By Zach Dolgin
Dr. Arne Kislenko is an award winning professor, one of the best lecturers in Canada, and he calls Ryerson his home.
Though Kislenko is now a professor of 19th and 20th century history, he went into university to become a medical doctor. “I’m the antichrist of career counsellors” is his answer when asked how he got the job, because he feels like he stumbled into it.
After doing his undergrad and getting his M.A. at Western University, he worked with Canadian immigration for 12 years as a senior officer where he dealt with many issues related to national security.
The move to academia, based on his desire to teach, came with the completion of his PhD in history at the University of Toronto. Even while getting his doctorate, however, he was never clear on what a professor’s job actually was. He was terrified the first time he taught a class. “I was totally untested, and nervous as hell,” he recalls.
Since then, Kislenko has grown immensely in his teaching ability. So much so that in 2007 he was nominated for, and then received, the 3M National Teaching Fellowship — Canada’s highest honor in university teaching. But he does not define his career by his achievements. “You’re only as good as your last lecture,” he says. His goal is to “make history resonate with students,” and he defines himself based on his ability to do that.
Throughout his life, Kislenko says he’s had too many teachers and professors who made history seem boring or pointless, so he tries to do the opposite. “I get pissed, sometimes I swear, I make bad jokes … I’ll go on record, I hate profs’ that lecture out of textbooks.”
When asked if there was some kind of goal that he strives for as an educator, he said, “my enemies are ignorance and apathy, ignorance you can combat through knowledge, apathy is harder, so apathy actually scares me a little.”
Although Kislenko could teach anywhere, he says he stays at Ryerson because, “the students here, for 25 years running, are the nicest, most interesting bunch of people I have ever met.” He feels that both the students and the administration create an “atmosphere of openness” that allows him to flourish and to help others do the same.
“I love it here,” he said. “I hope Ryerson never changes, that its students don’t change.”