Departing experience

By Becky van Bussel

What do you say to somebody who has devoted 30 years to the U of C? How about “good-bye”?

Dr. James S. Frideres came to the University of Calgary in 1973 as a Sociology professor, teaching in the first interdisciplinary course on campus focusing on the development of the Canadian North. After a joint appointment between Sociology and Anthropology, he became the associate dean of research for the Faculty of Social Sciences and later the head of the Department of Sociology. For the past five years he has been an associate VP academic but at the end of July, his contract will expire and will not be renewed.

Among his achievements, Dr. Frideres has authored many publications, including co-writing Aboriginal Peoples in Canada. He has also been a recipient of the Students’ Union Teaching Excellence Award. Some of his self-proclaimed career highlights include helping create Universities of Technologies Incorporated, which helped in establishing research units in the Faculty of Social Science, and chairing the Canadian Ethnic Studies Advisory Committee for the minister of Heritage Canada.

“My philosophy is that if I don’t enjoy coming to work each day then it’s not worth it and I won’t continue in that activity,” said Dr. Frideres. “Thus far, I’ve been coming to work every day and I keep coming back.”

He partly attributes this enjoyment to his colleagues.

“I’m always amazed at the kinds of activities that go on [because of] my colleagues,” he said. “Every day, coming to work you can always figure there’s always something crazy and new and wonderful that will happen that day. It did, usually.”

So why would somebody who possesses such experience and achievements pertaining to the university’s current academic plan have his contract run out?

“Leadership at the university is always being reviewed if we are doing things as well as we can be,” said U of C Vice-President External Roman Cooney. “Particularly now, as we go through the budget restructuring process, it’s part of academic and administrative renewal. Positions change, people move on to new positions, take on new challenges… It’s an important part of bringing new ideas into the system.”

Dr. Frideres will not be returning to the university next year, but intends to return to the University of Calgary as a “regular professor,” using his experience as the associate VP academic to strengthen his teaching.

All in all, Dr. Frideres said he has no regrets.

“I think it was a wonderful opportunity to see how the institution operates and to see how my colleagues contribute to the operation of this enterprise, which is a complex enterprise,” he said. “They are focused and dedicated to the learning environment of students.”


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