This is my new office. And this is my last blog as dean of graduate studies, for a while, anyway…
September 12th, 2014
This is my new office. And this is my last blog as dean of graduate studies, for a while, anyway. I am in a new space, a new job, a new orientation to the university, but I brought my geraniums with me to remind me of, well, me. Stepping out of the School of Graduate Studies feels weird and a little unsettling, but I am so busy in the new role as Provost and Vice President Academic, pro tempore, that I can’t say I have had a lot of time to reflect on the before and after. I have always argued for change, institutional and personal, and so I better not eat my words. Change is healthy, stimulating, and usually progressive. I embrace it now fully, even while there are some scary moments of sheer overload. I know that the School of Graduate Studies is in good hands and so that’s not a worry. Indeed, the dedicated staff are first class, and will greet the challenge of an increased enrolment this semester with their usual professionalism.
You never know what you’re going to run into…
August 22nd, 2014
I was in Brazil last week, as last mentioned. They are experiencing winter there, but then we’re really talking 20 degree days in Rio, maybe a little cooler in Porto Allegre which is further south. I had a total blast. It wasn’t all work. When in Brazil you have to have their famous BBQ, which is essentially meat with meat. And one spends an inordinate amount of time in taxis. Traffic is hideous. One plans accordingly for meetings, but you never know what you’re going to run into. (more…)
Next week I’ll be in Rio, if all goes well…
August 8th, 2014
Next week I’ll be in Rio, if all goes well. That’s a stock photo above. I hope to have something real to replace it with soon. So this is a little story about what it takes to go there. You need a visa. A lot of people don’t realize that and buy their plane tickets and simply show up at the airport, expecting to be whisked off to Copacabana beach. Wrong. A friend of mine, a dean at another Canadian university, did just that. His staff didn’t know and so no one told him. There he was, smug as a just-picked tomatillo, luggage in hand, his expectant wife by his side. Oh the humiliation, not to mention the crashing disappointment. (more…)
Harbin, China. I’m still not over it…
August 1st, 2014
Harbin, China. I’m still not over it—not just the jet lag but the dizzying density. People, cars, shops, traffic, pollution, rice, rivers, and tigers. Lots of tigers. One afternoon we were taken to a huge expansive Siberian tiger park, where almost 1000 of these beasts roam openly in the middle of the city. Yes, it’s a carefully gated compound and the fences are meticulously controlled. Notice the bus going by as the tigers loll about in the heat. The windows on the buses are caged to prevent any of us from sticking our hands out too far. Picture-taking is a must but as soon as you indicate some flesh through those cages the tigers are keen to pounce. Imagine their boredom. Buses of Chinese visitors were more enthusiastic about feeding the animals. You can purchase buckets of chicken or red meat to dangle for the tigers but that’s a tricky thing to do. You have to avoid your wrist being taken with the meat. We watched a few of these scenes from our own bus and squirmed and squealed with horror at the spectacle.
I really wanted to write a decently long blog this week…
July 15th, 2014
I really wanted to write a decently long blog this week but at this moment I am still scrambling to finish everything I can before heading out of town for a while. I am counting on next week’s postcard coming from Portland, Oregon, where I will be attending the annual Council of Graduate Schools Summer Deans’ Institute, always a conference highlight. I will be leading a session on interdisciplinary challenges, one of those chestnuts that just keep turning up at events like this. From there I will head further across the seas to Harbin, China, more than half way round the world from home. A bunch of Canadians are meeting with the Chinese to discuss the potential for joint degree collaborations. I really don’t like leaving St. John’s when the weather is so sultry and inviting but, well, somebody‘s gotta do it… and to a Canadian on the east coast both Oregon and China are exotic destinations. All I know about Portland I know from watching the hilarious satiric cable series, Portlandia, a perfectly executed homage to that city’s evident eccentricities. It’s like the anti-Seattle, which itself is an alt city. Portland looks so laid back I might have to be pushed on a plane to Beijing. That’s where I head to connect to Harbin, which is north and close to Russia. I don’t know much about it except that it boasts a spectacular ice sculpture festival in winter, as you would.
Hot time, summer in the city…
July 4th, 2014
Hot time, summer in the city. I’m not complaining. This is the time to be here, hay fever and all. I have a chunk of iceberg in my freezer for summer drinks and a thriving garden. All is well. Indeed, we are predicting about another 10% growth in graduate studies this fall, just what we were hoping for. Our office is humming along, processing applications and dealing with the day-to-day business of graduate studies. If we take home all the prizes at Wimbledon this weekend it will turn out to be a spectacular July. Go Canada Go.
I just returned from a two-week holiday with my husband in Italy…
June 27th, 2014
I just returned from a two-week holiday with my husband in Italy, on the famous Amalfi coast. As one colleague just asked, ‘isn’t that where all those James Bond movies were filmed?” Well, many films have been shot on that coastline, simply because it’s one of those most spectacularly beautiful strips of civilization and nature on the planet. I like to say I love everything Italian, except their politics.
That’s what the room looked like from where I was sitting last week at convocation…
June 7th, 2014
That’s what the room looked like from where I was sitting last week at convocation —second row, behind official representatives of the province and the Board of Regents. The good news is that second row status allows for picture-taking possibilities—discreetly, of course. The graduation ritual can be severe, almost like church. Solemnity is the usual order of the day. Picture-taking is definitely not encouraged. We have so many more successful graduate students these days and so we also have longer lines of expectant students, waiting to cross the floor to shake the hand of the Chancellor and receive their parchment. I attended all but two ceremonies. Wouldn’t you know that one of those was made memorable by a graduating student requesting a selfie with the Chancellor. Good for him, I say. Some colleagues were heard to be muttering afterwards that it was going to start a ‘dangerous trend.’ Yes, let’s channel our fears into inconsequential matters, why don’t we? I applaud the student who snapped himself with our most senior university figure. A little disruption lightens the mood and probably lifted some audience members out of their deep slumbers.
The blogspot has been bare for almost a month…
May 29th, 2014
The blogspot has been bare for almost a month. Just couldn’t be helped, really. I have been on the go, up in the air and down again and back for one work-related conference, meeting, festival, or all of the above. In view of the weather here in spring, and airline food notwithstanding, I have been more than happy to visit Tampa, Florida; San Diego, California; Toronto, ON; Cannes in the south of France; and even Niagara Falls. In all these places the sun has been shining, the flowers blooming, and the skies have been as blue as cornflowers. As I write this, I can discern a few yellow rays teasing the dusty blinds in my office, and so perhaps the winds are starting to blow a little more favourably. We don’t live here for the weather, that’s for sure.