Have You Met... Shawn Flynn?

Have you met Shawn, incoming president of St. Joseph’s College?


Have you met Shawn, incoming president of St. Joseph’s College? Spend a few minutes getting to know him a little better. 

What is your first U of A memory?

I first visited the U of A in 2017 as part of the interview process to be the academic dean of St. Joseph’s College. My first impression was walking around the entire campus. I remember SJC’s physical location on North Campus and I remember the beauty of being next to the river valley.

What’s something your coworkers don’t know about you?

SJC is a tight community and we know each other pretty well. Perhaps they do not know my Netflix choices — general sci-fi or old episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation are always a good escape at the end of a long day.

What’s your favourite distraction?

I love time in the woods! There is no replacement for being alone in the wilderness — whether it is some little corner of the river valley or a trail out of town with the family. A few times a year, multi-day trips with just your backpack are good reminders to appreciate the simple things. 

If you were enrolling in one course, program or degree right now, what would it be?

I always enjoy the chance to listen to our SJC faculty and learn from them. Another would have been a course by Dr. Lee Foote, a professor emeritus in the Department of Renewable Resources. I appreciate his approach and accessible writings. Over the years on campus, I have also appreciated learning and listening to faculty members from Native Studies. 

What’s a weird pet peeve you have?

When people are not polite. We all understand that life is challenging, but it’s also beautiful. We have no idea what people are going through in their personal lives. I hope the pandemic has increased people’s empathy. Simple integrity, empathy and respect for our fellow humans are important virtues. When a customer is rude to someone in a service industry, I will usually say something.

You can invite anyone — alive or dead, real or fictional — to dinner. Who would it be?

Whoever the head scribes were in Jerusalem/the Levant around 600 BCE. I know, it’s related to my research interests. But we spend so much time with these questions. And for historians of ancient cultures, gaps in our knowledge constantly anchor our questions. I would want to know about regular domestic life and ask what ancient scribes did and did not know about surrounding cultures.

If you could see any live performance tomorrow, what would it be?

I have a list (those who I have not had the chance to see or who are no longer with us): Blue Rodeo, Tragically Hip, Justin Townes Earle and the live recording of Eric Clapton’s MTV Unplugged.

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

Eighteen-year-old Shawn was quite carefree and relaxed. Perhaps I would say to 25-year-old Shawn: “Do not worry so much. It will all work out. Maybe not how you planned, but it will.”

What’s one thing you can’t live without?

It’s hard to choose just one! Coffee, time in the woods, date nights and down time with family.

What three words describe your U of A experience?

Collaboration, possibility and an essential resource for Alberta and beyond.

Shawn Flynn

About Shawn Flynn

The Board of Governors of St. Joseph's College (SJC) has appointed Shawn Flynn as its new president beginning July 1, 2021 for a five-year appointment. Flynn has served St. Joseph’s College since 2017 as the academic dean, then vice president (academic), dean and most recently as interim president. He is an associate professor of Hebrew Bible and earned his PhD at the University of Toronto in Ancient Near Eastern Studies. Flynn's research area is the Hebrew Bible in its ancient context. He focuses on topics such as God in the Hebrew Bible, as well as children in the Hebrew Bible and the ancient Near East, with publishers such as Brill, Oxford University Press and Routledge.