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Former Public Scholar has a new job: professor of art education

Core member of the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling Lea Kabiljo is off to Laval University
April 5, 2024

Diptych image. On the left, a slightly-smiling woman with shoulder-length blonde hair. On the right, a woman giving a presentation in a university class room Former Public Scholar Lea Kabiljo. | Photo left: Michel Boucher. Photo right: Felicity T. C. Hamer.

After a long and successful academic trajectory at Concordia, Lea Kabiljo is on her way to Quebec City. The former Public Scholar and core member of the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling (COHDS) has been appointed assistant professor at the School of Art at Université Laval in advance of her spring convocation.

Kabiljo, BFA 04, MA 09, PhD 24, already has extensive experience teaching in the community, in secondary school and at the university level. In her own practice, and in her role as mentor of future educators, she gives special attention to the development of socio-emotional competency.

Kabiljo is the first to admit that nothing of her journey has been obvious and she credits Concordia with opening her eyes to multiple opportunities to further pursue and merge her passions.

‘A natural choice’

Upon completion of a DEC in Photography at Dawson College, Kabiljo was excited to learn of Concordia’s Department of Art Education.

“I had always been interested in education and in working with young people. On the other hand, I had just finished a degree in photography and was enjoying art,” she recounts.

“Discovering there was a program that combined both of these things — it felt like a natural choice.”

After completing her BFA Kabiljo taught high school for a year before making the decision to return to Concordia to pursue an MA in Art Education, part-time.

“I enjoyed my experience of teaching, but being a new teacher was challenging, and I missed the stimulation of academia.”

Small and intimate, the department became a second home. She says she felt supported by faculty but also by her peers. “Everybody knows each other, and we were encouraged to look out for one another as a cohort,” she shares. “There was a real sense of camaraderie.”

Professor Lorrie Blair had an especially significant impact on Kabiljo’s academic trajectory. Guiding her through the demands of graduate school and teaching full-time, Kabiljo forged a close relationship with Blair, who later became her PhD supervisor.

She notes that choosing the department for her doctoral studies also felt good, “like coming back to something important.”

Listening to their stories

Kabiljo counts herself fortunate to have had three especially supportive mentors throughout her doctoral journey.

Appealing to her interest in socially engaged art, Kathleen Vaughan proposed that Kabiljo’s doctoral project might include a research-creation component, reigniting her passion for photography.

Importantly, she credits Vaughan for introducing her to oral history practices.

“Based on what she knew of my research interests, she suggested that I take a course with Steven High in oral history methods,” Kabiljo recounts.

Having no prior knowledge of these methods, as the term progressed, it became clear to her that oral history had always been present in her life — both personally and professionally — and High would soon become a third, important member of her committee.

“I have always been interested in people and in hearing them tell their life stories. Realizing this was a recognized research approach, my project began to evolve. While not part of the initial plan, with time, oral history really became integral to what I was doing. And COHDs became yet another home away from home.”

Kabiljo also acted as primary interviewer in the recent collaboration between Concordia and The Riopelle Foundation, Raconte-moi Riopelle, a retrospective of the life and career of Jean-Paul Riopelle through the stories of those nearest him.

Representing others with respect and dignity

Kabiljo took full advantage of the opportunities available to Concordia students. Acting as Public Scholar in 2019, she was the recipient of multiple travel awards and attended and disseminated her research at conferences internationally. She also had multiple opportunities to teach reserve courses in her department.

Her recently defended dissertation presents a practical application of oral history as pedagogy for art education. It develops a multidisciplinary curriculum model that focuses on active listening, sharing of the authority, recognizing and understanding the experience of others and sharing their stories with respect and dignity.

On March 21, she was awarded the 2024 COHDS Award of Excellence in Oral History in recognition of her outstanding PhD thesis, “Beyond the Interview: Oral History x Photography Research-Creation methodology for the enhancement of social-emotional competences for teacher candidates in art education.”

Her new position at Laval officially underway, Kabiljo notes that “Concordia will always be part of my professional career and I look forward to the opportunity for future collaboration.”

Find out more about
Concordia’s Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling and the Department of Art Education.



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