Charles Falzon is settling into his new position as dean of the Faculty of Communication and Design (FCAD), which he began last July. Prior to this, he was a media executive, part-time professor and did a stint as chair of the RTA School of Media. He sat down with The Ryersonian this week to talk about creative industries, chicken farming and why Ryerson students will “rock the world.”
How have your first few months on the job been?
I’m loving it, actually. It’s really exceeding my expectations in terms of what type of job it is. I’m working with nine amazing schools within the media and creative industries. There’s such range of talent, a range of passion and the students are so energized. I am energized by them, so it’s great.
What has surprised you about the experience of being a dean?
I think the biggest surprise is how little interschool activity there is. In other words, how easily we can go in our own little worlds. Even though the intent is there to collaborate, I’ve been really surprised at how little I know about the amazing things happening in other schools. So one of my main missions is to bridge all these areas of activity and I think it’s actually what our unique strength is as a faculty — the different strengths and the different energies, yet all working in the field communication and design.
Do you have some ideas on how the different schools could collaborate?
I think the Ryerson Communication and Design Society was a big step in the right direction. Student collaboration is where it starts. We’ve had several events already that were student-focussed such as Brunch With the Dean. We invited all the first years to brunch and it was really to have them talk to each other because they’re in different schools. At a faculty level we launched a creative innovation fund for faculty members working with research assistants, but one of the requirements is that the projects be inter-disciplinary. Working with the zones and the institutes, like the Transmedia Zone and the Radio Institute. There’s a whole number of things that we can do to create that ecosystem, that culture of collaboration.
FCAD has undergone quite a few changes in the past few years, including a completely new program: The School of Creative Industries. What other changes are on the horizon?
I think all the programs are evolving and will continue to because the disciplines we are in are evolving. We need to make sure that as things unfold, we adapt and we don’t set ourselves up in such a way that we cannot be nimble. All the schools are aware of that. They’re creating a more flexible curriculum and there’s more dialogue with the fields we’re in. Whichever program you come out of, we want you to say, “Hey I have this specialty because I went to this amazing program that has been around for 70 years … but by the way I’m also part of FCAD, which means I have grown up in an interdisciplinary environment. Those are the two sides of the coin —the strength and the discipline, and the ability to make people flexible as change happens.
Some students are concerned about the influx of part-time and freelance jobs, which don’t offer the same security as full-time jobs with benefits. How is the faculty addressing this?
I think we’ve put ourselves under pressure to say “OK, I leave here and I have to get this big job because I was doing big work at FCAD.” I think we have to relax a little. There are good jobs out there. There are some jobs that are no longer there, but new ones pop up. We are working on making sure that our competitive edge and the awareness of Ryerson schools continues to be prominent. That’s number 1. Number 2, there is in fact this need be entrepreneurial, and I think that all disciplines are pushing this more than we used to. Sometimes entrepreneurship is misunderstood as starting up your own business, and it’s not necessarily that. It can be, but it really is equally about how you demonstrate to the industry, how you can be of value in new ways they may not have thought of. We’re helping students realize that opportunities are actually growing, not shrinking. In a way there’s so much opportunity, it just needs a little more creative thinking by the individual. I don’t have the sense of concern (about lack of jobs) that sometimes people talk about, I don’t focus on that because I know our students are going to rock the world.
How do you decompress after work?
Some people may know this, well, now everyone is going to know this: I’m actually a hobby farmer. I live in the city, I’m a pretty urban guy, but for 20 years I’ve had a farm just outside of the city, near Erin (a town in Ontario about 80 km northwest of Toronto). I raise poultry and sheep and things like that. There is nothing more of a contrast than at the end of a very intense week to go over there and, you know, clean the stalls and feed the animals. Because we’re connected with Internet there, I can still catch up on some work, I just may not being wearing a suit and tie.
This article was published in the print edition of The Ryersonian on Nov. 18, 2015.