Maybe it’s because he’s been in academia for most of his career. Maybe it’s because he always has the drive to learn something new. Or maybe it’s because he just spent six weeks living in the MacEwan University Residence. But Dr. David Danto still feels like a student at heart, despite the fact that he’s actually a dean.

“I've never forgotten what it feels like to be a student,” he says. “I still love learning. I often have questions in my own field and other fields. I think that's why I’ve chosen a career in academia – just wanting to continually learn.”

MacEwan’s new dean of the Faculty of Health and Community Studies began his term in June, and has since then, been spending the summer getting to know a faculty and a city that both mark a change in environment for him.

After spending more than a decade at University of Guelph-Humber where he served as the head of the psychology program, MacEwan’s Faculty of Health and Community Studies – home to programs like social work, massage therapy and child and youth care – is a new direction for Dr. Danto. But he sees a direct connection between his past and present work.

“Through my clinical psychology and academic career, I've developed an interest in community and health work that has a social focus, so I was immediately drawn to MacEwan as an urban, undergraduate university that has a strong community focus,” he says. “This is an opportunity to make use of my experience and training, but also to expand beyond that, and work with people who are involved in similar work and have similar goals, but are approaching it from different perspectives and different training.”

That collaborative approach will undoubtedly become a hallmark of Dr. Danto’s time at MacEwan. Though he’s taking time to listen and learn about MacEwan and his faculty before setting specific goals and priorities, his initial vision is an interdisciplinary one. “I look forward to developing collaborations and opportunities across departments and programs, and maybe even across faculties,” he says. “Different fields can integrate and cooperate, and researchers can collaborate on really important topics that have to do with community, health and well-being. These kinds of collaborations are important because they benefit both the students and the community.”

"I'm thrilled to be working with such a talented group of colleagues and students, and I'm excited about supporting the great work that is already being done by the staff at the Centre for Sexual and Gender Diversity, Early Learning at MacEwan and kihêw waciston, among others."

As Dr. Danto settles into his new role, he’s also exploring Edmonton – a city that’s new to him. In his first weeks here, he got a taste of what his students will experience when they head back to campus in September. Unable to take immediate possession of his house, he opted to live in the MacEwan University Residence for the first six weeks.

“It was a perfect place to stay and the staff were all wonderful – I highly recommend it.” he says. “It familiarized me with the experiences that many of our students are going to have at MacEwan.”

Living in residence also deepened his appreciation for his new surroundings, both professionally and personally. “While I was essentially living at MacEwan 24 hours a day, I had an opportunity to really get to know the downtown community that MacEwan is so connected to.” And like a true Edmontonian, he’s also developed a fondness for the river valley trails, going so far as to walk from campus to the Valley Zoo one day – a 90-minute walk in each direction for those keeping track. 

“People always warn you about the winters in Edmonton, but I’m not even worried about it, because the summer here is great,” he says. “The days are long, the river valley is fantastic – it’s an amazing city and I’m happy to be at MacEwan, in the centre of it all.”

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