Ian Rowlands ('87) - "The critical value of diversity is a lesson that I have carried with me, and that has indeed been strengthened with my subsequent experiences."Describe yourself in 50 words or less.

With my family – my wife and my three children – I live in Waterloo, Ontario.   I work as a Professor in the Faculty of Environment at the University of Waterloo.  I love spending time with my family, being outdoors (particularly in a lake), reading and travelling.

What are some of your most memorable moments from your time as President of NCSC?

One of my most memorable ‘Disorientation’ stories is as follows.  Goliath the Gnu had been kidnapped (full details escape me, though I do recall no one was hurt!).  We dreamed up the idea that one of the September events should be to launch a protest at Queen’s Park, demanding government assistance for his safe return.

Like other ideas conceived by 19-22 year olds in the summer sun (and no doubt lubricated by appropriate beverages), it probably seemed like a truly excellent one at the time. … September came, and, for whatever reasons, this event ‘clicked’.  The Frosh and the Leaders involved had a blast:  making signs, marching over to Queen’s Park and shouting at the foot of the stairs to the Legislative Building. (I shudder to think what might happen today, were a similar event to be planned.)

While we were there, it struck me (a bit late, admittedly) that we should have a government official address this unruly mob.  With the protest carrying on, I ran into Queen’s Park and hurriedly asked if someone would be willing to come out to speak to the protesters.  It was my lucky day:  a civil servant was game.  He quickly listened to my story, strode out of the building with authority and proceeded – with a suitable dash of gravitas – to assure the protestors that government resources would be deployed to help secure Goliath’s safe return and that, indeed, Premier Peterson would be personally involved.  He pulled it off with appropriate aplomb and panache.

The protestors were duly satisfied, and we happily returned to New College.

 Queens Park Protest 1986

Queen’s Park Protest – 1986


Tell us about some of the lessons you learned as a student leader. How valuable are these lessons to you today?

I think that my appreciation for ‘diversity’, in so many forms, is one lesson learned that is worth highlighting.  For me, New College was so heterogeneous along so many axes:  arts and science students mixing with those pursuing professional degrees, for instance.  Additionally, New College was a much more multicultural community than the west Ottawa neighbourhood in which I was raised. The critical value of diversity is a lesson that I have carried with me, and that has indeed been strengthened with my subsequent experiences.

Was there anyone in particular at New College (staff, student or faculty) who had a strong influence on your life or made a lasting impression on you?

Principal Ted Chamberlin – who arrived at New at about the same time that I was elected NCSC President – had a strong influence and made a lasting impression on me.   He was a wonderful mentor, both for my student leadership activities and for my academic aspirations.  With regard to the former, he was extremely supportive of the Council’s projects and he was always willing to hear whatever ideas we had forthcoming.  And with regard to the latter, he was strongly encouraging of my desire to ‘explore something new’ during my graduate studies and of my interest in studying abroad.  Of course, his own experiences were also inspiring to me.  Above all, however, he was warm and friendly – not only a mentor, but an example of how to live life.

How did your experiences at the University/College prepare you for life and your career?

Two life-defining ‘love affairs’ began during my time at New College and the University of Toronto.  The first was with ‘the university’.  I entered the university environment in September 1983, and I have never left. From U of T, I went – in 1987 – to England, where I studied and worked at the London School of Economics and Political Science for more than a decade.  In 1998, I returned to Canada, joining the faculty of the University of Waterloo.

And the second love affair began in what we used to call ‘the party room’ in the basement of Wetmore Hall.  At a Robinson House-Carr House party just before Thanksgiving weekend (1984), I met my future wife (a New 8T8 grad).  I report upon this one ‘second’ in my response to this question, but anyone who knows me knows that this one ranks first and foremost in my life.

Ian Rowlands, then and now