Fredericton Faculty of Arts

Celebrating an Outstanding Career An Interview with Dr Nancy Nason-Clark

Author: Fredericton Arts

Posted on Oct 11, 2017

Category: Spotlight , Faculty , Other

After 30+ years at UNB, Professor of Sociology Dr. Nancy Nason-Clark will be leaving us for new adventures. Nancy graciously agreed to share some memories and insights from her amazing career. She has also promised to share a few funny stories at her retirement event on October 20th from 5-7pm in the Alumni Memorial Building.

Take a moment to learn more about Dr. Nason-Clark as we celebrate her many contributions to our campus and community.

Where did your university career begin? Why did you choose Sociology?

I grew up in Saint John and was very determined to go away for my university experience. I chose a small liberal arts college in New York, where I earned a Bachelor of Science degree, with a double major in Psychology and Sociology. During my final year, I completed the equivalent of an honour’s project. Since I found Sociology more interesting than Psychology, I chose to pursue graduate studies in that field and returned to Canada to the University of Waterloo to pursue a Master’s degree. For a short time afterwards I worked in Halifax in the City’s Social Planning Department before deciding to go to England for further studies.

When did you join the Department of Sociology at UNB?

My career at UNB began in the summer of 1984, days after I defended my doctoral thesis at the London School of Economics and Political Science (in London, England). I came to the Department of Sociology when they offered me a one year contract and, basically, I never left.

What were your first years of teaching like at university? How have things changed since then (or stayed the same)?

In the early days, I used to write out my lectures, with pages and pages of notes, accompanied by many, many overheads that I placed on an overhead projector. I would put the outline of my lecture on the blackboard and I often gave out handouts. As you know, things have changed quite a lot since then.

You’ve held many different roles related to research, teaching, administration, and community outreach (via the Muriel McQueen Fergusson Centre for Family Violence Research, for example). How did you maintain balance between different demands and projects while still pursuing such important research work?

Balance is very hard to achieve and I am not at all sure that I was successful in that regard. I never sought administrative jobs, so when those opportunities presented themselves, I tried to ensure that my research and writing were still a part of my regular work routine.

You’ve been an important mentor to many students, staff, and faculty. Could you tell me a bit about your experiences mentoring students?

Mentoring graduate students has been my most rewarding activity at UNB. I have been so privileged to work with an outstanding group of students over the years, many of whom have gone on to develop beautiful careers of their own. Two postdoctoral fellowships were funded by one of my external grants and many other graduate students were supported, in part, by monies I received for research assistant work. Almost all of the graduate students I have supervised went to conferences with me, learned the components of networking and a research career, and published with me along the way. I am so grateful for their enthusiasm and hard work—truly, this aspect of the research experience was a highlight of my career. I hope it was beneficial for them too.

Along with your innumerable contributions to the UNB community, your research has had far-reaching impacts, most especially for people working to understand and end domestic violence in families of faith. How did you first get involved with this research area?

Many years ago, before the creation of the Muriel McQueen Fergusson Centre for Family Violence Research, the honourable Margaret Norrie McCain asked me to be a co-partner with her and others in looking more closely into the issue of domestic violence. She urged me to include this issue in my research, in my public addresses, and within the pages of my publications. One of the first pieces I wrote on violence in the family context was entitled, From the Heart of My Lap-top. The title was meant to signify that working on issues of abuse extracts an emotional cost—from the researcher, as well as those she might choose to study. As I result of this work, I have travelled to many parts of the world and been given extraordinary opportunities. For that I am most grateful.

Congratulations on being elected to the academies of the Royal Society of Canada – the highest honour a scholar can achieve in the Arts, Humanities and Sciences. What an honour! 

Oh, thank you so very much. I was very surprised to be nominated by UNB and shocked when I heard that I was elected. As you might imagine, I am very pleased that our research work has been evaluated in such a positive way.

What plans do you have for the future, now that you’re embarking a new adventure beyond UNB?

I will continue to do the things I like most about an academic career and be able to set aside those parts that are not so engaging. And there will be more time to do the other things that I love doing too—like spending time with my little granddaughter, gardening at the cottage, and going south for the winter.

The Faculty of Arts has been fortunate to welcome a number of new faculty members over the past few years, many of whom are at the beginning of their academic careers. What advice might you offer them?

For me, never losing my passion for the work has been a central ingredient in keeping me going. Also, for me, establishing a community of scholars in various places around the world, has meant that I always feel connected. These positive pillars have enabled me to offer students a glimpse of how they too can be engaged in meaningful work and keep on pursuing their passion even when challenges come along.

Interview conducted by Tabatha Armstrong, October 2017