June 17, 2022

Dr. Aoife Mac Namara appointed dean of UCalgary’s Faculty of Arts

A message from the provost and vice-president (academic)
Dr. Aoife Mac Namara
Dr. Aoife Mac Namara

I am pleased to announce that Dr. Aoife Mac Namara, PhD, has been appointed dean of the University of Calgary Faculty of Arts for a renewable term of five years, effective July 1, 2022.

Aoife’s decades of experience in academia — as a student, researcher, teacher and leader — span both Canada and the globe, giving her a deep understanding of the complexities of university culture at home and abroad. She recently served as the president of NSCAD University in Halifax and, prior to that, as dean of Simon Fraser University’s (SFU) Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology, and as dean of Emily Carr University’s Audain Faculty of Visual Art + Material Practice. In London, England, Aoife served as director of Contemporary Art at the University of the Arts (Wimbledon College of Art), and as director of Programmes: Art and Design at Middlesex University.

Originally trained as an artist herself, Aoife holds a doctorate in art, design and the built environment from the University of Ulster in Belfast, pursued a doctorate in art education at Concordia University, holds a master’s degree in the social history of art from the University of Leeds, and she holds a master’s in fine art from the Birmingham Institute of Art and Design.

Aoife is a dedicated champion for entrepreneurship, interdisciplinary collaboration, institutional transparency, decolonization and reconciliation, and equity, diversity and inclusion. As president of NSCAD, she led the institution’s COVID-19 response and transition to remote learning and working — the success of which was recognized by the province’s post-secondary community and used as a model for developing Nova Scotia’s higher-education sector’s reopening framework. During this time, she also led the development of an anti-racist action plan for NSCAD, which received overwhelming cross-university support. Her reconciliation and anti-racism efforts include helping to secure support for the Institute for the Study of Canadian Slavery, a first-of-its-kind research hub; and, as part of SFU’s Aboriginal Reconciliation Council, advocating for changes to university policies to be more inclusive of Indigenous pedagogies.

As the incoming dean of UCalgary’s Faculty of Arts, Aoife is committed to building meaningful relationships between the faculty — and the university as a whole — and its constituents, including students, staff, faculty, community members, industry, government and donors.

A robust search was conducted to find the best possible candidate to serve as the next dean of the Faculty of Arts. I would like to extend my appreciation to the members of the advisory selection committee that I chaired for the time they dedicated to this important search since it launched back in October 2021. They are: Dr. Malinda Smith (vice-president research representative), Dr. Jim Ellis (tenured academic staff representative), Dr. Sabrina Peric (tenured academic staff representative), Dr. Pallavi Banerjee (tenured academic staff representative), Dr. Daniel Voth (tenured academic staff representative), Dr. Hamid Habibi (Faculty Association of the University of Calgary (TUCFA) representative), Dr. John Brown (decanal representative), Anisha Karia-Venugopal (Management and Professional Staff (MaPS) representative), Sharla Mann (Alberta Union of Public Employees (AUPE) representative), Justin Gotta (Students’ Union representative), Dusan Nikolic (Graduate Students’ Association representative), Dr. Alice de Koning (General Faculties Council (GFC) representative), Dr. Christine Walsh (GFC representative), Zai Mamdani (community representative), and Nina Rehill (community representative).

I would also like to thank Dr. Richard Sigurdson for his leadership of the Faculty of Arts since he commenced his time as dean on Aug. 1, 2012. When Richard began his first term, the faculty was relatively new, created through the amalgamation of four formerly separate faculties: Social Sciences, Humanities, Communication and Culture, and Fine Arts. He focused attention on ensuring the success of people within the university’s largest faculty — now home to more than 360 academic staff (continuing, contingent and limited-term), 140 sessionals, 130 non-academic staff, and 7,900 undergraduate and 630 graduate students — with a focus on academic renewal, community outreach and alumni-engagement. Throughout his two terms, Richard built strong relationships with students, providing mentorship to student leaders from both the Students’ Union and the Faculty of Arts Students’ Association, and actively engaging with students at events and through social media. I am so pleased our UCalgary community was able to celebrate Richard’s achievements on June 15 before he concludes his term on June 30.

Please join me in congratulating Dr. Aoife Mac Namara on her new role and welcoming her to the University of Calgary.

Dr. Teri Balser, PhD
Provost and Vice-President (Academic)