‘No other university in Canada had the courage to dream this big and, in this community, I found the deep good will towards teaching and learning that was needed to bring the dream to life’
“Big dreams do not come along every day,” says Lynn Taylor, the University of Calgary’s inaugural vice-provost (teaching and learning). “When they do come your way, the first step in realizing the dream is having the courage to seize the opportunity when it is not clear yet what exactly the dream means, and where the dream will take you. The University of Calgary had a dream to integrate teaching and learning practice, scholarship and leadership, and I could imagine the impact that dream might have — it was my opportunity of a lifetime.”
Taylor officially retired from her position at the end of June after coming to the University of Calgary in 2012. Leslie Reid, 3M recipient and former associate dean teaching and learning from the Faculty of Science, has been appointed the interim vice-provost (teaching and learning).
An agent of change Taylor has been described as “a leader among leaders,” “a community-builder” and “an agent of change” by some of Canada’s most highly regarded leaders in educational development and higher education. But perhaps, big dreams a truly the defining element of her successful career that has included serving as vice-president (scholarship of teaching and learning) for the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE) from 2005 to 2008; as an active member of the selection committee for the 3M National Teaching Fellowship from 2008 to 2013; and as an editorial board member for a number of publications including the Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. She also led the growth of teaching and learning centres at the University of Manitoba and Dalhousie University.
Since arriving at the University of Calgary in 2012, Taylor has nurtured the growth of a teaching and community that has created an annual teaching recognition awards program, an annual conference on postsecondary teaching and learning, a teaching and learning grants program of over $1 million and more recently, the visioning and structuring of the breathtaking $40 million dollar Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning.
“Joining the University of Calgary at this point in my career was a gift in my life — the perfect capstone experience. No other university in Canada had the courage to dream this big and, in this community, I found the deep good will towards teaching and learning that was needed to begin to bring the dream to life,” says Taylor.
Find the right people, have a plan and preserve the dream’s integrity
Big dreams have been foundational to her success; however, Taylor does not hesitate to ground vision in action. When asked how she makes her dreams a reality, Taylor shares three essential elements:
- “The first essential element in realizing a dream is finding the right people to help. But individuals do not make dreams a reality. They need to be able to make connections that enable each other to build trust, share ideas, learn from listening, enable each other to take risks, and create communities – big and small — where conversations, actions, reflection and heart can be sustained.
- The second essential element is having a plan for making the dream come true, and striking the right level of detail in the plan so that its goals motivate us to keep striving but do not stifle our creativity.
- The third essential element is preserving the integrity of the dream. We need to recognize the diverse beliefs and experiences that others bring to the dream and use the gaps and grinds that emerge as opportunities to learn and to clarify, but not compromise, the vision.”
A source of inspiration
An inspiration to the people she works with, Taylor will be missed by the staff at the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning and colleagues across campus. Natasha Kenny, Director of the Educational Development Unit acknowledges that she came to the University of Calgary from the University of Guelph, in part, to have the opportunity to work with and learn from Taylor. “Lynn’s incredible capacity for caring and giving to others is inherent to her sense of knowing and being,” notes Kenny. “She is a leader who has dedicated her career to better understanding and advancing teaching and learning in postsecondary education. My story is but one of the many influenced by Lynn’s leadership, expertise and vision for educational development and higher education.”
Nancy Chick, the Academic Director of the Taylor Institute (and teaching professor in the Department of English) says, “Lynn combines two traits that are rarely found in one person: the vision to dream great things and the ability to make them happen. The opening couplet in an Emily Dickinson poem captures the Lynn Taylor I know: ‘I’ll tell you how the sun rose,– / A ribbon at a time.’ She has been our rising sun, and we’ve seen it happen a ribbon at a time.”