It isn’t the inaugural year Maxine Mann had been planning for her career at Nova Scotia Community College, Pictou Campus, as the new principal but she has made the best out of dealing with COVID-19 for the past year and is ready to help the college make a difference in the county.
With experience in the field and a background that will help her piece together a network of partners and help students, Mann has embraced the position and is prepared to help the college and the community.
A social worker by trade, Mann is more than prepared for any problems she may face in her new position. Originally beginning as a clinical supervisor and dealing with mental health and addictions, Mann eventually moved on to teach some classes and ended up working in Ontario at a college there. After spending time as the Dean of Arts and Science she was then made the Dean of the School of Trades and Technology and the School of Business.
Some life changes landed her visiting Nova Scotia semi-frequently with her husband to see her stepdaughter; it is the province in which her husband grew up.
“About three years ago I said, ‘boy, I think I could live in Nova Scotia’,” Mann said. “And here we are.”
After buying a house in Westville, Mann began working with the Nova Scotia Health Authority as the manager of Mental Health and Addictions and eventually applied for the position of principal at the NSCC because of her previous dean positions. She had her first day in the position exactly one year before she sat down to speak with The Advocate.
Mann shared that in her previous position, the college she worked at was in an area that is similar to Pictou County in that there had been plenty of industry in the area that has since left, leaving the area in a post-industrial state. As the new principal, Mann is hoping to use some of the same ideas in Pictou County so she can work with the community to further the economy.
“I felt that the college had a pivotal role that it could be playing.” Mann shared that she really enjoys this line of work as well as talking about the potential for the community and the college if everyone works together. Having been able to do it once before she is hoping that she will be able to recreate a bigger sense of community and enrich the education as well as the economy of the area that she is now proud to call her home.
Mann is hoping to be able to bring in more people to the college who are considered minorities and have more women interested in the trades programs that are offered. She is hoping that projects and outreach such as being able to engage younger groups in middle school, for example, will help women realize that trades are a viable option for them sooner in life. She added that by the time students get to high school a lot of them have a rough idea of what type of field they would like to go into for example, arts, science, etc. If more young girls and more minority populations are exposed to all the things they can do with a trade education then it may be more likely to be on their mind as they advance in schooling.
For issues such as minorities and women, Mann’s social worker background allows her to be able to really listen and help those who come to her with personal problems.
“I think it helps you see education differently.” She said that most issues relating to education — especially ones that someone would come to a principal for — are relating to poverty. In this way, she is prepared to handle it.
As far as the last year has been, Mann shared that the pandemic certainly limited what she was able to do in her position, but it did not stop her. In fact, she is most proud of how she was able to handle everything smoothly.
“Working with my team here with COVID, I’m quite proud of that,” she said. Having worked in education in Ontario when the SARS outbreak was prevalent she had experienced a medical outbreak crisis in the educational community before and shared that she felt that really helped her navigate this time around, along with the help of the staff as well.
Along with helping the community and the economy, Mann plans to spend the next while in her position thinking about innovation as well, not only how the school teaches its students but how education is delivered and futuristic planning assessment for the college. Optimizing and recognizing what the college is good at and what they are known for will play a big part in this, she said.
“One thing can change people’s lives and that’s education,” she smiled. “I think education is very powerful.”