If you ever attend trivia night, need a good concert recommendation, or want someone to jam with your band, you’ll want Jeff Hennessy in your corner. A PhD in Musicology, a degree in Chemistry, and a proven track record in university leadership, led him to become Mount Allison’s next Provost and Vice-President, Academic and Research, a position he started in July 2020.
A musicologist, he has studied a myriad of musical collections including pop rock, rock, non-Western, and of course, Cape Breton fiddle. He’s also a song writer and performs regularly in both jazz and country bands, playing keyboards and earning two East Coast Music Award (ECMA) nominations.
“I started my studies in chemistry at Trent, in my hometown of Peterborough,” he says. “My dad attended school there as a mature student, so I grew up going to campus with him. Being on a campus has been familiar to me for a long time.”
Following his Science degree, Hennessy decided to look at music for his studies, completing a year at Mount Allison before moving to Acadia where his then-fiancée was studying. After completing his Master’s at UBC and PhD at the University of Toronto, he returned to Acadia, initially for a term teaching position, and says he found his calling.
“I really enjoy teaching, as well as performing. I’ve been lucky to have opportunities to work in different roles of administration in addition to being in the classroom,” he says. “You really get to learn how different departments and academic areas work, and how they differ, in these kinds of roles.”
At Acadia University, Hennessy also worked in a variety of academic and senior administrator roles, including the Dean of Arts and Director of the School of Music before taking on the Provost role at Mount Allison.
A member of the senior administrative and academic team, the provost and vice-president academic and research is Mount Allison’s senior academic officer, responsible for the planning and management of the University’s academic affairs; developing, maintaining, and supporting teaching and research excellence; and overseeing planning and budgets for the academic faculties, the library, administrative and general services, and other academic areas.
And Hennessy is enjoying the task.
“Over the past few months, I’ve seen an amazing amount of creativity around teaching and research by our faculty in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Faculty and staff members have really answered the call to adjust their teaching and research programs for different, COVID-essential formats, without sacrificing the personal approach to education that Mount A is well known for.”
As Hennessy is starting his second term at Mount Allison, he says he’s looking forward to continuing to learn more about the Mount Allison community in a post-pandemic setting.
“When I was interviewing for the Provost position, all candidates had to give community presentations around emerging trends in higher education. I did mine on March 10, 2020, with no mention of a pandemic,” he says. “Three days later the world literally changed. The last few months have been intense and challenging for everyone, but I think, collectively at Mount Allison, there’s a strong sense of how we move forward. And I’m excited to be a part of that.”