Categories
Arts & Culture Features News

Ten Minutes with Dr. Anne Leavitt

Find out what makes our new president tick

By Watch Staff – April 22, 2011

The Watch called up Dr. Anne Leavitt, current dean in the Faculty of Social Sciences at Vancouver Island University, to discuss her thoughts on the liberal arts, post-secondary funding, and King’s traditions.
The Watch: How would you define a ‘liberal artist’?
Dr. Anne Leavitt: I think a liberal artist is somebody who is interested in exploring the treasure trove of books and works that were produced and were reputed to be wise in order to get a sense of the shape of the world and the shape of one’s own self.
TW: In your address to King’s students earlier this year, you mentioned your “25-year odyssey” with the liberal arts. What is the most important thing you have learned on the odyssey?
AL: Never make assumptions.
TW: What will be your main priority as president?
AL: Well I think the first priority, and not necessarily the most fun priority, will be to work with other people to get a handle on the financial situation. I don’t think that it’s a dreadful situ- ation, but it does need some bringing under control. In my experience, if you want to do really fun things then one of the first things you have to do is get the finances in shape.
TW: Speaking of finances, Nova Scotia students are facing a tuition hike and a cut to funding. There have been several student protests in the last few months. Where do you stand on the issue of tuition increases?
AL: I’ve always been someone who is committed to access for students—that is, I don’t think finances should be a ba rier to high education. That said, across the country, as we know, provinces have been struggling with finding ways to support the universities and to help them meet their expenses…. Higher education funding formulas need a lot of work, I think. Students should not be impeded from attending university for financial reasons. But the other side of the equation is that the province has to come up with more money to support higher education in general.
TW: How could you encourage enrolment at King’s, which offers “education for education’s sake”, when many students are focused on skill-based programs that are immediately applicable to the job market?
AL: I think King’s simply has to promote itself a bit better…. I mean, King’s is well known in places like Ontario, but I think that King’s can be better known in a larger range of places than it currently is. I think there are a lot of students out their craving the kind of education that King’s offers.
TW: King’s has a lot of traditions, many of which include the president, such as matriculation, sherry before formal meals—
AL: I love sherry!
TW: Are you looking forward to becoming a party of these traditions?
AL: Oh, absolutely. I come from a family that has roots in Nova Scotia that go way back, so we have recollected history and lots of traditions. I certainly appreciate how important those are in keeping a sense of community and keeping a sense of certain commitments alive and well. So yeah, I’m really looking forward to participating in those.
TW: What do you want the King’s community to know about you before you come here?
AL: Well I suppose they should know that I have a fairly irrepressible sense of humour.
W: Will you be teaching any courses?
AL: Not in the first year, and that’s partly because I’m coming in August; trying to get on top of everything in the president’s office and also trying to tune up a course would probably be a bit of a challenge. But I’m really looking forward to starting teaching in the second year I’m at King’s.
TW: Will you be teaching at Dalhousie as well?
AL: That’s not in the plan, no.
TW: How could you encourage enrollment at King’s, which offers “education for education’s sake”, when many students are focused on skill-based programs that are immediately applicable to the job market?
AL: I think King’s simply has to promote itself a bit better… I mean, King’s is well known in places like Ontario, but I think that King’s can be better known in a larger range of places than it currently is. I think there are a lot of students out their craving the kind of education that King’s offers.
TW: How could we make King’s better known?
AL: I think part of that is a smart promotional campaign. King’s already has a pretty good one, but we could expand it. I think one of the key pieces for me is to ensure that the voices of students are included in those promotional activities. I think King’s students—and this is a crass word, and I don’t mean it crassly— are its best salespeople because they attest to the value and excitement of the kind of education that King’s offers…Today’s promotional activities don’t have to be expensive billboards and TV ads. In fact, there are questions as to how effective that is in the age of social networking.
TW: King’s has a lot of traditions, many of which include the president, such as matriculation, sherry before formal meals…
AL: I love sherry!
TW: Are you looking forward to becoming a party of these traditions?
AL: Oh, absolutely. I come from a family that has roots in Nova Scotia that go way back, so we have recollected history and lots of traditions. I certainly appreciate how important those are in keeping a sense of community and keeping a sense of certain commitments alive and well. So yeah, I’m really looking forward to participating in those.

By David J. Shuman

David is a second-year journalism student at King's, is engagement/news editor of The Watch, and a copy editor of The Pigeon. He writes on student politics, campus happenings, and school news. 

Leave a Reply