UBC's new Arts Dean epitomizes Arts stereotype. - Macleans.ca

UBC’s new Arts Dean epitomizes Arts stereotype.

And that’s a good thing.


Being the Dean of Arts at a large, research-intensive university is often like being between a rock and a hard place. You oversee a sprawling faculty of around 10,000 students…but often get the short end of the stick when it comes to grants and new buildings.

But a couple months into his new job, Gage Averill, UBC’s new Dean of Arts, is highlighting the positives.

“You can’t take [international rankings] too terribly seriously,” he said in a Vancouver Sun article, “but UBC comes in around that ranking in most global surveys. But in terms of social sciences we’re listed as 18 – that’s a high ranking, in a very competitive world. And 22 in humanities and the arts. So in the core parts of this faculty we’re actually ranked higher than the university [overall] rankings.”

Averill, who was formerly Dean of Music at Toronto, has been getting plaudits from students and faculty alike over the past few months, though that’s par for the course in a honeymoon period. Perhaps most interesting is his background, which gives an interesting—and perhaps more appropriate—viewpoint on students.

He’s dropped out of university for a while. Then traveled the country and played with a band. Had multiple jobs. Used his diverse skill-set to stay employed and make something good of his life.

Now, I’m not Averill that sounds exactly like an Arts student, but if you had to pick a faculty background based on that…

The point is, when Averill says, as he did to The Sun, that gatekeepers are wanting “creative students who can change over their lifetime,” you can have more confidence that he fully understands what that means, because he’s lived it.

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