We have met met with Dean Kevin Kee to ask him a few questions.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m a dad of two kids in university and married to another educational leader. When I’m not working, I like to walk my dog, ride my motorbike, play my guitar and cook. I started out my career as a cultural historian interested in how we could use emerging technologies to better teach and learn. This curiosity brought me to the National Film Board of Canada, then McGill University. Before my 2015 appointment as dean, I held a Canada Research Chair in Digital Humanities and was the associate vice-president of research at another university. I’d describe myself as a learner. I am happiest when I don’t really understand something. I enjoy learning and then figuring out the contribution I can make.


Fill in the blank: The Faculty of Arts is committed to ______.

We are committed to the well-being of each member of our community. We are committed to excellence, and we know that excellence comes out of feeling well, confident and included. We definitely challenge people, but we also create conditions for them to confidently meet the challenge. We believe that the best teams, the best projects, the best outputs come from that place of wellness, confidence and community.


What do you like best about being at the Faculty of Arts?

The richness of our diversity. I would much rather work in a Costa Rican rainforest than an Iowa cornfield. Everybody is contributing, from their own different perspective, to our understanding of individuals and societies. I call this “discipline-based interdisciplinarity.” And, from this richness of perspectives, we are creating compelling solutions to the biggest problems. How do we live well on a planet of limited resources? How do we build community amidst diversity? How do we ensure that people who’ve had different levels of support have equal opportunity to succeed?

To solve these problems, we need to draw together different areas of expertise. To take but one example, we can’t solve our environmental challenge through environmental science alone. We know that increased levels of carbon in the atmosphere are resulting in a warming planet; the science is clear. The problem is: how do we change the way we live so that we can reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere? That’s where discipline-based interdisciplinary comes in. We know how individuals and societies think and work. That’s our opportunity.


Tell us about a project that had an impact on you.

In winter 2020, the president asked me to create and lead the President’s Advisory Committee on Mental Health and Wellness. I invited several other members of our academic community, including students, to help me study best practices across universities and listen, through a series of consultations and conversations. We held our first meeting a few days before the pandemic closed our campus, and, notwithstanding the challenge of that moment, sent recommendations for action to the president three months later. Our report and recommendations have brought about change at the University in how we support our students, staff and professors. Listening to the stories of suffering and pain definitely motivates you to meet this challenge head on. The issues are so complex and multifaceted — it is easy to feel overwhelmed with the enormity of the task. We have a special opportunity to be part of the solution, and our university took a big step forward. I’m proud to have been part of that project.


Tell us about an upcoming faculty project that you are excited about.

There are too many! The first that comes to mind is our Building Belonging Action Plan. In the spring of 2021, the dean’s office presented a preliminary plan that details specific steps that we are taking to make a clear and meaningful stand against racism and all other forms of discrimination, and create an inclusive environment for everyone. In the coming months, we’ll be reaching out to our community members — professors, staff, students, alumni — to build on this plan. As I mentioned before, the Faculty of Arts is stronger because of our diversity. I’m proud of the Building Belonging initiative because we are leading by our actions and not just our words.


Like most students, you’ve been connecting with people almost exclusively online for the past year. What do you miss most about being on campus?

I miss walking out of Simard Hall onto University Private — la Grande Allée — and seeing the crowds of students going from one class to another. There is a special kind of energy that only comes when you bring young people together on a university campus. I can’t get anywhere on time, but it’s wonderful! I am happiest around students, their hopes, their passion, their intelligence. They’re the reason we do what we do.