Moving to a bigger stage
By Marilyn Smulders - September 24, 2010
From September 20 to 24, Dal News presents a series of profiles of new folks on campus. Today, Dal News introduces you to Robert Summerby-Murray, new dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.
With more than 200 faculty members and 3,019 full and part-time students, the faculty that Robert Summerby-Murray presides over is larger than some entire universities. As the new dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, he’s excited by the challenge.
“It’s an opportunity to do things on a bigger stage,” says Dr. Summerby-Murray, 48, the father of three teenage boys. Before coming to Dalhousie on July 1, he was the Dean of Social Sciences at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick.
Born in New Zealand, Dr. Summerby-Murray grew up on a sheep farm in North Canterbury. Surrounded by big open spaces, he developed a love of geography, which he studied at the University of Canterbury. He earned his BA in 1984 and his master's degree two years later, then arriving at the University of Toronto with a Connaught scholarship to continue his studies in geography. After graduating from U of T with his PhD in 1992, he went to teach historical geography at Mount Allison, where he's been based until recently.
While he’ll miss being in the classroom — he’s proudest of the teaching awards he’s won over his career, including a 3M National Teaching Award in 2007 — he’s excited by the prospect of forging a new strategic plan for FASS, fostering interdisciplinary research among faculty members and getting students more engaged with the faculty.
Another goal is to forge more international collaborations, for research and so students can take advantage of more opportunities to study abroad. “But the financial barriers (for studying abroad) are huge," he says. "We have to find ways to overcome those barriers that students face.”
Although he’s in an administrative role, he doesn’t want to be chained to his desk, shifting papers from one pile to another. “I see it as a people-oriented position,” he says.
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