Abel­son ap­pointed found­ing di­rec­tor of Mul­roney In­sti­tute of Govern­ment

The Casket - - LOCAL - COREY LEBLANC coreyle­blanc@the­cas­ket.ca

Don­ald Abel­son hasn’t spent much time in the Mar­itimes, but that is go­ing to change.

“It is an ab­so­lutely beau­ti­ful cam­pus. In my opin­ion, it is spec­tac­u­lar,” he said of St. F.X. – the Antigo­nish-based univer­sity.

“It gives a sense of com­mu­nity, which is some­thing that I am cer­tainly at­tracted to, and I have re­ceived a tremen­dously warm re­cep­tion.”

St. F.X. re­cently named the spe­cial­ist in Cana­dian-amer­i­can re­la­tions, U.S. pol­i­tics and U.S. for­eign pol­icy found­ing di­rec­tor of the Brian Mul­roney In­sti­tute of Govern­ment and in­au­gu­ral ECN Cap­i­tal Chair in Canada-u.s. Re­la­tions.

“I felt it was a per­fect po­si­tion for me to step into and to help. Ob­vi­ously, on the re­search side, but also the teach­ing side as well,” Abel­son said, when asked about his in­ter­est.

“For me, it was kind of like the per­fect storm – it seemed tai­lor made for me and that’s why it ap­pealed to me.”

Abel­son will come to St. F.X. from Western Univer­sity, where he spent the last 25 years in var­i­ous roles, in­clud­ing pro­fes­sor and chair of the po­lit­i­cal sci­ence de­part­ment, along with di­rec­tor of the Cen­tre for Amer­i­can Stud­ies and Canada-us In­sti­tute.

He said he is look­ing for­ward to the op­por­tu­nity “to work with some very tal­ented re­search chairs in the many fields that will part of the Mul­roney In­sti­tute of Govern­ment.”

“To come to a cam­pus that has a ter­rific rep­u­ta­tion for un­der­grad­u­ate teach­ing, to be able to par­tic­i­pate in a new four-year in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary pro­gram in pub­lic pol­icy and gover­nance, which cer­tainly ap­pealed to me, and to be able to par­tic­i­pate on the ground floor to build a pub­lic pol­icy in­sti­tute that is able to help shape the na­tional con­ver­sa­tion around im­por­tant pol­icy is­sues,” Abel­son added.

He de­scribed the en­dowed re­search chair in Canada-u.s. re­la­tions as a “new and ex­cit­ing ini­tia­tive.”

“Not to men­tion the ex­per­tise on cam­pus in var­i­ous de­part­ments – in po­lit­i­cal sci­ence, his­tory, so­ci­ol­ogy and an­thro­pol­ogy – and given the wealth of tal­ent at the cam­pus, I felt it was a ter­rific place to be­gin the next stage of my ca­reer,” he said.

Re­call­ing the first ques­tion of his St. F.X. in­ter­view – what in­ter­ested him most about com­ing to the Antigo­nish cam­pus – Abel­son said his an­swer was “very, very sim­ple.”

“I want to be in a place that is wel­com­ing and ac­com­mo­dat­ing and be­lieves that I can make a con­tri­bu­tion. The peo­ple could not have been kin­der and more re­cep­tive – very open, in terms of what their vi­sion was for the in­sti­tute and how I could help ad­vance that,” he added.

Abel­son said he “felt very wel­comed from the be­gin­ning.”

“It is clearly a close-knit com­mu­nity – both in Antigo­nish and on cam­pus – and I felt it was a good fit for me at this stage of my ca­reer, hav­ing spent 25 years at a much larger in­sti­tu­tion.

“I felt that it was time to try and work on an ini­tia­tive where there was com­mu­nity sup­port, univer­sity sup­port and donor sup­port, which is what re­ally ap­pealed to me,” he added.

‘Trans­for­ma­tive’ ini­tia­tive

Al­though he does not be­gin full-time un­til Jan­uary, Abel­son is in “con­stant com­mu­ni­ca­tion” with senior lead­er­ship at St. F.X., work­ing on sev­eral po­ten­tial fundrais­ing ini­tia­tives.

“Ideas around help­ing stu­dents in the pub­lic pol­icy and gover­nance pro­gram, and ideas about rais­ing the pro­file of the in­sti­tute,” he added.

“I have al­ready started to sketch out some ideas about de­vel­op­ing the in­sti­tute and giv­ing the kind of pro­file that peo­ple on cam­pus and cer­tainly Prime Min­is­ter Mul­roney and oth­ers would like to see hap­pen.”

Abel­son noted this is an ini­tia­tive that is go­ing to take a while to un­fold.

“But it is trans­for­ma­tive – there is no doubt about it,” he said, adding the build­ing is “go­ing to be spec­tac­u­lar.”

“It is go­ing to trans­form both the com­plex­ion of the cam­pus and, I think, the pub­lic pol­icy com­mu­nity in Canada.

“I think there is a tremen­dous op­por­tu­nity for all of us, to­gether, to make the Mul­roney In­sti­tute a very special place and, in time, it is go­ing to at­tract con­sid­er­able ex­po­sure,” he added.

Abel­son noted its ef­fect will not only be felt in the Mar­itimes, but also across Canada and North Amer­ica.

“It is a won­der­ful op­por­tu­nity and, given the sup­port that I have seen, there is no doubt that it is go­ing to be suc­cess­ful,” he said.

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