If there’s one thing Dr. Tara Hyland-Russell is passionate about, it’s education. Especially the non-traditional variety.
The new Northern Lights College Vice President of Academics and Research spent the last 22 years in Calgary helping to turn St. Mary’s College into St. Mary’s University. She started out as a professor of English Literature and worked her way up through several roles within the institution, including Chair of Humanities, Associate Dean of Students, Director of Research, and Vice President of Academics.
Coming from a university to a smaller college like NLC is something Tara looks forward to.
“There are so many pathways that learners can take, and I love the variety of programs that NLC has,” she says. “Being able to support students that might start out taking a diploma and maybe five or 10 years later say ‘hey, I need some upskilling,’ to me that’s really exciting.”
“I think what Northern Lights College does really matters.”
Tara spent much of her career developing new pathways for learners that may not necessarily be the most used but can be the most effective. She spent the last decade and a half working on the Humanities 101 program, which provides marginalized learners with reflective space within the humanities. Through music, art, poetry, prose, drama, and other classical studies, people who have been deprived education can discover a better sense of themselves, which allows them to become more fully engaged member of society.
She noted that experience with Humanities 101 “made me a better teacher and professor and really attuned me to the backstories of students’ lives. If students are struggling academically, it’s never just about academics.”
Being able to provide context to situations is important to Tara; the why is just as important as the who, what, and where. She praised NLC’s work in the Labour Market Study and the Strategic Plan, noting that it’s research like this that gives the context and makes it easier to adapt to the changing world and meet the needs of the communities.
Tara says she’s never been the type of academic who sits in an office in an ivory tower that no one ever sees; she’s looking forward to getting out and about on campus and meeting everyone, be it staff, students, or faculty.
She’s also planning to venture out to the smaller campuses, like Chetwynd and Tumbler Ridge, to see what makes them tick.
“Each has its own characteristics and specializations and I’m really curious to understand how they all fit together,” she says. “I see the different campuses as the different strands in the sky of the aurora borealis.”
Tara looks forward to living in Dawson Creek. She is an avid outdoorsperson, spending her time away from work camping with her husband, riding her bike, or digging in her garden. She’s a voracious reader and enjoys chatting about books.