‘We want to bring in the best ideas from the rest of the world and we want to take our ideas abroad'
BIBLE HILL - Attracting the best and brightest from both home and abroad.
Three days into his esteemed role as the new president of Dalhousie University, that is one of the early visions that Dr. Richard Florizone has for the institution's future as he proceeds with his exploratory exercise of "100 days of listening."
"I think if you want a great institution, if you want a great Dal, what you want is the best of Nova Scotia and the best of the world brought together. That's really what it's all about," Florizone told the Truro Daily News, during a stopover in Bible Hill to tour the university's Agricultural Campus.
"That's true with the student body but also in terms of research, right. We want to develop the best ideas at home. We want to bring in the best ideas from the rest of the world and we want to take our ideas abroad. "
‘One hundred days of listening' is the term Florizone has attached to his learning process as he poses questions and familiarizes himself with the workings and challenges of heading up Dalhousie University, arguably the No. 1 research institution in the province.
"And I think one of the questions that I put together with my 100 days of listening is where do we go with that student body in the future - what is the mix of Nova Scotia, Canadian and international students? I still have an open mind about it."
But Florizone sees this point in history as "a really exciting time for agriculture," a factor he said is guiding his viewpoint from a broad perspective in terms of how the university's research can be used to deal with food issues both at home and abroad.
During the "green revolution" of the 1970s and ‘80s, he said, yields and productivity (outside of Third World countries, at least) peaked to the point where people did not have to worry about food sources or shortages.
"We became accustomed, I think, to rather inexpensive food and to an abundance of food, at least in the developed world. That's really shifted in the last decade."
Now, more attention is being paid to issues of food scarcity and security and the voices in the wind once again speak of "a new green revolution" in an effort to seek out greater production yields to feed growing populations.
"So I think it's a really exciting time and I think there's lot of opportunities and possibilities ahead," Florizone said.
And that is why it is important to provide a proper mix of cultural and intellectual minds to drive the research necessary for such success.
"It's not either or, it's really both," he said, of finding ways to supply enough food sources to feed a global population.
"I think the very best universities and the very best faculties, what we do is we're both local and global. So we're deeply intertwined in our local economies and acting as catalysts for local industry and for the cultural and social life of communities. But we're also bringing the very best of that Nova Scotian/Canadian knowledge to the world. And, vice-versa, bringing some of that world knowledge back to Nova Scotia and Canada. So I really see it as both."
And that is why it is "really important" to continue to attract students to serve not only the needs of the province, but to form the type of synergy created by continuing to bring in international students to strengthen and broaden the experience for Canadian and Nova Scotia students.
"That can only be a good thing," he said. "So the only question in my mind is, what is the right balance and mix? And that I don't know yet and I think that's part of the discussion in the coming months about where that mix should go long term."
Bio for Dr. Richard Florizone
- Native of Saskatchewan.
- Brings extensive experience with universities, companies and governments in Canada, the United States and Europe.
- From 2005 to 2013 served as vice-president (finance and resources) at the University of Saskatchewan.
- Holds a M.Sc. in physics and a B.Sc. in engineering
from U of S, where he was awarded the President's Medal as the university's top undergraduate.
- Has served on the board of several organizations
including the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology, Canadian Light Source, the Saskatchewan Opportunities Corporation and the Institute for Research on Public Policy.
- Married to Dr. Mona Holmlund, who holds a Ph.D.
in history from the University of Cambridge and is an asssistant professor of art history.
- Two daughters: Zoë and Elinor, aged 8 and 6.
- Hobbies include camping, hiking travel, sailing and kiteboarding.