November 03, 2016

Meet the new Dean of Students

As thousands of new students adjust to life at the U of A, the recently appointed Dean of Students, Dr. André Costopoulos, is also settling into his new role and life in Alberta. Born and raised in Montreal, where he was most recently the Dean of Students at McGill University, Dr. Costopoulos holds a BA (Hons) in anthropology from McGill, an MSc in anthropology from the Université de Montréal and a PhD in archeology from the University of Oulu, Finland. 

In our quick Q & A, Dr. Costopoulos shares plans for his role, advice for students, and insight into some of his favourite things (spoiler alert: music is a big deal).

You’re originally from Montreal  what interested you in the U of A?
The sense of local as well as global mission of the institution. The chance to make a difference. The integration between research and teaching, which I have never seen as separate endeavours. Those would be the main things.

What are your visions and plans for your role as Dean of Students?
Right now, I am listening and learning. And there is still a lot of that to be done. I want to make sure that students, the University community as a whole, and society in general, are well served by U of A. The question is not the what, the question is the how.

What inspires you as a leader and advocate for students?
Many people have made a difference for me over the years. Lots of profs and advisors were very patient and helpful with me when I was a student. I’m just trying to live up to them and the confidence they had in me. It is wonderful to see young people grow and become citizens, scholars and leaders. I try to do my small part to create an environment in which students can thrive.

What advice do you have for new students? Returning students?
Engage with the course material and be active members of your community. You have incredible opportunities for learning at U of A. Use them fully. Question, probe, critique, tell us what you think, but also prepare to be challenged in turn. And if you need support, don’t wait. Come and see us.

What is your hope for students in the coming academic year?
To learn and to grow.

What is your favourite thing about Edmonton & area? 
So far, I would have to say the skies. You never see skies like that out east. Ever present, constantly changing, always majestic, never oppressive. They’re inspiring.

Favourite band/music?
Well, that is a contentious question. I frequently have raging debates about that (with myself). You probably don’t want to get me started on that, but since you have… 

I can’t bring myself to name one, but I can tell you which musicians have had the biggest influence on me over the years. I would have to start with Black Sabbath, the wellspring of all things metal. It is the soundtrack of all my days. Iron Maiden changed my life, of course, when I got an Nth generation tape copy of Killers in about 1982 when I was 13. I could barely hear it through the static. I spent a lot of time tracking down and reading issues of Kerrang after that, and combing through the tape trading ads in the back pages. Which is how I ended up living on Metallica’s Master of Puppets and Ride the Lightning for some years. 

There’s a Finnish epic pagan folk metal band called Moonsorrow that accompanies me through my darkness, especially their albums Havitetty and Verisakeet. But I have also listened to A LOT of Jefferson Airplane, especially the stuff from After Bathing at Baxter’s to Long John Silver. On a related note David Crosby’s first solo album, If I Could Only Remember My Name, is mind-blowingly good. And I’ve listed to A LOT of Pink Floyd, mainly from the second classic line-up, from More to Wish You Were Here. I can’t leave out Jethro Tull, a very important band for me. And it sometimes surprises some people that I am a huge fan of the classic-era Heart albums, up to and including Private Audition

And then of course, there is Rush. I can’t even articulate what I feel about Rush, so I won’t try. And there’s what I like to call the newer stuff, like the [Tragically] Hip, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam (yes, I am more Pearl Jam than Nirvana, to my wife’s dismay).

Last movie/show you watched?
My wife and I have been watching re-runs of Ironside from the '60s. Very interesting to watch from a 21st century perspective.

Last book you read?
I am in the process of reading I was there: A century of alumni stories about the University of Alberta 1906 to 2006. Fascinating history, and it certainly helps me understand the place and people. But I just finished re-reading Segur’s account of Napoleon’s retreat from Russia [Defeat: Napoleon's Russian Campaign]. I always like to read about bigger disasters than mine. Keeps things in perspective.
Flying over downtown Edmonton (Photo credit: André Costopoulos)

Favourite hobby?
I like to take pictures once in awhile. I play some music here and there. I fly around when I can.

Coolest place you have been to?
Depends what you mean by cool. It could be Oulanka, a biological research station on the Finnish-Russian border. It was February. It was cool. Everyone was up at 4 a.m. taking pictures of the pegged thermometer. 

Or it could be Thingvellir in Iceland. That’s where the ancient Icelanders had their parliament. You can read all about it in the Sagas. If that wasn’t cool enough, you can go where the plates diverge and put one foot in Eurasia and one foot in the Americas. I am sure there are lots of things on earth that are as cool as that, but I can’t think of a cooler one. I’d have to go off-planet for that.

Are there any items on your “bucket list”?
I’ve never really had a bucket list. I like to see what life brings. Do cool stuff, and cool stuff happens.

Questions for the new Dean of Students? Let him know at dosdean@ualberta.ca. Learn about the Office of the Dean of Students and Student Services hereYou can also read more about Dean Costopoulos on the U of A Quad.