‘One of the most powerful experiences’
Former NSCC, Acadia president to be invested into Order of Nova Scotia
A well-known Wolfville man soon to be invested into the Order of Nova Scotia has always believed that leadership is about improving the lives of others and the systems they live under.
Ray Ivany is one of three Annapolis Valley residents who will receive the prestigious recognition during a ceremony at Province House on Nov. 7. He said it’s a profound honour that seems almost surreal and he’ll probably spend the rest of his life trying to process what it means.
Ivany has spent his career focused on higher education and public policy. For example, he said his time as a faculty member and vice-president of the University College of Cape Breton in his hometown of Sydney meant a lot to him.
“I’ve been so fortunate,” Ivany said. “I’ve spent my career in institutions and organizations that had incredible people, incredible missions and I was but part of that success.”
He said he wishes his parents were still alive so he could say thank you. They made great sacrifices so he could get a great education and have opportunities they didn’t have.
Transforming the NSCC
Ivany is known internationally as an innovator, having transformed the Nova Scotia Community College into a national leader in applied post-secondary education while serving as its president. Ivany said he went there for a reason: he felt Nova Scotia was being hurt by not having a modern college system and structure.
The mid 1990s saw broad economic growth across many sectors and there was a paradoxical coexistence of relatively high unemployment and skills shortages across a wide spectrum of occupations.
He felt it was necessary to attempt to leapfrog over a 30-year period of underdevelopment in the province’s college system to address this. He feels good that we now have one of the best colleges in the country for applied learning.
“There is really a culture and magic that exists inside of NSCC that I just found extraordinary,” Ivany said.
Elevating undergraduate studies
As president of Acadia University, he helped elevated the institution into one of Canada’s leading primarily undergraduate universities. They attracted a top-flight faculty who wanted to teach and get to know their students in small classes in a way that has become increasingly rare in Canada.
There were challenges to address, such as decreasing enrolment and financial concerns that had to be dealt with in such a manner that the unique student experience wouldn’t be compromised.
They were able to grow enrolment by 25 per cent, the largest growth in Atlantic Canada over that period; dramatically increase research funding and the opportunity for students to be directly involved in research.
“Living within our means, which I guess is the best way to describe it, we were able to chip away and make some improvements to campus almost every year,” he said.
One Nova Scotia
Ivany was chairman of Nova Scotia Commission on Building Our New Economy in 2014 and was one of the authors of the report Now or Never: An Urgent Call to Action for Nova Scotians, also known as the Ivany Report.
“There were some harsh realities, demographically and economically, that we felt the province needed to face,” Ivany said.
He said the impact or legacy of the report would be something for historians to judge once enough time has elapsed to assess if some of the bigger ideas or transformations actually work or not.
“What I feel good about on behalf of my fellow commissioners is I think we told the truth,” Ivany said.
He said they felt the circumstances the province was facing were such that “rounding off the sharp edges wasn’t the right thing to do.”
Ivany said there were a lot of analytics indicating that if we as Nova Scotians stayed on the current track, it wouldn’t end well. By getting on another track, we could arrive at more prosperous outcomes.
“It was one of the most powerful experiences that I ever went through. I think my other four commissioners would tell you the exact same thing,” Ivany said. “It was exhausting and it was a gut-wrenching year or so in many ways but it was an incredible privilege.”
Ray Ivany, former president of the Nova Scotia Community College and Acadia University, will be invested into the Order of Nova Scotia in November.