by John Threlfall | May 28, 2015 | Writing
There have been educators and scientists, conservationists and lawyers, visionaries and business leaders. Now we can add journalist to that laudatory list as beloved CBC Radio personality Shelagh Rogers begins her three-year term as the University of Victoria’s 11th Chancellor on June 8.
Click here to watch the live streaming ceremony of the installation of Shelagh Rogers as Chancellor.
Shelagh Rogers prepares for her purple reign (Photo Services)
“It’s a huge honour, I’m absolutely delighted,” says the characteristically humble host of The Next Chapter. “I must say, though, it came rather out of the blue. It just hadn’t occurred to me—this isn’t something you apply for—so I was hugely surprised when I got the call.”
While the idea of being a university chancellor may never have occurred to Rogers, she seems an ideal match for the university. Nationally respected for her nearly 35 years with the CBC and her role as Honorary Witness for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Rogers holds five honorary doctorates (Western, Mount Allison, Memorial, Nipissing and VIU) and was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2011. Heck, she’s even a West Coast island-dweller, having called Gabriola home for the past decade.
Likening the weeks leading up to her acceptance of the position as something of a “courtship period”—including meeting with both President Jamie Cassels and Board of Governor chairman Erich Mohr, familiarizing herself with UVic’s legacy of dynamic learning, interacting with students and touring the campus—Rogers says she quickly fell for our extraordinary academic environment. “Obviously, it’s very beautiful and I love the size, which is very attractive to students, faculty and staff; that’s a value that should be promoted and protected. But I’m just blown away by what UVic is doing to reach out to the community.”
Rogers hosting the Dept of Writing’s Lorna Crozier Scholarship event in November 2013
Rogers already feels a kinship with UVic’s vital impact on the city, the province, the nation and the world. “Community engagement is critical,” she insists. “A university is like a brain, and it’s vital for Victoria and Vancouver Island to have that interaction with UVic. There isn’t an elitist mentality here; there’s a nice flow between the community and the university. Decisions aren’t being made in small office in a large tower—it’s wide open. I see Jamie out on campus and he’s talking to people and anyone can talk to him. These are things that are really important; they represent the values of transparency and openness, and that’s a big part of why UVic rocks.”
no stranger to uvic
Rogers at the official announcement in 2014
Nominated by the “dean team” of Drs. Sarah Blackstone and Lynne Van Luven (the Dean and Associate Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts, respectively), Rogers was a clear choice to follow outgoing Chancellor Murray Farmer. “Shelagh has a deep commitment to higher education and to the Aboriginal reconciliation process,” says Van Luven. “She has the ability to ask the right questions and to tell the whole story so that others can understand complex and urgent issues and ideas. She will enhance the excellence of our university, and bring tremendous energy and great insight to her new role. Her national reputation as an advocate for Canadian arts and culture will serve the university well. UVic could not ask for a better ambassador as we build on our reputation for excellence in teaching, research, and community engagement.”
Those sentiments are echoed by Jo-Ann Roberts, Rogers’ former CBC colleague. “Having a woman of her integrity, intelligence and natural curiosity [as Chancellor] speaks well of UVic,” says Roberts, who recently retired as host of CBC Radio’s All Points West to run as Victoria’s federal Green Party candidate, and was the Department of Writing’s visiting Harvey S. Southam Lecturer in Journalism and Nonfiction for 2013. “A lifelong learner herself, Shelagh is a champion of literacy and a proud Canadian with a passion for history, music and our Aboriginal history. She is also loved from coast to coast to coast for her genuine interest in the people who have shared their stories with her and whose home towns she has visited.”
For her part, the 60-year-old Rogers will continue to host and co-produce The Next Chapter—her weekly showcase of books and ideas—from the backyard studio constructed by her husband, retired CBC technician Charlie Cheffins. As we talk, Cheffins sits next to us in a tearoom in Victoria’s historic Chinatown district, and Rogers often glances his way for supportive nods and encouraging smiles. (“I’m already calling him the Chancellor-in-Law,” she quips.) But when I mention the praise bestowed upon her, Rogers waves it away and instead shifts the spotlight to how her new role as Chancellor dovetails with her other longstanding role: being a witness.
“Witnessing is an active verb,” she explains. “And if you’re seriously committed to the retelling of what you’ve seen and heard, it’s not always comfortable.” Gesturing at the two pins gracing her lapel—one, the Order of Canada, the other representing her role as Honorary Witness at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission—Rogers’ voice takes on a serious tone. “The Order of Canada motto is ‘They desire a better country,’ and I do desire a better country, so I wear this button as a reminder. And this one”—she strokes a small strip of moosehide dangling from a silver shield—“reminds me of how important it is to be a witness, to recount and retell things you have seen and heard, to make sure the word gets out. It’s broadcasting, in a way.”
Rogers (second from right) at the Truth & Reconciliation Hearings
Rogers pauses and quotes an Ojibway elder who, on the eve of her testimony at the TRC hearings in Ottawa, told her to remember the words debwe win. “That means ‘speaking from the heart’ in Ojibway. And the word ‘witness’ itself is from in wit, which means ‘having a clean heart’ in Old English. The relationship with witness is very beautiful, how it all relates back to the heart. It’s not just hearing and seeing, but feeling too.”
“Just be Yourself”
Before accepting the position, Rogers made a point of speaking with former Chancellor Norma Mickelson—UVic’s first female Chancellor—who served from 1997 to 2002. “I was worried about how I could uphold the values of the university and support all the ways the university engages with the community and the students and respect all the relationships on campus and started thinking, ‘Wow, am I even qualified to do this?’ And Norma gave me a great piece of advice: ‘Just be yourself.’ She reminded me that I was asked for a reason, and talked about what joy the role had brought her. She really bulked up my muscles!”
“Just be yourself”—easy advice for Shelagh Rogers as UVic’s next Chancellor
While her formal installation will coincide with her officiating at the Spring 2015 convocation on June 8, Rogers is already settling into her role on campus. “I feel incredibly stimulated—like my mind is always dancing—and that’s a very nice feeling,” she says. “This is a much broader discourse than what I do at the CBC. It’s going to be a huge stretch, but I feel I can go into the outside world and really talk about the UVic difference. And there really is a difference here. I want to get to know it as well and represent it to the best of my abilities.”
Noting that list of former Chancellors—scientists and educators and lawyers (“Oh my!” she chuckles again)—Rogers takes a thoughtful pause. “I’m different. I’m a journalist, and that will help me trying to understand the whole UVic story. As a journalist, my training has been to get at the real meaning—the truth—and to create dialogue. That’s important to me.”
As the page turns on her own next chapter, it’s clear Shelagh Rogers will always speak from the heart as she witnesses UVic’s continuing development here on the edge of innovation.
A shorter version of this interview ran in the Spring 2015 issue of the Torch, UVic’s alumni magazine. Click on the link to read Shelagh Rogers’ top books list and an excerpt of her on-stage live interview with UVic alumnus and Flickr & Slack innovator Stewart Butterfield.
by John Threlfall | May 25, 2015 | Faculty, School of Music
Acting Dean Susan Lewis
For once, a symphonic fanfare is completely appropriate: current School of Music Director Dr. Susan Lewis has been announced as the new Acting Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts. (Cue the trumpets!)
Lewis’ appointment will run from July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016, and she will replace current Acting Dean Dr. Lynne Van Luven, whose term ends on June 30. Van Luven herself was standing in for Dr. Sarah Blackstone, who was on secondment as Advisor to the Provost this past year—but has now resigned due to personal hardship.
“As outgoing Acting Dean, I am delighted to hear that Susan Lewis is going to take on the leadership of the Fine Arts Faculty for the next year,” says Van Luven, noting that Lewis received a positive ratification of 97 percent from the Faculty. “Dr. Lewis brings terrific skills to the position: she is a thoughtful administrator, a critical thinker and a faculty member well versed in the overall operation of the university. She brings grace, a sense of humour and a reassuring calmness to the position.”
For its part, the School of Music will require an Acting Director for a period of one year, and the consultation process for that has now begun.
Prior to becoming Director of the School of Music, Lewis herself was the School’s Acting Director in 2010 and 2012. She joined the
Susan Lewis (second left) declaring the winner in the Vikes Nation Rally Song contest with UVic President Jamie Cassels (second right)
School as assistant professor in 2001 and was promoted to the rank of associate professor in 2008. One of her mandates as Director has been increased collaboration with other departments on campus—including recent initiatives with Vikes Athletics as the Vikes Nation Rally Song contest and the brand new Vikes Band elective, which sees the creation of a for-credit varsity band course.
A graduate of Queen’s University (BMus in Performance and BA in Music and Politics), the University of Arizona (Master’s of Music), and Princeton University (Ph.D. in musicology), Lewis’ fields of teaching and scholarship embrace cultural history, music and print technologies, as well as music bibliography and genre studies. Her research profile extends to European and global music of the 17th and 18th centuries, sacred music and spirituality, and the music of Claudio Monteverdi, an early opera composer and advocate for experimental harmony and text-driven music.
An accomplished scholar with two multi-year SSRHC grants, Dr. Lewis is the sole author of Editing Music in Early Modern Germany (Ashgate, 2007) and The Madrigal: A Research and Reference Guide (Routledge, 2011). Her textbook Music of the Baroque: History, Culture, Performance will be published by Routledge in 2015.
While most of the faculty were expecting Dr. Sarah Blackstone to resume her duties as Dean of Fine Arts this year, it came as a shock when she instead announced her resignation this past April.
“This is an extremely difficult decision for me, and I have not made it lightly,” she said at the time. “As many of you know, I face a challenging and life-changing situation in my personal life that makes it impossible for me to continue as your Dean. For now, I do not have the emotional capacity or the strength to manage the day-to-day operations and the long term planning that are the responsibilities of a Dean.”
Blackstone became Dean in 2007 and her tenure has been one of growth and strengthening for the Faculty. While she has spent the past academic year working as Advisor to the Provost and had anticipated returning, Blackstone recently recognized she’ll need “extensive time” away from UVic in the near future, and acknowledges that this would be “extremely disruptive” to both the Faculty and the operations of the Dean’s Office.
Outgoing Dean Sarah Blackstone
“It has been a privilege for me to lead the Faculty and I am tremendously proud of the things we have accomplished together,” she continued. “You are an extremely talented and dedicated group of people who provide such critical support to students trying to find their way in very challenging professions. Your own artistic and scholarly work inspires your students and many people on and off the campus. I wish each of you, and the Faculty as a whole, the very best of luck in all your endeavours.”
The entire Faculty offers Dr. Blackstone and her family strength and support in the coming months.
by John Threlfall | May 20, 2015 | Alumni, Award, Events, Faculty, Research, Writing
Bradley on the set of Two 4 One (photo: Arnold Lim)
Need proof of the impact of the Department of Writing‘s film production courses? Just look to the 2015 Leo Award nominations, where films by Writing faculty and alumni received a combined 26 nominations—a staggering number for a university that doesn’t technically have a film production program.
Clearly, the Writing department is punching above its weight when it comes to film futures, but this year’s list of nominees is no exception—as evidenced by past Leo nominations and the department’s 2011 win for Best Web Series Award for Freshman’s Wharf.
What’s the secret to their success? “Film is just a development of the Writing department’s already well-known streams: fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction and drama,” says film professor Maureen Bradley. “I don’t know anywhere else in the country where this is happening. There are good student films being made, but they’re not being driven by faculty [led-courses].”
Students shooting Freshman’s Wharf on campus
Bradley has spent the past five years building up the technical equipment and supporting talent to create professional-looking 10-minute short student films. “Drama and film are really an applied form of learning,” she explains. “A screenplay and a play are not final products, and they’re always open to interpretation. Students need to see how hard it is to make a film, how to adjust the writing as the film is made, how to write with a budget in mind.”
With no other Vancouver Island college or university offering film production classes, Bradley feels UVic’s Writing department is uniquely situated to help fill a gap both locally and nationally. “I think we have the best [student] screenwriters in Canada here, and I have a lot of experience in the other centres,” she says. “This is a unique situation where the production comes through the writing first. I’ve seen beautiful films at student screenings across Canada, but the story is usually lacking—so it’s really exciting to see story and surface come together here. Why make a film if there’s no heart to it?”
This year’s Leo nominees with ties to the Writing department include:
• Alumnus Jason Bourque‘s feature film Blackfly leads the pack with nominations for 10 awards, including best motion picture, direction & screenwriting
• Professor Maureen Bradley‘s feature film Two 4 One (produced by Fine Arts Digital Media Technician Daniel Hogg) is nominated for six awards, also including best motion picture, direction & screenwriting—and costumes, which were created by Theatre grad Kat Jeffery
• The short film Gord’s Brother—created by the busy alumni team of Daniel Hogg (producer), Jeremy Lutter (director) & Ben Rollo (writer)—received four nominations
• Alumni Kate Bateman & Matt Hamilton‘s web series The Actress Diaries received four nominations
• Recent MFA grad Connor Gaston‘s student film Godhead received 2 nominations
A project of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Foundation of British
Columbia since 1999, the Leo Awards are an annual celebration of excellence in BC’s film & television scene.
The awards will be presented over three evenings in Vancouver, depending on program: June 6 at the Westin Bayshore and June 13 & 14 at the Hotel Vancouver.
by John Threlfall | May 12, 2015 | Events, Faculty, Visual Arts
What do you get when you combine one of the best-known songs of the past 50 years with the latest technology? A fascinating art installation by Visual Arts sessional instructor Yoko Takashima: Bridge Over Troubled Water, continuing until May 30 at UVic’s Legacy Art Galleries Downtown.
Bridge Over Troubled Water (family), 2015
An interactive video and sound installation project developed using Cycling74’s MAX and JITTER with other computer software and a Microsoft Kinect for interactive data collection, Takashima produced this new form of video installation in close collaboration with Visual Arts alumna Ruby Arnold.
“In this project, no identical image or performance is seen,” says Takashima. “More significantly, this technology allows for unexpected narratives to be constructed through the constant self-generation of the video and sound.”
Takashima will be giving an artist talk about her project, beginning at 7pm Thursday, May 14, at Legacy Downtown (630 Yates).
Described as a “so-called music video” of Simon & Garfunkel’s classic “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” Takashima video-recorded 37 volunteer community singers—friends, family, choir groups, folks in the theatre community, both professional and semi- professional singers—in a variety of age groups all with the same framing: face centred and looking directly at the camera lens. The artist then used a green screen and chroma keying of the footage to provide the collage of singers with a background of moving images of ambiguous hybrid landscapes, which act as “visual metaphors of our modern reality, encompassing anxiety, horror and hope.”
Bridge Over Troubled Water (Chris), 2015, Video still
“It is significant for me to explore the shifting role of artists in the digital era,” explains Takashima. “In a time of saturated images, information and ‘high-speed fetch’, our role is now focused on selecting and preparing guidelines and then witnessing what technology can provide and manipulate. I am interested in exploring how technology used this way can produce effects beyond the artist’s authorship and premeditated aesthetic.”
Takashima felt the lyrics of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” convey a message of friendship and support, which she describes as “fundamental, ageless human needs. In exploring new technology with this song, we celebrate the up-lifting spirit in humanity and the new ways of delivering it.”
The exhibit is organized by Legacy director Mary Jo Hughes as the second of her continuing IN SESSION exhibits showcasing the work of the many sessional instructors in the Department of Visual Arts. But far from an exhibition of static work hanging on a wall, Hughes feels it’s the viewer who really brings Takashima’s work to life.
Bridge Over Troubled Water (Thomas), 2015, Video stillI
“When the darkened exhibition space is vacant, the audio plays quietly while the video is reduced to black and white,” she explains. “When someone enters the space, the sound level and colour intensity are gradually increased—the nearer one approaches the projection, the louder the sound becomes. To retreat is to attenuate the volume. The layered faces fill the wall in magnitude larger than life.”
“We see the singing human faces as beautiful in their openness and sincerity, while verging on the ridiculous in scale, proximity and unexpected combinations of over-layered facial features. The space is filled with their presence,” Hughes continues. “While interactivity has been integral to some of her past works, the constant regeneration of this work is new to Takashima’s 20-year video-based practice. It represents her desire to push video installation art beyond simple screening pieces placed within a space to offering infinitely-varied experiences involving the whole space with the viewer.”
Takashima’s “Islands Burning” (1998), installation
Hughes notes that, over the past two decades of work, Takashima has consistently “focused on her own body over various stages of life to explore her place as an individual while concurrently delving into the universalities and depth of human existence.” Video works such as Brushism (1996), As If (1996) and Islands Burning (1998) saw Takashima presenting her body as non-narrative subject, “performing within a limited or unidentifiable context, often truncated, anonymous, and isolated in an unnervingly close proximity.”
Bridge Over Troubled Water, says Hughes, represents the artist’s “continuing interest in using technology as an artistic tool in her ongoing research into new modes of expression. In this work, Takashima involves us in an unending performance that personifies the interconnectedness of a larger more encompassing humanity . . . . The installation suggests that through family, friends, and basic human connections, we can provide for each other the support that will get us through the fear and discord that otherwise characterizes our world.”