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Claude Caldwell

Dr. Claude Caldwell

Associate Dean Academic and Acting Dean, Faculty of Agriculture

Dr. Claude Caldwell is a Professor in the Department of Plant and Animal Sciences in the Faculty of Agriculture, Dalhousie University. By formal training he is an ecologist and plant biophysicist. However, he has been active in agriculture since 1980, when he started as a research scientist with AAFC in Alberta. He has particular expertise in cropping systems, new crop development and agroecology.

Claude has more than 15 years of extensive international experience, including the provision of technical and facilitation services in training, extension and curriculum development under various projects in Cambodia, China, the Gambia, Vietnam, The Philippines, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Indonesia, Tanzania and Ethiopia. He presently teaches Agroecology at Dalhousie University and the Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University in Fuzhou, China. Recently, in co-operation with his colleagues in China, he has published a textbook on Agroecology, which should be available in North America soon. His major research interest at present is on the development of Camelina as the next big oilseed crop for Canada.

Today, Caldwell continues his teaching, research and development work while taking on the role of Associate Dean Academic of the Faculty of Agriculture, Dalhousie University and recently added Acting Dean to his list of responsibilities.


You teach, research, travel internationally for development work, with such a full schedule already, what drew you first to the position of associate dean academic and now acting dean?

I felt I had a good understanding of the campus and the institution and that I could bring a lot of knowledge to the position on what works and what doesn’t. I strongly believe we need to keep the things that make this campus a jewel while at the same time capturing what is great about Dalhousie. We need to maintain and grow our unique culture within the new opportunity that is Dalhousie University.

What is the one piece of wisdom or guiding principle you try to bring to your work every day?

To truly listen.  I always try to keep this in mind.  So often you find yourself thinking about what you’re going to say in response, rather than truly listening.  I try not to do that.  One of the best leaders we have had here was Dr. Herb MacRae.  He was the kind of leader to whom  you could go to discuss something and he actually heard you.   You walked away having felt listened to and, regardless of his ultimatedecision, you knew your opinion had been respected.

What do you think makes an effective leader at Dalhousie?

An effective leader at Dalhousie is one with a strong, principled personality who is sensitive to the people who work with them.  In the short time I have known him, Tom Traves has impressed me in many ways.   He sincerely cared about the people who worked for and with him.  Any successful organization is based on people and we need to take care of them.

What do you see as priorities for the Faculty?

As a Faculty we need to get back in touch with industry on a regional basis and connect with our external stakeholders.   We need to have a balance of teaching and research and value teaching, research and community service.   We need to be more community-based.  The Faculty of Agriculture and Dalhousie University needs to become the centre of this town and to do this we need to look outward.  We need to continue to give high priority to international development work which is a huge part of agriculture. A fair world is a safe world and we can be a major part of that effort.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I try to have a collegial leadership style and to be someone who can make a decision in a timely fashion.  I always try to make time for people, to be accessible and maintain an open door policy.  Sometimes you feel like to don’t get a lot done but … the process is important.

What drew you to international work?

Making a difference.  It sounds trite but as you age you look at what legacy you might leave and you’d like to think that you’ve had an impact.  I try to use my talents to make a difference in people’s lives whether it is the young Chinese student from FAFU or the extension worker in Cambodia who survived unimaginable horror at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. What we know can make a big difference and our projects have a big impact on the world.  I am very fortunate to be a part of the international effort from this campus.

What do you like to do in your off time?

I like to spend time with my family and grandchildren and I like to bicycle.   Family and exercise keep me fit mentally and physically.

Name one thing that people would be surprised to know about you?

I’m shy and am definitely not an extrovert.  I’ve always found it difficult to speak publicly.