Andrew Coxhead, Chair of Media Studies - Faculty of Arts and Media Design stresses that students are his main priority.

Andrew Coxhead sits in his office in a suede coat looking over some files. His office door is left open for anyone who wants to speak with him.

Coxhead has been the chair of media studies in the faculty of arts, media and design for almost three years. He is responsible for 12 programs, hiring full-time and part-time professors and ensuring the curriculum is up-to-date.

His day usually begins in the morning where he gets the chance to review his email and check-up on the news of the day. However, with 12 programs and 1,600 students that is not always the case.

“It’s a really busy job,” Coxhead explained. “Generally there are things that need to be done. A student may have an issue or have something they need assistance with, there may be an academic appeal, maybe a case of plagiarism that I might have to deal with.”

Twice per semester, Coxhead reviews every student’s grades one by one with the faculty. He looks at their grades after the midterm and at the end of the year. Coxhead is proud of the fact that they do that with every single student and that they work together to figure out better ways to help them progress to graduation.

“I have always taken great pride in having leadership roles,” said Coxhead, “and as a professor and program coordinator at Sheridan College prior to coming here, I wanted to take on a little bit more leadership and academia.”

Coxhead was a former army officer where leadership, communication and quick thinking were key. During his time as a combat officer in the army, however, he had started becoming interested in education.

“I was an instructor for armour tactics,” Coxhead explained. “I taught at the armour school in Gagetown, New Brunswick, the combat training centre and that’s when I first started to teach.”

For 10 years, Coxhead had taught the soldiers how to become better soldiers and had done peacekeeping around the world. He had eventually become tired of waking up in the middle of the night with the rain dripping down the back of his neck, so he decided it was time to do something else in the military.

“I became a public affairs officer,” said Coxhead, “which is essentially public relations for the Canadian Forces.”

For another 10 years, Coxhead was a spokesperson for the Canadian Forces and the Canadian Forces Operations. He had also gone to Bosnia and Herzegovina as the NATO spokesperson representing 2,300 troops from three different nations.

“Someone once asked me ‘if you could leave the military, what would you do?’” Coxhead explained. “And I said ‘well, if I could get a job teaching public relations in the college system I would leave the military.’”

Six months later he was offered a job at Sheridan College teaching public relations in the college system which he took.

“I have taken on my leadership, combat and public relations experience and I’ve been able to bring those skills into the education system,” said Coxhead. “I have been an educator for almost 12 years.”

As a result of Coxhead’s military experience, he is able to look at situations and make quick, clear and logical decisions. He uses a theory he calls RACE: research analysis, planning, communication and evaluation, which he uses in every situation no matter how big or how small.

“Ultimately everything I do is student-focused,” Coxhead stated. “I am here for the students, the students are not here for me.”

Coxhead’s dream is to see learning become more personalized so that a student can come to college and minor in a program, but have the choice to expand their learning by adding another course that interests them within what the school has to offer. If a student in public relations is interested in culinary then they could add that to their program to expand their learning in other areas.

“We’re not there right now,” Coxhead said, “but I think that if we can get there we can really create some unique opportunities for students.”

Coxhead has an open-door policy where anyone who comes to his door gets his full attention and when he isn’t in his office – more often than not — he is doing what he calls “management by walking around” where he goes to classrooms or to the 12 program coordinators’ offices that he oversees. Coxhead believes he will get more done if he is walking around the halls or leaves his office door open.

Although Coxhead is student-focused, his main priority is his family, which resides two hours away in Brighton, Ontario. And being a family-first kind of guy, he wants to ensure that he has a good family life.

“It’s really important for me to get home on the weekends where I can be with my family,” Coxhead said.