Catharine Parr Traill College Principal Dr. Michael Eamon is just as persevering as the college he looks after.
As a historian, Eamon is quick to remind students that Traill College and Peter Robinson College were the original Trent University campuses, along with Rubidge Hall at Rubidge and Sherbrooke streets, before Symons Campus was built.
“I have so many people come to me – particularly from Champlain – saying, ‘Oh, West Bank Love, I guess we can love Traill,’” he recalled with a laugh. “I say, ‘No, you don’t get it: Traill was the original West Bank. You’re on my parade; I’m not on yours!’”
Traill College is the eldest of the five colleges at Trent. Previously, Traill College was the all-women’s college counterpart to Peter Robinson College’s all-men’s facility, before both spaces became co-ed.
“The second president of the university actually ran the university from Traill College for five years,” he said, noting Tom Nind worked out of Kerr House, showing Nind’s commitment to the downtown colleges while Symons campus began to flourish in the late 1960s.
While its sibling college closed in the early 2000s, Traill’s legacy has been one of growth and change. The downtown college has added a number of buildings to its original hub of Scott House.
Despite these changes, Traill College maintains Trent’s liberal arts university roots as the homebase for the English Literature, Canadian Studies, Cultural Studies and French and Francophone Studies (formerly Modern Languages) undergraduate departments. The new Trent/Swansea Law Dual degree is also based at Traill college.
Eamon came to be Traill’s principal over the past five years after being the principal of Lady Eaton College for two years. He is deeply committed to the collegiate system upon which Trent was based and has been re-appointed as the Chair for Collegiate Way International, a loosely-knit lobby group of collegiate universities around the world.
He noted that Trent’s collegiate structure is most similar to Durham University in England, but this style of collegiate education is most well-recognized in Oxford University and Cambridge University.
“If there’s going to be an English-language university in China or the Pacific Rim, it’s more than likely going to be a residential college system than [it is] a campus-style, North American system,” he explained of his experiences learning with Collegiate Way International.
Though it can be (and has been) hard for Trent to resist the pull of North American style of higher education and its centralization of resources, Eamon points out that one of the greatest merits of the collegiate system is that “it makes a big university feel small.”
“Making people feel like they belong is important, and that’s what colleges do. So as our class sizes grow, and as the university grows, the collegiate system becomes more and more important to make it feel intimate and small,” he explained.
Eamon believes that the college principals are now empowered to build and support these intimate and unique communities because of the college changes implemented ahead of the current academic year, which gives Traill College a chance to shine even brighter.
“We’re the only college that has such a mixed and diverse residence population, and the only college that has a permanent, year-round residence population,” he said. “We have grad students who live here, and many of them have families. We have a high percentage of international students, too.”
“This college embodies special voices – voices that aren’t as heard as much as they should be – and I think that has been our raison d’être from the beginning,” he continued, also noting that many of the Traill College buildings are named after women. “As I go forward, I hope to maintain [Traill] as a place for LGBTQ+ voices to be heard and people to be.”
As a result of this diverse population, as well as upper-year undergraduate students living off campus in downtown Peterborough-Nogojiwanong, the Traill College identity is known for its maturity. This is encouraged further with its Continuing Education programming, of which Eamon is also the Director, running on weekday evenings from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
“Innovation doesn’t have to be building a new building,” he concluded. “It’s just taking something that’s there, and building a new tradition.”
This article is taken from Arthur‘s insert, “West Bank Love.” Check out “East Bank Love” featuring Otonabee College and Peter Gzowski College in Issue 9, out on newsstands February 13, 2019.