George MacLean

Vice President Academic, University of New Brunswick

Bachelor of Arts (Hons.), Political Science, 1990

I knew in my heart what I always wanted to do.

Wearing a black t-shirt and jeans, he moves to the front of the stage, his fingers working the frets of his electric guitar. It’s solo time and he’s in a zone. This is George MacLean, lead guitarist for the Fredericton rock ‘n roll cover band Van Lantz.

When he puts his guitar away you’re likely to find him dressed in a jacket and tie, in a conference room, on the phone, in a meeting. This is Dr. George MacLean, Vice President Academic at the University of New Brunswick, (UNB) Fredericton. It’s the latest stop on a career path that began at King’s.

“It wasn’t an orchestrated journey,” he says. But he has found that each stop, including this one, has been fulfilling.

George went to King’s with the idea that he would get his degree and then go to law school. But part way through his second year he says he had his “ah-hah!” moment. He was in a political science class at Dalhousie when he realized his professor, Jim Eayrs, (“He was like the Yoda of foreign policy studies,” says George) had had the kind of career that George wanted. Not law. Academe.

“I knew in my heart what I always wanted to do. The job of an academic was really what intrigued me most, to work and study in an area – politics - that I had found fascinating since I was very young.”

Academe didn’t offer the options law did. There would be many more years in university. Some people told him he might not get into grad school and if he did, getting a job would be even more difficult.

“But happily I ignored them.”

After King’s, George did his Master’s at McMaster University in Hamilton. His thesis on Maritime law got him interested in American foreign policy. That led to a PhD at Queen’s University in Kingston. His doctoral thesis examined “turning defence assets into peaceful dividends”, or in Biblical language, turning swords into ploughshares. It opened another door he hadn’t considered: contract research and writing for the federal government while teaching.

“I was working with a government negotiating team in The Hague, and got to do some advising on global security issues … I discovered I could do this and my own research and teaching at once. It was just an amazing opportunity.”

At this point George was teaching at the University of Manitoba. He later became Chair of the Political Studies Department there, then Associate Dean of graduate studies. He continued doing research for Ottawa, turning his focus to human security. Then he decided to come back to the Maritimes to take on the role of Dean of Arts at UNB Fredericton. And then finally, his current role as Vice President.

“I enjoy it because it gives me a view of the university from a different perspective than as a professor.”

As for what’s next George jokes about taking Van Lantz to the next level. But then he turns serious as he talks about the challenges facing universities these days, challenges he’s more than happy to take on.

“It does feel like the right fit, and I get the opportunity to do some great things with our university community.”

Posted: Apr. 2016

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