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.

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.

Where we stand

Please receive this message as my best understanding of the current status of the university with its Framework for Sustainability. By way of background, all or most would know that we have been implementing Plan A of our sustainability plan which was submitted to the Province on March 28, 2012. While the implementation of the plan has not been without difficulty and sacrifice, the results have produced predicted and significant reductions in our operating deficit for the current fiscal year. We have been able to half the deficit projected from where we would be, had we done nothing. You will also know that we have been awaiting a decision by the Province to proceed with the implementation of Plan B. This plan is more ambitious and, if implemented, would have allowed the university to achieve almost immediate balanced budgets for the present and foreseeable future.

The principle component of this plan was dependent upon a provincially funded Early Retirement Incentive Plan (ERIP). The plan envisioned phased but manageable reductions in our employee complement by twinning early retirement with a non-replacement of vacated positions. The complement reduction to the plan was to be guided by a commitment to protect program integrity. There were other components in Plan B but this was the principle one.

Now fast forward to January 2013, the Province communicated formally its response to the outstanding requests contained in our sustainability plan. In that letter, it confirmed the following:

  1. Commitment to cover (up to $1.364 million) our 2012-2013 projected operating budget deficit;
  2. By an earlier decision (November 21, 2012), the province agreed to fund the two studies proposed in our sustainability plan—namely, a Space Utilization Study and an Affiliation Feasibility Study. The first study’s aim is to determine the efficiency with which we use our current space and ascertain what our spatial needs would be if we were to leave the Granville Campus. This study would also assess the capability of Dalhousie and Saint Mary’s to accommodate new construction on their respective campuses should we decide to affiliate.

The second study is intended to conduct a thorough, cost/benefit, risk assessment of a potential partnership/affiliation with either Dalhousie University or Saint Mary’s University. Please keep in mind that these studies will not be exploring merger options, a much mentioned fear. Rather, the studies will be conducted in such a manner as to ensure that affiliation options will not adversely affect NSCAD’s academic, financial and governance sovereignty. In other words, any affiliation must ensure that NSCAD retains control over its academic programs and regulations, including the appointment and promotion of faculty, control of its finances, and control over its management through an independent Board of Governors.

New information conveyed in the letter (dated January 10, 2013) stipulates that NSCAD needs to submit a new three-to-five year sustainability plan by March 15, 2013 that includes the following:

  • a financial plan to eliminate the current unsustainable level of debt servicing costs;
  • a detailed plan for how the university will meet current and future needs for office, classroom and workshop facilities on an sustainable basis;
  • a plan to take full and effective advantage of opportunities provided by one or more universities and identified and elaborated through the upcoming affiliation study and facilities review; and
  • a formal commitment by NSCAD Board of Governors to fully implement these elements of the sustainability plan.

The letter also states that decisions regarding new student fees rest with NSCAD, subject to review by the Province to ensure proper student consultations have occurred. Finally, the letter states that increases in tuition fees above the approved three per cent level will be addressed through the MOU process underway with the Province’s universities.

Notable by its absence is the central plank our 2012 Framework for Sustainability – a measured contraction of our employee footprint to be financed through a provincially funded Early Retirement Incentive Program (ERIP). It is important to note that the Province has not officially refused to fund this part of our sustainability plan, but its omission suggests that it is highly unlikely that we will be able to proceed with this part of our plan. However, I have been advised informally that while the government is not interested in direct funding (grant) of an ERIP, they have still not ruled out the possibility of introducing a SOFI loan program, which we would be eligible to apply for to support an ERIP. The savings to our budget with such a plan would be less than if we received a grant but would still be considerable. Please note the Province has not made a decision as yet on the reintroduction of a SOFI Plan. Therefore, while our position is subject to change, until instructed otherwise, this part of our 2012 sustainability plan is on hold.

I also wish to inform you that I have written to the Province to convey my surprise with the apparent shift of focus from the removal of operating deficits to the elimination of our debt. In the same letter, I have asked for further clarification of the conditions they have made for the payment of our 2012-13 operating deficit. As it now stands, the time lines they have set presuppose consultant study results, which are not likely to be available until May.

Essentially, this is my best read of the situation as I understand it. Unfortunately, the situation is still very fluid and subject to change as we receive more clarification from the Province. I will endeavor to keep you informed as I receive clarification. In the meantime, we will continue to “stay the course” with Plan A, which has allowed us to meet budget targets for this year. The executive committee of the board will meet at the end of this week to formalize its response to the aforementioned letter from the Province. As well, we will consult the community as best we can as we develop a debt reduction plan as requested by the Province by March 15, 2013 – a daunting task.

Yours truly,
Dan

P.S. I intend to outline for you details surrounding how NSCAD is currently funded, including the grants we receive from the Province. I know it is part of popular belief at NSCAD that we are under-funded by the Province and all we need to do to remove our deficit is to demand larger grants from the Province. I hope to share with you some facts that will dispel that belief.

Best wishes for the holidays and end of term

As the first semester comes to a close I thought it timely to take the opportunity in this blog to extend to all readers, faculty, staff, students, board members and alumni good wishes for peace, happiness and relaxation with family and friends over the holiday season.

I know this has been a trying year for all in the NSCAD community.  We have experienced more than our fair share of uncertainty and unwelcomed and sometimes critical public scrutiny. Despite all this, we have managed to continue to attract top-notch students and deliver the high-quality, unique programs for which NSCAD has gained its enviable reputation. Moreover, given our small size, we have a disproportionate share of students, faculty and alumni winning prestigious awards and recognitions compared to other universities in the Atlantic provinces.

On the planning front, we are making progress, albeit painfully slow progress, in winning government support for our Framework for Sustainability.  Two components of the plan, namely a thorough cost/benefit analysis of affiliation and a detailed space utilization study, have been funded and consultants are actively being sought.  I am in the process of establishing oversight/liaison committees to work with the consultants. These committees will be composed in such a fashion as to have representation from all our significant internal stakeholders groups. In the meantime, we are still awaiting government approval of the other components of the Framework for Sustainability’s Plan B.

I recognize that important sectors of our internal community are not supportive of the framework, but frankly, the Board of Governors and I have not as yet received a single alternate proposal which would allow NSCAD to return to fiscal balance. The government, our principle funder, has made it abundantly clear that they do not intend to fund our operating deficit indefinitely.  Nor do we win friends in the public arena for systematically failing to operate within our means. To achieve savings, we must change current expenditure patterns. The status quo is not an option, nor are proposals which would result in increased expenditures. The Board believes that changes can be made without fundamentally damaging our ability to offer high-quality core programs. NSCAD Administration and the Board of Governors are committed to implementing the plan in a fashion which ensures such protection.  The Board and I also recognize that we will need to invest more time in attempting to explain the imperatives of the plan and to be open to compelling options; that’s our work for the next semester.

I realize I have strayed into heavy subject matter when my original intent was simply to extend holiday wishes. But I know these important matters are on everyone’s minds, so I thought it disingenuous not to address them.

Best wishes to all,
Dan

 

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

Celebrating Anna’s legacy

I have to tell you the truth. Before I arrived at NSCAD, I couldn’t tell you who Anna Leonowens was, much less pronounce her name. I still stumble over it.

But this weekend, our 125th anniversary celebrations really heat up with a suitably arty tribute to Anna Leonowens, founder of the Victoria School of Art and Design (now NSCAD). The alumni association has enlisted a veritable army of volunteers—students, alumni, faculty and friends—to put Anna’s face on the side of Citadel Hill. Called “ANNAmotion LOGOmotion,” this image of Anna will be created in 572 giant hand painted squares. It’s based on the portrait of Anna by Robert Harris, which is in the collection of the Confederation Centre Art Gallery and has recently arrived at our own Anna Leonowens Gallery for the historical art exhibition opening on Friday.

Anna Leonowens

This portrait of Anna Leonowens will be on display as part of the exhibition Presence at the Anna Leonowens Gallery.

Look for Anna’s face to appear on Citadel Hill when the cannon blows at noon.

But that’s not all. After Anna makes her grand appearance, all the pixels will turn over to create the beautiful 125th anniversary logo which was designed by NSCAD grads Akshay Tyagi and Harry Olsen. Then, the participants will make their way down Duke Street to Granville Mall for another appearance of the 125th anniversary logo and a big group photo. Sounds fun!

In the evening, Granville Mall will transform into a concert venue. East coast performers Buck 65, Matt Mays, Ria Mae, Ghettosocks, Tanya Davis and Acres & Acres are performing and CBC Radio Host Craig Norris is hosting. General admission tickets are $30 and VIP tickets are $125; they’re available online at http://125nscad.eventbrite.ca/  All the proceeds go to NSCAD’s Annual Fund.

And while you’re here at NSCAD on the weekend, make sure to visit the Anna Leonowens Gallery. There will be three anniversary-related exhibitions on display: Presence, historic views of NSCAD; Corrections by former NSCAD president Garry Neill Kennedy; and The King and I: Reprise, a group show and contemporary art bar. Also going on is the 24-Hour Filmfest taking place at the Bell Auditorium. It starts Friday, Sept. 21 at 5 p.m. with Exit Through the Gift Shop and finishes on Saturday, Sept. 22 with Anna and the King at 3:30 p.m. Here’s the full line-up:

Friday, September 21
5 pm – Exit Through the Gift Shop
6:35 pm – Frida
8:45 pm – Coco Before Chanel
10:35 pm: In the realms of the unreal: The mystery of Henry Darger
12 am: Midnight in Paris

Saturday, September 22
1:35 am: Holy Mountain
3:40 am: Russian Ark
5:20 am: Pollack
7:25 am: Mona Lisa Smile
9:25 – 9:50 am: BREAKFAST WITH Basquiat
9:50 am: Basquiat
10:40 am: How to draw a bunny
1:45 pm: Girl with a Pearl Earring
3:30 pm: Anna and the King

Jodie as Anna

Jodie Foster plays Anna Leonowens in the 1999 film, Anna and the King.

We’re pleased to welcome Anna Leonowens’ descendants who will be coming for the weekend. Anna’s great grandson Louis Leonowens will be joining us from Guatemala City and Anna’s great great grand-daughter Lucy will be coming from San Diego. What a thrill for us to show off to them the school Anna envisioned 125 years ago.

By the way, The Chronicle Herald gave us some magnificent coverage in Wednesday’s paper on Anna Leonowens’ legacy and the weekend’s activities. Reporters Lois Legge and Elissa Barnard did tag-team coverage, with stories “Leonowens gets royal treatment” and “NSCAD plans ANNAversary weekend festivities.”

I must express my appreciation to everyone who has pitched in with the planning and to the performers who are so generously donating their time and talent to our school. Thanks so much.

That's McCain scholar Meaghan Bissett and me at the opening of First Impressions. The exhibition continues at the Port Loggia Gallery until September 30. (Eliot Wright Photo)

September is certainly busy around here. I met many talented scholarship winners at the opening of First Impressions on Sept. 5 and attended the ceremony to designate the Granville block as a national historic site on Sept. 13. Upcoming  is the Faculty and Staff Welcome and Awards Reception on Sept. 26. It starts at 11:45 a.m. at the Port Campus. See you there.

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