Abelson appointed founding director of Mulroney Institute of Government
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.
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.