Encouraging Students to Think Critically
Political science professor Leonard Preyra has witnessed first hand what it is like to be deprived of basic human rights. Growing up in India as part of a very small minority community, the seeds of activism were instilled in him as a boy.
“In Goa (a state in India), we were English speaking and Catholic, and living in a very large Hindu and Muslim community,” says Dr. Preyra. “I suppose being part of a minority group, being scattered and constantly under threat made me appreciate human rights and equity issues very early in life.”
His parents wanted a better life for their ten children, so they came to Canada in 1968. His mother had written a letter to the Toronto Star seeking help. The letter caught the attention of reporter Sidney Katz, who helped spread the word of the Preyra family situation. A Jewish woman living in Toronto offered Dr. Preyra’s father a place to stay so he could come ahead of the family and find a place to work and live.
In 1989, having completed a PhD in Political Science, Dr. Preyra moved to Halifax and joined the Saint Mary’s faculty. He loved the idea of living near the ocean, and he also liked the idea of going to a small undergraduate university with small classes, a strong sense of identity and a commitment to community service. “I identified with Saint Mary’s. It meshed with my ideas of the role of a university.”
A very popular professor with the students, Dr. Preyra says he doesn’t see himself as exclusively a teacher. “I see myself as someone who is encouraging young people to look at themselves and society, look at institutions and processes critically towards promoting change – positive change.”
Dr. Preyra’s research almost exclusively deals with devising more representative, responsive, effective and accountable institutions and processes. Outside of the university, many recognize his name and his face because of his regular appearances in the media. He gets umpteen requests from the media to give his thoughts on the political issues of the day. He sees this as another opportunity to put forth issues that are near and dear to his heart, while promoting Saint Mary’s.
The other love of his life are his children, Kate and Ben, and of course soccer. He played varsity soccer in Toronto and at the professional level. These days he is content in his role as coach of his daughter’s team, the Halifax City Wanderers.
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