Dean of Arts, McGill University
Master of Arts, International Affairs (’86)
Antonia Maioni began university as an undergraduate in political science at the French-language Université Laval. After Quebec City, Ottawa was a bit of a culture shock.
“I was coming from a very different intellectual and linguistic place than most of the people at NPSIA,” she recalls. “But it was an incredibly rich community of students from different cultures, skill sets and aspirations. It changed what I thought I knew about Canada.”
Not only were the students coming from different backgrounds, but the coursework was diverse, as well.
“We were taught by economists, political scientists, sociologists: there was a great interdisciplinary ethos before it became the ‘in’ thing,” says Dr. Maioni. “We learned all of the basic social sciences and a lot of methodology within that interdisciplinary approach, which led to a more robust and revealing understanding of social phenomena.”
It was here that Dr. Maioni honed her interest in Canada’s role in the world, as well as “what makes Canada tick”.
“There was an important policy focus and the faculty understood that it had to be both national and international. Many of the students went on to work for government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs),” she recalls.
For her part, she chose a life in academia and the pursuit of a PhD at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.
“When I went there, I realized that I was interested not only in thinking about Canada in the global landscape, but also understanding what makes us unique among the countries of the world,” she says.
Dr. Maioni returned to Canada in 1992, to take up a position at the University of Ottawa, and then returned to her home city of Montreal to join McGill University in 1994. In 2001, she began a decade of service as director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada. In 2015, she became Associate Vice-Principal for Research, and in 2016, was named Dean of Arts at McGill University—a job that has offered a few surprises.
“I am working with a team on many levels: within the university leadership, with chairs and directors, students and staff. It’s really interesting to be part of a joint effort that is building towards McGill’s third century,” she explains.
She also recently served as President of the Federation of Humanities and Social Sciences, which represents 81 scholarly associations and 80 universities and colleges.
“The Federation works on behalf of scholars at universities across Canada, so my time at Carleton helped me navigate the Ottawa political scene,” she says.
She’s also spent many years as a recognized public commentator for CTV News, the Globe and Mail, and other news outlets.
“I see the role of a professor as having a public education function to explain complex phenomena,” she explains. “I’m not just expressing opinions, but bringing what I know as a social scientist to bear in trying to understand politics, election results, and policies. These issues have an impact on people’s lives.”
Dr. Maioni describes these opportunities as a privilege.
“It’s an ongoing conversation that opens up all kinds of different avenues and understandings,” she says. “I bring all of those to my work.”