winners on Saturday include: Sandra Brownlee, an RPT appointee in Textiles/Fashion, receiving $3,000 as a finalist for the Masterworks Art Award; Sarah Maloney, who teaches part-time in NSCAD’s Foundation program, recognized with a $5,000 Established Artist Recognition Award; and Thom Fitzgerald, filmmaker and playwright, awarded the $18,000 Portia White Prize.

Rod McDonald and Hanno Ehses, who have both taught in NSCAD’s Design Division, have been recognized as fellows of the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada. Hanno is the former head of the design department and retired in 2010. Rod is a typeface designer who is currently travelling across the country giving a series of lectures on typography. He designed NSCAD’s fonts Granville and Duke.

Movie poster

Jason Buxton's debut feature Blackbird was also a winner at the Toronto and Vancouver filmfests.

Films Gravity and Grace by NSCAD prof. Sol Nagler and Blackbird by Jason Buxton were two of the big winners at the Atlantic Film Festival. Jason Buxton (BFA 2003), who cited the influence of the late Jerry Ferguson in an acceptance speech, won three awards – best director, best Atlantic feature, and best screenplay. Jeff Wheaton won for best cinematography for his work on Gravity and Grace.

Outstanding students Claudia Legg and Halley Davies and several faculty and staff members were honored during the NSCAD Welcome and Awards Reception, held Wednesday, Sept. 26 at the Port Campus. Claudia was recognized with the Lieutenant Governor’s Volunteerism Metal and Halley won the Dean’s Award for Academic Excellence.

Wrapping up

As I close this blog entry, I would like to remind everyone of the fundraising campaigns in progress at this time—namely the 125 Challenge for the Annual Fund and the United Way campaign. Both campaigns are important and deserving of our collective attention.

Until next time,

Dan