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Getting to Know the Vanier College Head: Professor Eric Kennedy

Getting to Know the Vanier College Head: Professor Eric Kennedy

Named after Major General The Right Honourable Georges P. Vanier, Vanier College was founded in 1967 and was the second college to be established on York’s Keele campus. Vanier College is dedicated to supporting undergraduate students in a variety of programs including economics, humanities and social sciences.  Today, we bring to you a one-on-one talk with Professor Eric Kennedy, who was recently appointed as the Head of Vanier College. 

Eric Kennedy headshot

I love the programs in Vanier College, and I’m so excited to find ways to support the development of their professional and cocurricular communities. Vanier’s new mission of supporting upper year students is, for me, all about helping you make the most of your experience here at York and helping you succeed in the transition from York to your next chapter. This includes providing services and spaces to upper year students who need help with writing term papers, working on their own projects, and navigating their journey beyond their undergrad, in their jobs or in grad school. Our aim is to help them overcome any hurdles they face, both in school, and beyond. 

Disasters were a way to blend my passions. While I was in my undergrad, I became really interested in the concept of ‘expertise': who counts as an ‘expert,’ how experts think, and how we can make better decisions. I was also super involved in emergency medical response through the Campus Response Team at the University of Waterloo. So, for me, it was all about finding topics and issues that I loved, and then just finding as many ways as I could to study them, learn about them, and get involved in them. 

Getting a PhD and becoming a professor is a very challenging path, and there were a lot of times through that journey where I really struggled. If you have ever suffered from imposter syndrome or anxiety—like me!—let me tell you: you’re not alone. I think it’s really important to talk about this: struggling with these kinds of challenges; with mental or physical health with uncertainty with having to balance work and school and caring duties and so many other things... these aren’t as uncommon as we might think. If you’re going through this, know that you’re not alone, and they make you strong, not weak.  

I hope that the Colleges can become one of many places at York where you feel welcomed, valued, and cared for as a whole person; where you know we have the highest hopes and dreams for you... and that we’ll be there with you, every step of the way, helping you to make them possible.  

Tough question! I wish everyone could have teleportation abilities. Being able to achieve rest and rejuvenation without needing to sleep would be pretty clutch as well. 

Their London Fog is... surprisingly good! Honestly, I prefer small, local coffee shops, but I have a special place in my heart for Tim Hortons. When I was doing my PhD research, I took a 21,000km road trip around Canada to interview fire managers... so I ended up eating and writing at a lot of Tim Hortons along the way.  

I had the chance to participate in—and then lead—some Reading Week trips to rebuild houses in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. These trips had a really powerful influence on me, and I think that these kinds of service opportunities are fascinating learning experiences. If anyone is interested in developing or exploring these here at York, let’s talk!  

Delivering papers! I’ve done many jobs and internships through the years, but my very first one was delivering advertisements around the neighborhood for the “Pennysaver.” Truthfully, I think my biggest lesson from that job was how important being active and outdoors was to me (both professionally and in my personal life). But, one of my next jobs—being an “instructor in training” at a summer camp— was probably the first time I learned how much I loved teaching.  

How do I choose just one? My partner and I tend to watch a lot of heist movies and documentaries, and I’m into dystopian films as well. Maybe we need a Vanier movie night series to help answer this question for me!  

All four: I love the variety more than any given season. I’m into paddling in the summer, skiing in the winter, and hiking and cycling year-round. If I had to pick between the two, though, it would be summer... as long as I had a powerful air conditioner!  

The Colleges belong to you! We want the colleges to be a place where you feel welcome, supported, and more than just a number. They’re meant to be a home and connection point in the midst of a giant university. Please stop by, say ‘hi,’ check out our events, and reach out anytime (seriously—my inbox is open!). I can't wait to get to know you better and to figure out how we can make sure Vanier is a place that helps you thrive.