Emily Carr President Ron Burnett on his knighthood, parents, and the ideal school
VO: What is your ideal school? What's the university of the future?
RB: The university of the future -- the best way to think about it is a place largely defined by conversation.
Conversation is not limited to formalities of the classroom, or the formalities of lectures – but conversation that has a narrative built into it. Emily Carr has a core narrative that structures our conversations around creativity and provokes us to have substantive links between what we do and the communities we serve. Our strength comes from our connections to so many different constituencies.
The structure of the university has to be permeable to allow for community, industry, education to mingle and learn from each other. Right now, we are doing a lot of that, but it's still very difficult because that permeability is hard to manage, as well as generate and sustain. So things have to be much more open and the accountability factor has to be defined by goals that are not just related to outcomes, but are also about quality and richness of experience.
VO: And you've outgrown this space on Granville Island.
RB: We have, completely.
VO: What can we expect in the future?
RB: Well, at a recent meeting I challenged the architects we were meeting with to think big. I asked them: 'What would you do if you could forget about costs for now?
If you were to build a campus that was, in metaphorical terms, a reflection of what Twitter does for conversation...and it isn’t just about cross-conversation, or bits of information. It would be really about social spaces where people come to realize what their strengths and weaknesses are through designed and spontaneous interactions. What would this building look like?'
You ask me about the future. Emily Carr is developing models of mentorship and teaching that reflect the realities of student’s needs. As opposed to the traditional model that always says 'we, the institution know better', it should be, 'we know a lot, so come and join us and lets share our stories and learn new things together.' Learning is the most exciting thing you can do in life. Learning how to bring your creativity to bear on making art or solving problems is even more exciting.
Walking in here – it's like walking into another world.
RB: The thing I love about Granville Island, the location, is that it's open to the public. So the Concourse Gallery -- the big gallery -- gets maybe thousands of visitors every year.
RB: Granville Island is the second most visited area in Vancouver after the airport, and at least a third of the people who come to the Island drift east from the market and walk into Emily Carr. Sometimes they're just walking through to use the bathrooms, but many times they're walking through and they stop and say, 'What is this?', 'What's happening here?'