posted on Jan. 2: New provost takes up duties today


[img_inline align=”right” src=”” caption=”Provost Ken Norrie”]Ken Norrie, Prairie-born and Alberta raised, today begins his post as McMaster's provost and vice-president academic.

Norrie's five-year appointment officially began Jan. 1.

Born in Saskatoon, Norrie, 55, was educated at the University of Saskatchewan where he obtained an honours degree in economics in 1967.
He completed his master's and PhD at Yale University, graduating in 1971. His dissertation was titled The Canadian National Policy and the Wheat Economy.

Upon graduation, Norrie went to the University of Alberta as an assistant professor of economics. He was a visiting associate professor at Queen's University from 1979-80.

From 1980 until the move to McMaster, he was a professor at the University of Alberta. For the last two and half years in Edmonton, he held the position of dean of the faculty of arts.

In a presentation to the Board of Governors in the fall, Norrie shared the process he went through in considering the position of provost and vice-president academic.

He said he examined the role as provost, the University as a whole and contemplated the idea of moving across the country.

Norrie said it was the move into the administrative level required as a dean that helped prepare him for the larger role as a vice-president.

“For the first time, in a serious sense, you are charged with the responsibility for the teaching and research culture that you may not know a lot about,” he said.

As dean of arts, he learned about areas of study not necessarily affiliated with economics and economic policy, such as linguistics, psychology and fine arts.

“If you're a dean and you have some success with that, the idea of a vice-president academic is something that would be attractive,” he said.

Norrie said he expects to continue broadening his knowledge, learning about disciplines in engineering, science and health sciences in his new role. “That's what I'm really looking forward to,” he said.

Norrie said he was attracted to McMaster's “notion of a planning culture,” its commitment to an academic plan, mission and vision and the integration of teaching and research and emphasis on interdisciplinary work.

The challenges of his new position are easy to list, he said. “This is a whole new environment, a new university, a new culture and a new government to work with,” he said.

“Alberta is essentially a small place when you are discussing government,” he noted. “I think I've taught about half of the deputy ministers. The University of Alberta is a monopoly in the province, the dominant institution. Here there are 17 universities.”

From a personal perspective, Norrie said the move east puts he and his wife, Lorna, closer to her family in Newfoundland. Norrie said they are looking forward to taking in the music performances, theatre and golf available in southern Ontario.