The future looks bright for Prof. Janice Stein

May 18, 2010

Since her arrival at the University of Toronto nearly three decades ago, political scientist Janice Stein has done much to make her mark on campus and on the city beyond. The tiny scholar with the big red glasses has schooled thousands of first-year students on the basics of international relations, authored books and articles and become a widely known TV pundit.

She’s also put her diplomatic smarts to the test fundraising and creating a go-to place in Toronto for international affairs. Now, one of the city’s most recognizable academics has decided to move on. She’s leaving her post as director of the recently renamed Munk School of Global Affairs next year and will return to teaching after a sabbatical. Prof. Stein, 67, is going out with a bang. She recently landed a fundraising one-two punch with a $35-million gift from mining millionaire Peter Munk and $25-million from the federal government. All this and a previous $25-million contribution from Ontario is allowing the school to expand to a second building on Bloor Street and offer its own masters degree. Earlier in the year, the school’s Citizen Lab also rocked the world with its outing of a massive online espionage network based in China that was tapping into e-mails, including those of exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama. Already, it has been quite a year.

Why leave now? Isn’t this what you have been working towards for ten years?

Absolutely. I also believe a test of an institution is how well it deals with succession. I think 10 years is a long time for a person to hold the same job.

When did you decide to step down?

When I became confident that we were going to succeed I thought to myself, well, it’s time. I’ve been thinking this over for the past year to 18 months. If I didn’t think I could leave, it would be very sobering in terms of the sustainability of the institution.

What are your plans?

I am going to take my leave for two years and go away someplace really peaceful and write a book. There are lots of tempting offers from all around the world. I wouldn’t mind someplace warm, somewhere in Europe or the Middle East. I am not a big fan of rain. I will come back and teach in the school as a faculty member once the new director is well established.

So this is not retirement?

Absolutely not. I have taught the introductory course in international relations forever.

by Elizabeth Church. Continue reading the rest of this interview on