Campus Life

Cooper enthused about opportunity

The Prairies beckoned and Dr. Craig Cooper answered the call.

The new dean of the Faculty of Arts & Science at the University of Lethbridge has studied and worked throughout the country, with experiences at the University of Alberta, University of British Columbia, University of Winnipeg and Nipissing University in Ontario. Given the chance to return to the Prairies, however, was too good an opportunity for Cooper to pass up.

“Part of my reasoning was to return to the West and specifically the Prairies,” says Cooper, who began his five-year appointment on July 1.

Born and raised in Oshawa, Ont., he moved with his parents to the Northwest Territories as a 16-year-old, finishing his high school education there before beginning his post-secondary education at the U of A.

“The major reason I looked at this position though was the University and its really strong reputation, specifically its very strong record of research,” he adds. “The thing I really like about the U of L is that it seems to still have a commitment to excellence in teaching and for me, I’ve always liked that balance.”

Dr. Craig Cooper has built his research career around the study of Athenian law.

A strong proponent of liberal education, Cooper comes to a university that, on first glance, shares many similarities with Nipissing, where he spent the last five years as the Dean of Arts & Sciences.

“The difference is that I think this faculty and the University itself is much more mature, whereby Nipissing is a very young university,” he says. “I think the U of L has made great strides in the area of research, particularly on the science side, and with a much larger faculty, I think it’s a very exciting and innovative place to be.”

Cooper’s own research is around Athenian law and he has a major project in the works that examines the architecture and archaeological aspects of Athenian law as well as the dynamics of an Athenian citizen as they would move through the court system.

He has always enjoyed teaching and admits it is difficult to step back from teaching to work in an administrative role.

“I’ve been fortunate that when I was associate dean, I taught, and when I was Dean at Nipissing I was also able to teach a couple courses. I enjoy teaching very much and maybe I’ll have an opportunity here,” he says. “You go into this career never thinking you’re going to be a dean. Certain things happen along the way, you find you are good at dealing with people and administrative activities and so you move into that role. Then, partly you think, I could keep complaining down in the ranks or I could try and do something about it.”

Cooper is keenly aware of the task that awaits him. He takes over at a time when the University is facing difficult budgetary decisions, is wrestling with its own interpretation of liberal education and is aggressively contending with student retention issues.

“Retention will be a major focus over the next few years and I think some work needs to be done on the front of liberal education, and I have some ideas on that I think we’ll try to explore,” says Cooper.

One such idea is the establishment of a cohort system whereby students take a number of courses together as a cohort, all around a central theme.

“The courses they take would all be disciplinary, so it wouldn’t affect their aspirations of going into a particular discipline, and the courses are tailored to whatever theme their cohort is associated with. Maybe it’s a way to kind of revitalize that liberal education concept.”

What Cooper plans on doing over the first few months of his tenure is listening.

“I do like to consult widely and I do seek advice from people readily, particularly when you come into a new institution,” he says. “I also like to empower people to do things. Once we’ve decided on a direction, I trust people and try and give them the support they need to work toward our goals.”

Right now, he’ll work on settling into the community, awaiting the arrival of his wife (who remains in North Bay, Ont. trying to sell their house) and his mother.

“I like the size of the community. Lethbridge offers pretty much everything you want, large enough in that regard but small enough where you can get to know people,” he says. “I think there are opportunities for myself to really get engaged with the community through participation on local boards and so forth and I think that is important.”


• Cooper’s appointment as Dean runs from July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2018

• Cooper is a member of the American Philological Association, the Association of Ancient Historians and the Classical Association of Canada

• He received the 2007 Robin H. Farquhar Award for Excellence in Contributing to Self Governance

• An avid squash player and cyclist, he also plans to get back in the water with his kayak while living in southern Alberta

• His son, Chris, will remain in North Bay to finish his schooling at Nipissing University, while his daughter, Alyssa, and her husband are teachers in Rocky Mountain House, Alta.