Dr. Fiona Black
Associate vice-president, academic
Dr. Fiona Black became associate vice-president, academic in 2013 after a decade in Dalhousie’s Faculty of Management, where she served as a professor, an associate dean and director of the School of Information Management. Having also been seconded to the role of director, academic programs prior to taking her current position, Dr. Black brings several years of academic and administrative experience to the role.
Dr. Black’s portfolio of responsibilities includes teaching and learning functions, especially in relation to academic program planning and evaluation, supporting Senate reviews of faculties and leading positive change through Dalhousie's Academic Innovations project. Dr. Black accomplishes these goals with a leadership style informed by her service-oriented attitude.
Read Dr. Black's full profile
Dr. Fiona Black envisions Dalhousie as a place where faculty and students are supported in bringing their ideas to fruition. As associate vice-president, academic, Dr. Black believes facilitating this culture of innovation is a big part of the role she stepped into in 2013. Dr. Black is one of the administrators who have implemented Dal's Academic Innovation initiative, which supports new ideas in programs, teaching and learning.
“Whilst academics rightly pride themselves on quality control, we don’t want colleagues to have to jump through unnecessary hoops when they have great ideas for new course content or delivery methods. We need to facilitate experimentation,” Dr. Black explains.
“Often it’s very difficult in a large organization to try something, because there’s so much risk around it. But sometimes we just need the courage to think, ‘I am going to try that because I know there is student interest and I have evidence that this new method for teaching the content will support learning.’”
Dr. Black points to the development of an undergraduate minor in Aboriginal studies as an example of the Academic Innovation initiative in action – as well as Dal's collaborative spirit.
"It was proposed by three different faculties – the Faculty of Management, the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and the Faculty of Health – and it's being developed by a team of primarily Aboriginal colleagues and an Aboriginal curriculum developer.
The program recognizes and supports diversity at Dal, something Dr. Black aims to further promote as an academic planner with a focus on undergraduate programs.
Another of her goals is to strengthen Dalhousie's teaching capabilities by encouraging more faculty members to conduct research beyond their areas of specialty and into teaching and learning itself.
"Led by our colleagues in the Centre for Learning and Teaching, we have many conversations underway about raising the profile of teaching and learning at Dalhousie, including the scholarship of teaching and learning," says Dr. Black. Among her initiatives in this vein is a collaboration with Dalhousie's libraries to identify faculty members who have already produced research of this nature.
Along with academic planning and innovation, Dr. Black’s duties also include supporting Senate reviews of faculties. In this task, as with all the others she undertakes, Dr. Black leans on her own experience as a faculty member in Information Management. Before she assumed her current position, Dr. Black was director of the School of Information Management (SIM) and an associate dean at the Faculty of Management. She came to Dalhousie because of the international profile of SIM and its excellent faculty.
"Learning from my previous life helps me in this position," says Dr. Black, who adds that her Dalhousie professional education and subsequent training as a reference librarian in a large, urban public library, instilled in her a service-oriented mindset and a strong sense of perspective – and humour. She says these attributes have been essential in her work.
"It doesn't matter who walks through the door, or if they're presenting a problem or a challenge. My years as a reference librarian have coached my brain to think, 'what can I do to aid you?'"
- Researches in the field of digital humanities
- Led the development of Canada's first Master of Information Management program at Dalhousie
- Dr. Black's "personal behaviour mantra," popular with her graduate students, emphasizes grace under pressure and looking for the good in a situation.