New athletic director Louise Cowin comes to Ryerson with a focus on community. “I believe that Ryerson is committed to its principles of equity and inclusion,” she said in an interview with the Ryersonian Friday.
She said that wasn’t always the case in her previous jobs at UBC and the University of Toronto, where they had nice words to say about inclusion, but “the words and actions don’t always match,” Cowin said.
Cowin was appointed as Ryerson’s executive director of Athletics and Recreation on Aug.12, 2019. She took over for Jeff Giles who served as interim director after Ivan Joseph stepped down in July 2018. Joseph held the position for 10 years.
Cowin said that she wanted a more contained role and an opportunity to interact with students more often, thus, she chose Ryerson. Her mission with the school is to further the success of the varsity teams at Ryerson and to “connect Ryerson students into a more active lifestyle, in terms of their community.”
Cowin was a competitive swimmer as a child in The Isle of Man, representing the island in the 1978 and 1982 Commonwealth Games – starting when she was only 14 years old. “When I was a kid, I only cared about how fast I could swim,” she said. Cowin secured an athletic scholarship to Millfield School, a private school in the United Kingdom. She completed her undergraduate in sports and educational studies, and then her master’s in science and physical education.
Between 2007 and 2011, Cowin worked as warden of Hart House, a student activity centre at the University of Toronto. She said that up to the late 1990s, Hart House was socially “exclusive and elite.” She said her mandate was to make sure that students in her time “saw themselves represented” not only in the programming of the institution but also in the physical appearance of the building and the attitude of the staff.
In October 2011, Cowin assumed the role of vice-president of students at the University of British Columbia. She was responsible for the “entire student-out-of-classroom experience,” Cowin said. “I really felt like I went to work every day as the chief representative of the students.” She said her decision to resign was influenced by the job shifting from away from an overall student focus.
“I’m somebody who I feel has had great privilege in my life,” Cowin said about her upbringing as the daughter of two newsagents. A scholarship to a school that she otherwise would not have been able to afford, gave her a real sense of equity and inclusion. “I always had an eye for who was included and who was not.”