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Steveral vertical rows of students, mostly women and all dressed in black or grey, collectively sing in the new Armouries space

Provost's Messages

Previous Messages from Provost Douglas Kneale:

Songs of Experience

In 1794 the English poet William Blake published an illustrated series of poems entitled Songs of Innocence and of Experience, showing “the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul.”

At first glance, Innocence and Experience do seem polarized, as different from each other as Blake’s meek Lamb from his burning Tyger. Yet upon closer inspection, scholars have noted, Experience is always already present within Innocence, there but not perceived, and perception – or at least its contrary states of blindness and insight – is what lies at the heart of Blake’s songs. Looking back at its former Innocence, Experience says: “I saw what I never had seen.”

Today in postsecondary education in Ontario we have our own Songs of Experience.

Not exactly poetry, it’s what we call “experiential education” or “experiential learning.” We now have “experience maps” that guide students through their undergraduate university education, showing how they can combine curricular, co-curricular, and extra-curricular experiences on their way to a career after graduation. Practically every university in the province now has “experience” in its lexicon, in its advertising, and on its website.

By experiential education, we mean more than just “co-op.” We define it as “the application of theory to a concrete experience, either within the classroom, the community, or workplace, that advances the learning outcomes of a course or academic program. It requires students to reflect upon their learning. Experiential learning can come in many forms and can occur both inside and outside the classroom.”

In 2016 the University of Windsor established a task force to review experiential education across our campus. The mandate was to establish a common terminology, develop a thorough inventory of current activities, and make recommendations for increasing and documenting student participation in experiential learning. As in Blake’s state of Experience, our research revealed far more than what we had innocently imagined. We saw what we never had seen. More than we realized, our University was deeply involved in and committed to experiential education in many different forms – curricular, co-curricular, and extra- curricular. Please read our report.

We founded the task force partly because we saw that the province’s Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development was interested in having universities play a bigger role in preparing students to become members of the Highly Skilled Workforce – a government priority that has now evolved into the Career Kick-Start Strategy announced in April 2017. While that strategy, strictly speaking, focuses only on “work-integrated learning” (as one subset of experiential education overall), it dovetails with our more comprehensive review of the landscape.

All education is an “experience,” though not all of it need be “applied learning,” or at least not applied in any narrow sense of the word. Curiosity and imagination are as important, as useful, as reason and analysis, as Shelley said in 1821: “Whatever strengthens and purifies the affections, enlarges the imagination, and adds spirit to sense, is useful.”

Still, as one example of the high-impact educational practices that have been shown to improve student engagement and thus student success, experiential education is something that many employers and students are seeking. Here at the University of Windsor we have been offering our students hands-on experiential learning for a long time, and we are committed to enhancing the number and variety of such opportunities as we integrate them into the overall student experience. The possibilities grow every day.

UWindsor students can dive into experiences in Applied Research, Community Service Learning, Creative Performances or Exhibits, Field Placements and Field Schools, Internships and Externships, Labs, Practicums, Conference Presentations, Research Projects, Research Assistantships, Teaching Assistantships, and Work Study positions – to name but a few. And of course, we also have plenty of choice in Co-op programs, both in Canada and around the world.

Recent examples of experiential education opportunities at the University of Windsor include:

  • field study in Costa Rica through our Faculty of Science
  • editing and publishing practicum in the Department of English
  • state-of-the-art Simulation Lab in our Faculty of Nursing
  • practice teaching in the Faculty of Education
  • co-op placement in Germany through our Faculty of Engineering
  • internship in the Department of Communications, Media and Film
  • field practicum in our School of Social Work
  • Community Legal Aid Clinic in our Faculty of Law
  • Volunteer Internship Program in Community Service Learning.

These are our Songs of Experience.

I invite you to explore this website for more information – not just about the wonderful experiential opportunities at the University of Windsor, but about the full sweep of our programs and courses, and the outstanding research, scholarship, and creativity happening with our professors and students.

Even better, come visit our campus and see for yourself. Together we’ll map out a personal, hands-on University of Windsor experience that is uniquely yours.

Welcome to the Office of the Provost and Vice-President, Academic at the University of Windsor.

The 19th-century French poet Rimbaud said: “La vraie vie est ailleurs.” Often translated simply as life is elsewhere, the saying has been adapted by filmmakers and artists and novelists, including the Czech writer Milan Kundera, who used it as the title of his 1969 novel Život je jinde.

The idea that life is elsewhere, not wherever you are, unsettles both our sense of place and our sense of identity, and opens up possibilities for what the poet Wordsworth called “worlds not realized.”

There is nowhere better to find elsewhere for a while, to steep yourself in worlds that are bigger or older or fundamentally different than you are, than through a university education.

Last September, 132,000 prospective students and parents attended the Ontario Universities’ Fair in Toronto. Many of the students had a Rimbaud look on their face, feeling the gravitational pull of the GTA, but desiring a life elsewhere, an educational experience to liberate them and confirm for them that there was life beyond the fall radius of the CN Tower.

The University of Windsor is elsewhere. Let me tell you why.

First, no other university in Canada can boast a location that is 600 metres away from a foreign country, an international neighbour, and a city with a French name: Detroit. Put a compass in the middle of the Ambassador Bridge, describe a circle, and you have a greater metropolitan area of more than 5 million people in two different countries, with exponential social and cultural opportunities that are definitely not the GTA. We are in that part of Canada once known as la nouvelle France, which explains our rich heritage of French place-names. Our campus is situated on the traditional territory of the Three Fires Confederacy of First Nations. We are the fourth most culturally and ethnically diverse city in all of Canada.

What also makes us elsewhere is the special mix of programs we have – Engineering, Law, Nursing, Education, Business, Human Kinetics, Science, and Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences – in addition to signature programs in Great Lakes research, visual arts and the built environment, and dual degrees in Law on both sides of the Windsor-Detroit border. In fact, it is unusual, and a decided advantage, for a university of our size – about 15,350 this coming September – to have such a rich mix of programs – professional, applied, experiential, and theoretical. Our students have opportunities, both curricular and co-curricular, that you simply can’t get at other universities three or four times our size.

But finally, I think what makes us so brilliantly, refreshingly elsewhere is that we are a personalized, individualized campus, where you’re not a number, you are a daughter or son of the University of Windsor, wherever you’re from. Since 1857, the historical origin of the present-day University of Windsor, we have been a progressive and inclusive community that comes together to study, to learn, to teach, and to serve. Our symbol is the bridge; our vista is cross-border; our commitment is local; and our impact is global.

There are a thousand reasons why students should choose the University of Windsor as a study destination, as a gateway destination for all their worlds not yet realized.

La vraie vie est ailleurs.” Whether that “elsewhere” is literally somewhere, or whether it is figuratively a place in the mind or the heart, a university education should make room for it.

For me, elsewhere is here, at the University of Windsor. I invite you to join us.


Dr. Douglas Kneale

Provost and Vice-President, Academic

Knowing When...: 21st-Century Choices in University Leadership

Well, greetings everyone, and thank you all for coming to this session. This is my first Windsor-Oakland conference, and I’m delighted to see so many of you here–so many newly familiar faces since my coming on board just a little over two months ago, and a number of brand-new faces as well.

I want to begin by thanking my colleague and collaborator Beverley Hamilton for suggesting in the first place that the new Provost might want to think about participating in this event.

So here’s what we’re going to do. We have about 90 minutes in this session. I’m going to begin with a few prepared remarks, for something like 20 minutes, and then we are going to open up small-group discussion at your tables with Bev facilitating, and then we’ll regroup as a whole.

Just to remind ourselves, our overall theme this year is “Leading Change in Teaching and Learning: Vision, Influence, Action,” and my particular inflection of that theme is entitled “Knowing When...: 21st-Century Choices in University Leadership.”

So let’s begin.

On February 5, 1992, Chrysler President and CEO Lee Iacocca launched a famous TV ad campaign. Many of you will remember it. Looking into the TV camera, Iacocca said, “In the car business, you lead, follow, or get out of the way.” As a philosophy of leadership, the slogan took on a life of its own in the corporate world of the 90s, with the clear implication that in business there really aren’t three choices, there is only one. “In the years ahead,” Iacocca went on to say in the commercial, “we don’t plan to follow. And we sure won’t have to get out of the way. That means there’s only one alternative left.”

Well, that was then. And that was them...if you’ll pardon the grammar.

What might have worked in the car business in the 90s does not necessarily translate into postsecondary education today. Surely the models of leadership we need in the 21st-century academy are different. And yet, behind the slogan there may lie a vision, an influence, an action that we can adapt to our desire to effect change in teaching & learning. Let me therefore make the argument that educational leadership today–as distinct from the TV commercial–means knowing when to lead, when to follow, and when to get out of the way, and it is this knowing when, this sense of timing, of timeliness, that can make all the difference.

So, I want to reflect on these three temporal moments, these different–I won’t say fundamentally different, just different–ways of thinking about leadership in postsecondary education today. And because I am new here at Windsor, and have not yet tipped my mitt as to my own style, let me adopt, in the spirit of what Keats would call a chameleon sensibility, three different personae for the three different approaches, and allow them to speak for themselves. Sound like a plan? I call the three speakers Oakland, Windsor, and Essex.

And our first speaker, Oakland, who knows all about when to lead, wants to go first. Oakland begins with a line from the seventeenth-century poet John Donne: “To teach thee, I am naked first.”

Oakland: Well, let me just come out and say the obvious thing: the best kind of leadership comes from the front. It’s the default kind of leadership. It’s what most leaders want, and what most followers want too. In any other model of leadership, as the poet Milton would say, “The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed.”

A real leader knows in a flash what the right course of action is. But I recognize that there are often obstacles to implementing or charting that course of action, as we all know. For example, in a multiple collective agreement environment, or a highly regulated provincial or professional sector, we know that the line from A to B often goes through XYZ first–and need I say that the wheels turn ever so slowly....

Let me make something clear from the start. Leading from the front doesn’t mean that you take all the glory–Ha! On the contrary, you take all the heat! And that’s what you’re expected to do–what you’re paid to do. You’re not paid to sit back and keep your head down–you’re paid to step up and stand up. You’re not paid to abstain.

That’s why it’s called leadership, not followership. And it isn’t a popularity contest–it’s a test of character. And if you’re not prepared for that, then let me tell you, the first narcissistic wounding of your ego as a leader will be deep and hard and lasting.

I know when to lead. Every hour of every day. In my experience I make a decision because I know it’s the right thing to do, and I go ahead and do it. I mean, I don’t ride roughshod over accreditations, or periodic reviews, or collective agreements, but at the same time I don’t sit back to have a bunch of ad hoc committee members tell me what I already knew before the ad hocery even began.

In short, I lead by example. Committees don’t set examples. They spend endless time looking around for other people’s examples, often because they don’t have a single original idea themselves. It’s now called “best practices.” I’ll tell you what a best practice is...it’s to get out in front of my colleagues, my comparators, my competitors. Making the big decisions. Getting things done. Boom.

And don’t tell me that there’s something intrinsically corporate about this style of leadership, so that you can conveniently demonize it away. On the contrary, it’s poetic. Donne had it right: in describing a scene of instruction, he has the teacher naked first. That is the vulnerability of us as leaders and teachers. We have to set the example, because no one else will. We have to model the behaviour.

In my view, there is a dearth of true leadership in PSE today. And by true, I mean smart, benevolent, forward-looking leadership, full of integrity and insight. But decisive. I won’t apologize for being a leader who actually leads. In fact, when I look around at the state of higher education today, I want a T-shirt that would read: “Oakland! Thou shouldst be living at this hour...the 21st-century academy hath need of thee....”

[...OK, the English professor in me just wants to say to the class out there: Discuss. One hour. Bev has the exam booklets to hand out if you need them....

All right, I’ll leave Oakland reciting Wordsworth, and turn to Windsor, who instead of literary allusions, prefers sports metaphors, not least the example of The Great One, who...]

...Here Windsor breaks in ...who broke every record in goals and assists by standing behind the net. Did you hear that? Standing behind the net. And breaking every record. The “leading point-scorer in NHL history, with more assists than any other player has points” (Wikipedia).

Because here’s the thing. Behind the net doesn’t mean behind the scenes. When you’re behind the net, you’re on the ice! You’re part of the team! So what’s more important, your personal best, or your team’s overall finish? Park your ego at the door.

Oakland, your style of leadership is SOO yesterday...with its tone-deaf, full-frontal approach. “To teach thee, I am naked first.” Puhleese. There isn’t a single example of effecting change in significant ways in the postsecondary education sector that hasn’t involved consultation, delegation, a team approach. I know what you’ll say–in fact, you’ve already said it–that consultation is a waste of time. When you already know the goal, why fiddle around getting other people’s opinions when that just slows down the whole process? Well, I know how frustrating that can be. Every administrator knows that our Achilles’ heel is consultation: we often feel we do it till the cows come home, but in the end we still seem to have a blind spot. I wasn’t consulted. Where was I when this decision was made? We hear this all the time. So what do we need to do? Even when our instincts tell us what the destination is, we need to ensure that we include a range of opinions–sometimes coming from a lot of different places but zeroing in on a common goal, or sometimes coming from next door but heading in a completely different direction.

Real leadership isn’t some gung-ho, damn the collective agreement!, listen for the sound of breaking glass as I smash the ceiling, momma, warm up my cv, because I’m moving out–it’s a question of balance and tact, listening and reflecting, not being afraid to take up other people’s ideas when offered.

True leadership is knowing when to hand off, knowing when to allow someone else to cycle in front while you draft behind for a change. Empower your people, mentor them by giving them opportunities to demonstrate their own leadership–and you will see the team results.

In my experience, that is the model I have always followed. I have sought the advice of colleagues, junior and senior, academic and administrative; I have valued consensus; wherever possible, and in ways never before done within my institution, I have delegated responsibility and distributed authority; I have included members whose involvement was peripheral. Leadership need not always come from the front.

In fact real leadership more often means getting a large group of creative people trooping along the same path (though by no means in lock-step), with an overall common purpose and sense of direction. To achieve that, you can’t be out in front, you need to be behind the net.

Let me give you one example of success in doing that. When we undertook strategic planning–complex and exhausting as it is–I deliberately stepped back to allow the play to unfold. Even when some of us felt that our destination, our destiny, lay across that sloping field to the left, while others maintained that it was rather through the woods appearing on our right, and still others asserted that, no, if we just carried on to the top of the next rise we’d see it – no one ever argued that we should all just turn around, go home, and sit by the fire.

Oakland, I’ll take my followership model over your leadership monolith anytime.

And now the third speaker Essex, who has been staying out of the fray, responds:

Hmm. So I think I get Oakland’s model that leading means out in front–what’s so difficult to understand about that? But I’m having trouble with Windsor’s reversal of that model. Not in front but behind. Not leading but following. It sounds a lot like Stevie Smith’s poem “Not Waving but Drowning....”

I want suggest that there’s a third strategic maneuver that Oakland and Windsor haven’t yet mentioned: getting out of the way. Now, let me make something clear: there is getting out of the way...and then there is getting out of the way!

Let me explain. In concert with the President, VPs and AVPs, Deans, Senate and Board members, faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community partners and donors, a leader needs to integrate diverse and divergent ideas into a coherent trajectory and get everyone facing in the same direction. I get that.

But as important as this skill is–whether leading from the front, the rear, the distributed middle, whatever–equally important is knowing when not to lead at all. Say what? You heard me.

In my experience, I can think of many times when I did the out-front leading, or the distributed responsibility approach, but some of the best decisions I ever made were when I chose not to lead at all: I simply stepped aside to let other agendas pass me by. Hiring committees, space committees, to take just two nearly random examples–these can be lightning rods for every possible agenda in a unit, and sometimes a leader needs to step back in order not to get zapped.

Stepping back and getting out of the way means that the leader doesn’t get caught in the crossfire. That’s in fact what I’ve been doing in this debate up till now. And sometimes opening up a space for a rhetorical, political shootout at the O.K. Corral can serve a purpose: let the players use up their ammo, and once their arguments and counter-arguments have all been depleted, then the canny leader steps in as the smoke clears to behold the baleful eyes of the spent opponents. From a leadership perspective, it smells like success.

And do not underestimate the power or the effectiveness of emerging as a leader from a strategic position of obscurity, of being just off the radar until the decisive moment, the kairos, that defines true leadership: knowing when to get out of the way, and when to get back in–that is, to emerge as a leader.

Now, because Oakland began with a literary allusion, let me finish with another–not Donne but Shakespeare, and his textbook example of Prince Hal, who as a leader-in-training (the future Henry the Fifth) has been completely out of the limelight, demonstrating neither leadership nor followership, but only a kind of inebriated fellowship in the local pub with Falstaff. But here is what the future king already knows about leading, following, and getting out of the way: it’s all about when.


  • Yet herein will I imitate the sun,
  • Who doth permit the base contagious clouds
  • To smother up his beauty from the world,
  • That, when he please again to be himself,
  • Being wanted, he may be more wonder’d at,
  • By breaking through the foul and ugly mists
  • Of vapours that did seem to strangle him.


This is a prince emerging as a leader, a sun-king coming out from behind a cloud when it pleases him to do so. Getting out of the way is but a strategy for getting back in.

Knowing when to do which is what leadership is all about....


And so ended the friendly debate involving Oakland, Windsor, and Essex, and all three repaired in good order to more pleasant surroundings to continue the conversation. As for who led, who followed, and who got out of the way when the bill arrived, the record is silent.

Welcome to the Office of the Provost and Vice-President, Academic at the University of Windsor.

As an English professor, I begin with words. The title Provost comes from the Latin for someone placed at the head. In a 21st-century university such as UWindsor, that means that the Provost is the senior academic officer, providing leadership for academic planning and administration across the university, and overseeing such areas as student recruitment, student services, the library, inter-faculty programs, teaching & learning, IT, faculty relations, and international development. The Provost reports to the President and works with the VP-Research and Innovation and VP-Planning and Administration, the Deans of the Faculties, the University Librarian, the Registrar, and other senior administrators. My approach to the comprehensive portfolio of Provost is to focus on the basics: keep your eye on the teaching and research mission of the university, create the human and intellectual space for people to do their job, and then let them get on with it. To me, that means seeing

  • our students–graduate, undergraduate, and professional–having an exceptional educational experience both inside and outside the classroom;
  • our faculty members, junior and senior, solo or in teams, flourishing in their teachingand research and creativity, receiving recognition and support, internal and external, for the extraordinary things they do;
  • our staff, at all levels and in all sectors of the University, knowing that their contributions are valued and that they are an integral part of our success;
  • our community, whether Tri-County, across the river, or around the globe, engaged with our University and helping us to fulfill our calling in the world.

Whether you are a current or prospective member of the University of Windsor community–faculty, staff, or student–I invite you to browse these pages for more information about us, or follow the links to learn about our priorities, our successes, and our aspirations. You will find that since 1857 we have been a progressive and inclusive community that comes together to study, to learn, to teach, and to serve. You’ll discover that our size and scope give us a local grasp with a global reach. You’ll see that our location at the busiest binational crossroads on the continent means that we look in all directions. And with our potential, I’m sure you’ll understand why I envision UWindsor as North America’s gateway university.


Dr Douglas Kneale

Provost and Vice-President, Academic