Haliburton School of Art + Design’s new dean, Xavier Massé, jokes he’s still a “rookie” at the town’s Fleming College campus after only starting the post a few weeks ago.

“I’m still playing the rookie card, which sometimes can be very useful,” he quipped, adding someone told him at the HSA+D grad May 26, “play it as long as you can.”

While he may be a newbie to Haliburton County and its college, Massé brings a wealth of experience, both from his native France, to throughout his academic and nonacademic career.

That has included, most recently, 13 years at George Brown College, with a oneyear hiatus as interim dean of ECV Paris, overseeing three campuses and working on projects, including a campus in Mumbai. At George Brown, he coordinated undergraduate and post-graduate interaction design programs at the school of design and taught design courses. He was first attracted there by its Institute Without Boundaries, which focuses on collaborative design practice with the objectives of social, ecological and economic innovation through design research and strategy. Massé has also designed and lead international academic programs, workshops and design jams. Prior to academics, he had his own agency.

He said he moved to Canada after meeting his Toronto-based wife in Paris and was in advertising for a spell before getting into what is now called interactive digital media.

“I love technology, and I love design, and I love mixing both. So that’s why I embraced that field and have never looked back.”

Speaking from his new campus office, overlooking the green trees of Glebe Park, Massé said his impressions of HSA+D include “a very unique DNA that is quite special and we need to preserve that.

“But we need to bring it into the 21st century.”

Asked what he means by that, he envisions expanded programming, “user experience designs,” technology, and broadening outreach to the wider community.

Expanding on user experience designs, he explains, “where we actually make sure that what we do is going to be useful and used by our users. Not to say that every single artist has to design something with their users in mind, but bringing a bit of that into the process would not hurt. It would bring a more applied aspect to what we do here.

“And when we talk about technology, there are tools that we can use today that could speed up the process. So, an obvious one is 3D printing. So it demands a bit of knowledge in 3D and 3D design. I love to bring to the table the idea of using AI (artificial intelligence) tools and then learning to use them, not fight them because I think it’s a losing battle.”

He provides the example of visualizing tools, to help students get their creative ideas from their brain to the finished product.

Another exciting thing, he said, is student housing planned for the campus. He is already frustrated when hearing about delays but said, “I can’t wait to have it happen. It’s going to be a game-changer for us.”

Back to what is happening now, he is looking forward to collaborating with his staff and faculty. He said his leadership style is “to bring everybody with me” to establish a vision and strategic plan.

“I want to make sure the plan and vision comes from all parts of the school and not just from the top.”

Coming from, “the other side of the pond” and moving into a Haliburton condo, Massé said he’s had a friend joke with him that, with his French accent, “you’re going to be the exotic one.”