The Principal Is Your Pal

You’ll think me mean spirited, no doubt, but I really found the choice of former Cape Breton Partnership President and CEO Carla Arsenault as principal of the Marconi Campus of the NSCC to be a head-scratcher.

So much so that I asked the NSCC (via email) some questions about the hiring process, specifically, how many applications were received? How many applicants were current NSCC employees? How many applicants were NSCC employees at the Marconi Campus? Was a background in education considered a plus?

Kathleen Cameron, the manager of external relations, marketing and communications for the NSCC, declined to answer any of these questions “out of respect for the privacy of individuals and the integrity of the process.”

I pressed her on this, asking for the total number of applications, at least — on the grounds that that could hardly invade anybody’s privacy — and she relented enough to tell me they had received 26 applications for the position.



After refusing to answer any of my questions, Cameron offered, instead, to tell me about “the successful choice for Marconi principal”:

Carla brings to the Campus and College solid leadership experience…and has years of leadership experience in management consulting, project management and community engagement. Her work at the Partnership, and in roles previous to that, have meant she has developed an incredible network and vital positive relationships in the region and across the island. That experience extends to important local businesses and organizations as a volunteer as well.

The press release announcing the hire was a bit more specific about past work experience. In addition to five years at the Partnership — during which time she had a meteoric rise, going from project manager to COO to CEO in two years, “Carla worked for more than a decade as the Operations Solution Designer – Pre-Sales Consultant at Hewlett Packard Enterprise.”

Carla Arsenault LinkedIn

She has an undergraduate degree in public relations from Mount Saint Vincent and an MBA from an institute I keep calling Rocky Roads but which is actually Royal Roads, the former military college in Victoria, BC.


Peer Review

I wondered how this compared to the work experience/education of other principals in the NSCC system, so I looked up an organizational chart and searched LinkedIn for information about the 11 people (other than Arsenault) who hold the post of principal at NSCC’s various campuses. (Some are principals of more than one campus.) I was able to find educational and work experience information for nine of them.

Of those nine, six had been hired from within NSCC, having held one to four other faculty positions prior to being named principal. The three who had not been hired from within NSCC had all held leadership positions at other educational institutions.

As for academic qualifications, six have graduate degrees in education, including one with a Masters of Adult Education, one with a PhD in Educational Technology and one who began by earning a Diploma in Community College Education from NSCC before going on to graduate studies.

One had an MBA in Shipping and Logistics and had been a sea captain. (As you’ve likely guessed, he’s the principal at the Nautical Institute in Port Hawkesbury).

And one had a Masters in Social Work, Social Policy and Administration.

Worth noting here: Fred Tilley, Arsenault’s predecessor as Marconi principal, had been with the college for 12 years, first as manager of administrative services, then as academic chair in the school of business, applied arts and access, at the time he was appointed principal in 2012. He was “a certified management accountant” by trade but was “in the process of completing a masters of education.”

This is not just me being mean spirited, there’s a real gap between Arsenault’s qualifications and those of other NSCC principals.

Cameron also told me this about Arsenault:

We were very excited to welcome someone with such strong ties to the community. Through her work at the Partnership, Carla had built great connections to the work of the Campus and College. She was part of conversations about the new campus – representing the Partnership – an important community stakeholder in the planning and development phases.

I don’t know if that qualifies her to lead an educational institution with 1,300 students in a pandemic, but I do know it sends a rather strange message to those students who’ve been told they need not just an education, but a highly specialized education in their chosen fields, to get ahead in this world.