During the past thirty-five years, Professor Kim Kierans has packed more than seems humanly possible into a varied and adventurous career that has seen her rise to positions of great responsibility in the university and in professional journalism. “I plan to refresh my Greek in retirement,” she notes with relish evident as we speak in her office at King’s, where she currently serves as Vice-President and Professor of Journalism. But it is difficult to imagine her ever retiring completely, or even for long, from the various professional pursuits that she so obviously and energetically loves.
After growing up in Alexandria, Ontario, Kim came east to earn a Diploma in Journalism at Holland College in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, and lingered on the Island for a few years in the late 1970s, working for CBC Radio. In order to advance further, however, she was told by her boss that she needed a university degree. “King’s was my first choice,” she recalls. “The Foundation Year Programme was the perfect complement to journalism; stories have a past and must be investigated in their subtleties.” At age twenty-four, she quit her job in Charlottetown, came to Halifax to begin the Foundation Year Programme, and “fell in love with reading primary texts.” This happy experience naturally drew her to the Classics Department at Dalhousie, where she took an Honours degree (combined with Political Science). “It was tough! And it was great!” she enthuses, eyes sparkling. “The rigour of the subject, the need for critical thinking, the intellectual depth of the department were all very attractive.” She recalls long discussions with James Doull, seated comfortably in his chair with one arm ceaselessly rotating while he spoke, as was his wont. She remembers the sheer intellectual stimulation of the seminar on Aristotle’s De Anima that Professors Doull, Grant, and Hankey conducted. Kim shivers slightly when recalling how one of her own arguments in that seminar was systematically dissected. “But even that was good. I could have gone and hid in the washroom afterwards, I suppose, but I learned from it and developed a thicker skin. Not a day goes by when something from those years doesn’t inform my research, methods, or thought.”
Kim has put her well-informed thought to work in diverse ways since finishing the Honours BA in 1983. She stayed with CBC until 1997, writing and producing numerous articles and documentaries, while simultaneously teaching journalism at King’s. She completed a Master’s degree at Saint Mary’s University in 2003 and in the same year became Director of the School of Journalism, a post which she held until 2010, when she assumed her current responsibilities as Vice-President. While publishing and speaking prolifically in her field, Kierans has also found time to teach internationally; she has been involved for close to a decade in teaching journalism in Cambodia under the auspices of the Canadian International Development Agency and in the Philippines at the Ateneo de Manila University, both in person and online. “It is very humbling to teach in these places,” she says pensively. “There are great obstacles facing journalists in other parts of the world; this helps to spark a higher commitment and level of learning on their part.” She remains true to her earlier words about being informed by her classical studies. When questioned about the relevance of studying the ancient Greco-Roman world, she chuckles. “Classics is definitely relevant. One acquires loads of transferable skills. I’m a better teacher, a better journalist, and a better administrator through having studied Classics. Spending time with great thinkers and great literature makes one better in all facets of life.”
We are grateful to Chris Grundke and to Kim Kierans for the interview on which this profile was based.