By Aaron Barrie
In case you didn’t notice, the Faculty of Humanities was without a permanent dean for the last two years. That changed this September with the appointment of Dr. Pierre-Yves Mocquais.
Dr. Mocquais, who received his doctorate from the University of Western Ontario, spent the last 21 years at the University of Regina, first as a professor, then head of the French department, and then associate dean of the Faculty of Arts.
Dr. Mocquais summarizes his job as overseeing the life of the faculty.
"That ranges from human resources issues to financial issues to issues of programs and research, and not necessarily in that order," said Mocquais. "There is, on the part of a dean, a necessity to impart on the faculty a certain vision on where the faculty is moving."
Students’ Union Vice-president Academic Heather Clitheroe agrees.
"A lot of direction is taken from the dean in faculties," said Clitheroe. "They really have a big influence on the way the faculty will move, in terms of things like curriculum redesign [and] research excellence."
Prior to Mocquais’ appointment, acting deans held the position for a 12-month period. According to Mocquais, there is a definite disadvantage to this.
"Even if you have acting deans who are the best possible people, they cannot really make long-term decisions," said Mocquais. "When you’re in a 12-month term… you act more as a caretaker than you do as anything else."
Appointing a dean is difficult, however, and sometimes appointing an acting dean is necessary.
"Acting deans are appointed when the search is unsuccessful or when it’s not really possible to find a permanent dean," said Clitheroe. "Sometimes the number of universities that are also searching for deans for the same faculty can have an impact on whether or not you decide to open the search at the same time."
Having a permanent dean is a significant advantage for the faculty.
"If you have somebody who is there for the longer term, you will have stronger leadership," said Mocquais.
Mocquais will need strong leadership to implement his vision for the faculty. Coming from France, he hopes to bring an international perspective to the faculty, as well as a different perspective on how the role of humanities is seen. In a society that is becoming increasingly technological, he feels liberal arts are losing their place.
"There are a lot of people who entertain the idea ‘why do we need people doing literature or philosophy?’ or things of that sort," said Mocquais. "There is a need to understand, for example, with prosperity, when we think in terms of creating a prosperous society, it’s not only in material terms. It goes far beyond that."
So after the grueling process of appointing a new dean, which began last year, Clitheroe seems happy with the decision and enjoys finally having the security and reliability of a permanent dean.
"There’s a psychological factor when you have a permanent dean as opposed to an acting dean because there’s always that concern about acting deans not continuing on for their terms of appointment, because it’s not as settled and stable," said Clitheroe. "It does feel better to know you have the same dean for at least five years."