Skip navigation to content

Case Study: James

Personal details
Degree:MA (Hons) Geography & Modern History Profile picture
School(s): School of Geography and Geosciences, School of History
Year of Graduation:Jun-1967
National of: United Kingdom
Employment details
Organisation: North Island College, BC (until 2005)
Job title: Campus Principal (now retired)
Occupational Sector: Teaching
What has been your route to getting your current position?
Following graduation, I emigrated to Canada and completed an MA in Geography at the (then) new Simon Fraser University. I then became a Geography lecturer in the expanding community college system in British Columbia, principally at the College of New Caledonia, Prince George, BC, teaching Introductory, Economic and Cultural Geography full-time until 1991. I was also a tutor at the University of Edinburgh and a part-time lecturer at the University of Victoria, BC, during sabbaticals. In addition, I taught at the University of British Columbia and the University of British Columbia. I was Dean of Science and Technology at the College of New Caledonia from 1991 to 2001 – proof that an arts graduate from St. Andrews can do anything! In addition to my decanal duties, I taught one Cultural Geography course each year until 2001. By the time I finished teaching, I had taught courses at all undergraduate levels and, in addition, one post-graduate course. During the 1990s, I helped with the creation of a Geography Department at the new University of British Columbia in Prince George. From then until 2005, I was Principal at a campus of North Island College on Vancouver Island.
What does your job involve ?
What are the best bits of your job ?

I loved teaching undergraduate Geography – the principal inspiration coming from several of my profs at St. Andrews, particularly John Paterson, Graeme Whittington and Professor Butler of Mediaeval History.

Why were you successful?
An arts degree from St Andrews and a master’s degree from the demanding staff at Simon Fraser University’s Geography Department provided me with the foundation for a very rewarding career as both teacher and administrator.
What skills/ knowledge from your degree have you found particularly helpful in this role?

Apart from the basics of my discipline, the ability to write good English, cartography, simple mathematics, introductory statistics, Moral Philosophy (a course compulsory in my time at St. Andrews), research techniques (particularly in history). The experience of being at a very social university, with plenty of opportunities to be involved in a wide range of societies, helped me to get along with people, a vital quality for a teacher and, especially, an administrator.

What advice would you give to students wishing to follow the same path?

Try to balance academic work with a rich social life and be involved in the larger community. I worked hard at my profession, but also spent plenty of time with my children as they grew up and, in addition, got involved in theatre, choral music, etc. Having something that was unrelated to work was very therapeutic as well as fun.