Faculty of Education

Faculty of Education
Faculty of Education

Being Dean a 'Creative Time' for Stephen Elliott

By Wanda Praamsma. Originally printed in the Queen's Gazette

Dr. Elliott steered the Faculty of Education through productive, yet challenging years – and now looks forward to having time to paint.

Stephen Elliott is a visual artist, but he learned his business sense from his father, who taught business and finance and was an industrial engineer for Chrysler earlier in his career. At Chrysler, it was his father's job to find the most efficient ways to do things on the factory floor.

“He would routinely do time studies, measuring how fast specific tasks were being completed. He’d bring that home with him and create games for me and my siblings, such as fastening bolts to a matrix,” says Dr. Elliott. “He would time us completing the tasks, and take his findings back to work. These activities left me with a great interest in making things, being creative in my approach and doing things the best and most efficient way possible.”

It’s this philosophy of doing things efficiently, and creatively, that served him well in his position of dean in the Faculty of Education, a post he held for the past five and a half years and left last month, making way for incoming Dean Rebecca Luce-Kapler.

Stephen Elliott – seen with his painting, Still Life with Lemon, Pepper, and three Kittys – stepped down from his position as dean of the Faculty of Education last month.
Dr. Elliott likens his work as dean to a performance arts piece – pulling disparate parts together in a meaningful way to create a meaningful thing.

“Most of what I did as dean I learned in art school,” says Dr. Elliott, who earned his BFA from Queen’s in 1979, studying printmaking and later working as a master printmaker for noted artists such as André Biéler. “Bringing things together, shaping them — it’s been a great job for me, being dean. I’ve worked with wonderful faculty and staff.”

Dr. Elliott has steered the faculty through productive, yet challenging years. The faculty faces different challenges than other faculties, he explains, because the province regulates enrolment, tuition and program, and recently mandated the change in structure to undergraduate degrees in education from one year to two. Students in the Consecutive Education program now take four successive semesters, beginning in May and ending in August of the following year.

“This new program has just begun, but we think it’s going to be great. Most other programs in the province have the break over the summer, but ours is intensive and puts students into the workforce a full eight months before other programs in the province. It’s really intensive – it drives the experience deeper into their souls.”

In addition to the changes in the BEd program, Dr. Elliott is also proud of the new online master’s program the faculty offers.

Dr. Elliott never expected to work in administration. After his BFA, he worked as a printmaker for a fine art publisher in Toronto and went on to complete a BEd at Queen’s, leading to a career as a high school art teacher. He received his MEd from Queen’s and a decade later finished a PhD in art in education from Concordia University.

After teaching in Gananoque for several years, Dr. Elliott came to Queen’s as a professor in 1989. He became the coordinator of the Art in Community Education (ACE) program, and infused the program with his passion for nurturing the arts in education and in the greater community. While teaching in ACE, he often urged students to go into education administration, because the arts are often underrepresented and not well understood in schools.

“Artists are too busy to waste time in meetings,” he says. “But students need the opportunity to think divergently, differently, and the arts do that. We nurture that.”

In the end, Dr. Elliott, while urging students to pursue administrative roles, was encouraged to do the same himself. A student asked him, at one point, what he was doing in terms of administration. While he always served on committees and boards, he hadn’t actively pursued an administrative position. As he opened himself to the idea, the position of associate dean of undergraduate studies at Queen’s became available. He put his name in, spent one and a half years in that role before taking on the deanship.

“I’ve really enjoyed the experience of being dean. It’s been a creative time for me,” says Dr. Elliott, who continued to teach in the ACE program while leading the faculty. “We have the best programs in the province, and moving forward I think the faculty is in a strong position, with excellent people to lead it.”

Next for Dr. Elliott is a return to painting. He’ll clean out his home studio and see what comes up. The last painting he did before becoming dean used to hang in his office in Duncan McArthur Hall. It’s a still life — a whimsical image of a dog and a table, with a wispy plant sitting in a glass.

While he’s still a systems-oriented, forward-thinking taskmaster (thanks to his father), he’s looking forward to having the headspace to paint, and to taking a more relaxed approach to his art and life. “I hope I become more playful as I get older,” he says, smiling.

Steve in front of one of his paintings

Stephen Elliott – seen with his painting, Still Life with Lemon, Pepper, and three Kittys – stepped down from his position as dean of the Faculty of Education last month.

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