June 20, 2019
Dean of Seneca FCAD retires
Q&A with Michael Maynard
Michael Maynard, Dean of Faculty of Communication, Art & Design (FCAD) and Campus Principal of Seneca@York, is retiring June 30.
During his five-plus years at the helm of FCAD, Maynard oversaw the development of new programs, including two honours bachelor’s degrees, as well as national and international partnerships. Under his leadership, the Animation program has risen in worldwide ranking to the top 10 and the School of Media has negotiated agreements that allow graduates of the Corporate Communications – Public Relations program to complete a master’s degree at esteemed institutions in the United States.
A graphic designer and published author, Maynard also worked with students on books that celebrate various aspects of Seneca, including, for the 50th anniversary, A Celebration of Indigenous Culture at Seneca, and he co-edited College Quarterly, a Seneca-published academic, peer-reviewed journal.
He sat down with Seneca News this week to reflect on his long and accomplished career as a postsecondary educator.
SN: You taught graphic design at Georgian and Sheridan colleges. You were also founding director of the School of Design at George Brown College and director of the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design. What brought you to Seneca?
MM: Throughout my career as a design educator and senior arts administrator, I’ve enjoyed sharing my love of design and the visual arts with students. Prior to my appointment as dean in 2014, Seneca had always been of interest to me, both for its great programs and the many wonderful people I’ve known and worked with over the years. When the opportunity came up to lead the FCAD portfolio, I didn’t hesitate.
SN: What was the first thing you did as Campus Principal of Seneca@York?
MM: Seneca@York is a beautiful campus designed by the iconic Canadian architect Raymond Moriyama. But since it opened in 1999, campus work and learning environments had seen few improvements. My first priority was to work with Seneca’s Art Collection committee, campus colleagues and our Facilities Management department to improve the look of public spaces. We now have flagpoles in the courtyard, Seneca’s wayfinding system installed throughout the building, more than 100 international flags hanging in the Learning Commons, Seneca-red-accented walls, a hallway mural created by an Independent Illustration student, framed original artwork hanging in public spaces, refurbished labs, editing suites and meeting rooms. These improvements help create a more inviting — hopefully inspiring — educational environment.
SN: As a graphic designer, you worked on a commemorative calendar produced for the 10th anniversary of the Toronto Blue Jays. What was it like working on that project? Are you a baseball fan?
MM: Absolutely I’m a baseball fan! And a couple other professional sports, too — my boys and I were just in Montreal for the F1 Grand Prix! The calendar was a wonderful project, working with such great photos and so many club highlights to document and celebrate. But I love every design project. Each one comes with its own set of opportunities, parameters and challenges. As a designer, you have to use logic and intuition in equal measure to deliver a final design that succeeds in communicating the intended message in original and effective ways. Whether that’s a newsletter, a major corporate identity or a commemorative calendar.
SN: How did you go from being a designer to a professor?
MM: I was working at TVOntario as a graphic designer when a friend brought in a job posting for design professor at Georgian College. I hadn’t really considered teaching before but loved the idea of sharing my passion for art and design with students. At the time, Georgian was highly regarded for its visual arts programming and I stayed for 13 years. At Seneca, it has been great because I’ve been able to work with students again on the content and design of several books celebrating institutional highlights.
SN: What was the most challenging thing you had to do at Seneca?
MM: Part of the appeal for me as an academic leader is that every day is different. With a full schedule of meetings, tasks and off-campus activities, one never knows what tomorrow will bring. Yes, including challenges! The creative economy is changing rapidly and postsecondary programming has to keep pace. So I’ve had to bring a combination of patience, emotional intelligence, logic and determination to issues impacting employees and students. But those issues are always put into perspective by the latest news of student success, and by the great celebrations of student achievement at our many year-end events.
SN: If you were to leave a letter for the next dean, what would it say?
MM: I would like the next dean to know there’s an incredible commitment to excellence in FCAD. Our management team is wonderful, our employees incredible, and our faculty are engaged in the design and delivery of great courses. A college education provides training and skill development, but it also changes lives. Indeed, regardless of program, our graduates leave Seneca with new confidence in their professional knowledge and personal capacity in their chosen field.
SN: What does retirement mean for you?
MM: Although I’ve been thinking about retirement for some time, the actual decision wasn’t easy. Postsecondary education has been the focus of my career for so many years and I'm proud of all the progressive change initiatives we've been able to implement during my tenure, including one degree program with government for review and approval, and one more degree proposal nearing completion. But it’s time to slow down a bit. No definite plans at this point, but looking forward to a more personal agenda, and more time for creative pursuits and our three grandchildren. Who knows, the adventure continues!