This month, Dr. Melike Schalomon begins her new role as dean of MacEwan University’s Faculty of Arts and Science.
She has had a long career at the university — back in 1996 when Schalomon was still in graduate school and MacEwan was still a college, she taught as a sessional faculty member in MacEwan's Bachelor of Arts and Science programs, which were then only two-year transfer programs. So it’s fair to say that Schalomon has seen a lot of growth and development at MacEwan over the years and knows what it will take to manage and adapt to change.
Here we asked about her time at MacEwan and about her new role as dean.
Q.When you first started in academia, did you ever imagine one day becoming a dean?
I wanted to be a teacher and help the next generation of students learn all about my field of neuroscience. I had no desire to get involved in academic administration and did not imagine I had aptitude for administrative work. It wasn’t until more than 10 years later that I first considered an administrative role. Applying for this position made sense because my long history with MacEwan has given me insight into the issues that are most important to students and to faculty members. I also thought it would be great to model for students that it is entirely possible for a female foreign student to become a scientist and university administrator in the Canadian post-secondary system.
Q.Where are you originally from and what brought you to Canada?
I grew up in the remote Bavarian Alps in Germany and initially came to Canada on a three-month student exchange when I was a teenager. The wide-open spaces and beautiful countryside in Canada always appealed to me and once I was here, I learned to love not only this country, but its people. After I finished high school, I returned to Canada to travel. During that trip, I met my Canadian husband and ultimately decided to immigrate.
Q.What are your goals for the Faculty of Arts and Science?
I want to build upon the existing strengths of the Faculty of Arts and Science in teaching, in research and in working collaboratively. We need to emphasize that the Faculty of Arts and Science has a culture in which research and teaching are equally valued and where research and teaching are inextricably linked. The research undertaken by faculty enriches discussions in the classroom and exposes all students to cutting-edge research methodologies and findings. And involving students in hands-on research creates some of the most rewarding teaching and learning experiences for both faculty and students.
Q.What’s the biggest challenge facing the Faculty of Arts and Science, and what are your thoughts on overcoming it?
We are facing budgetary challenges which affect the working conditions of faculty and staff members and impact enrichment activities in the classroom. On the other hand, these challenges will prompt us to streamline our processes, both administrative and academic, and focus on the essential academic mission. Fostering more collaboration between MacEwan’s schools and faculties and between the Faculty of Arts and Science and community partners will not only address the budgetary challenges but at the same time create new opportunities for growth and application of our research.
Q.What’s been the most vital piece of advice you have received and how has that served you to today?
When I was a child, my parents taught me to be honest and never to expect others to do something I would not be willing to do myself. I think those values still serve me well today, because even when they disagree with one of my decisions, others see me as authentic and fair.
Q.What is something you’re excited about for the start of the Fall term, in spite of some of the challenges with COVID-19?
This year, I am especially looking forward to learning more about the work faculty members have done over the summer to get ready for teaching and engaging their students in courses that will be taught online. The end of the last Winter term was difficult because neither students nor faculty were prepared for online coursework. This Fall, there will be a lot of new teaching materials faculty members are working hard to prepare over the summer. I am already hearing about many different innovative approaches to engaging students in online learning and to using hybrid models that let us maintain physical distancing yet offer some face-to-face learning opportunities.
This Fall term, faculty members and students will flourish and learn together, and I am looking forward to an energized and active learning community once students and faculty members return to campus. I think all of us are eager to get back to the deep discussions of current political, environmental and social issues that are at the core of work in the liberal arts and the sciences, now more than ever.
Announcing the 2020 Distinguished Teaching Award recipients
“Teaching award winners, recognized by their colleagues after having been acknowledged by their students themselves, represent so much of that to which we all aspire as faculty members here.”
We acknowledge that the land on which we gather in Treaty Six Territory is the traditional gathering place for many Indigenous people. We honour and respect the history, languages, ceremonies and culture of the First Nations, Métis and Inuit who call this territory home.