Arts and Science Faculty a creative challenge 

By Karen Herland

Arts and Science Dean Brian Lewis has been at his post for seven months now. You would think taking on the largest Faculty in a comprehensive university encompassing 27 departments in social and applied sciences, along with humanities, would be nothing if not daunting.

But Lewis seems more than equipped for the challenge, and for the move back from Simon Fraser to the university where he taught at from 1980 to 1995 — the last five of those years spent as chair of the department of communication studies.

Getting to know the professors, student associations and intricacies of the Faculty that occupies the entire Loyola Campus, and large parts of the Hall and Library Buildings, is part of the challenge. “It is very much a two-campus Faculty, I’m on both campuses four days a week.”

But it’s the breadth of the Faculty that provides its strength as well. “The administrative challenge of managing so many interests is far outweighed by the creative challenge of making something out of this, facilitating connections and building bridges.”

He sees his role as dean to remain “slightly outside of all the units to try to find connections.” Lewis wants to ensure that departments support and inspire each other and ultimately “enhance the opportunity for students, both by reinforcing the discipline they came to work in, but also helping them move across disciplines.”

He points to an existing culture of interdisciplinary work. “We’ve got an interdisciplinary tradition here. The challenge is finding the time to work on behalf of these interstitial areas.”

Another priority is attracting top graduate students, whom he sees as necessary for ensuring that leading researchers are drawn to the Faculty. Resources for scholarships and bursaries, TA- and RA-ships are all critical to this reciprocal relationship. “We dedicate a tremendous amount of our operating funds to graduate students.”

Lewis is committed to this investment in people. “I prefer putting money in these areas rather than into infrastructure which can be supported from external sources.”

Lewis is also encouraged by the importance of teaching for many of those he has met. He wants Concordia to retain its reputation as a great undergraduate teaching institution, even as graduate work gains prominence.

For Lewis, that means ensuring regular, small-group tutorials are integrated into the educational experience of students, even if class sizes expand. Such projects also offer teaching opportunities to graduate students, a win-win situation.

Larger classes might be a reflection of budgetary restraint, but Lewis maintains the perspective that these situations are temporary and cyclical. In fact, when he first returned to the campus, he was struck by how much Concordia had grown since he left, when the Sir George Campus was just the Hall and Library Buildings.

“The metro was not even Guy-Concordia, just Guy. With the addition of the engineering/fine arts building and the JMSB, Concordia really declares its presence downtown. With new construction and expanded athletic facilities at Loyola, we will establish ourselves there as well. Concordia is truly an important part of the life of the community.”


Concordia University