Ready for real change

MacEwan Univer­sity’s first Indige­nous fe­male pres­i­dent Deb­o­rah Sau­cie go­ing to make changes

Fort McMurray Today - - ALBERTA NEWS - JU­RIS GRANEY

A lit­tle over a month into her five-year term, Saucier was in­formed in mid-Au­gust that the univer­sity had been fleeced of $11.8 mil­lion in one of Canada’s largest in­di­vid­ual phish­ing scams.

“It was ab­so­lutely shock­ing to me that it hap­pened,” she said last week.

Af­ter in­ter­nal pro­cesses were fixed to pre­vent a re­peat and an in­ves­ti­ga­tion launched into the ex­act cir­cum­stances, Saucier’s at­ten­tion turned to staff mem­bers who were tar­geted by fraud­sters.

“One of the first things we did, we knew this would im­pact peo­ple in our ser­vices area, we made sure that the peo­ple were OK,” she said, adding that the univer­sity of­fered coun­selling to those af­fected staff.

“This is a tremen­dous mis­for­tune. That’s the only way I can frame this. This im­pacts ev­ery sin­gle one of us ev­ery sin­gle day.”

It was a rough start for the univer­sity’s first fe­male Indige­nous pres­i­dent, but, as Saucier points out, “there’s noth­ing like a cri­sis to co­a­lesce a team.”

Born in Saska­toon and raised in Regina, Saucier fled the frigid prairies for Vic­to­ria, B.C., af­ter high school to com­plete an In­ter­na­tional Bac­calau­re­ate at Pear­son Col­lege.

Briefly for­get­ting just how cold Saskatchewan can be, Saucier be­gan a bach­e­lor de­gree in psy­chol­ogy — back be­fore neu­ro­science was its own dis­ci­pline — at the Univer­sity of Saskatchewan. Again re­al­iz­ing her mis­take when the mer­cury plum­meted, she re­turned to Van­cou­ver Is­land to com­plete her un­der­grad­u­ate and mas­ter de­grees at the Univer­sity of Vic­to­ria. A PhD from Western Univer­sity fol­lowed.

Drawn back to the prairies, but this time as a fac­ulty mem­ber, Saucier skipped be­tween the Univer­sity of Regina and the Univer­sity of Saskatchewan in Saska­toon, where she spent seven years work­ing in the field of neu­ro­science.

In 2006, she ac­cepted a Canada Re­search Chair at the Univer­sity of Leth­bridge, where she spent five years be­fore briefly mov­ing to the Univer­sity of On­tario In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy as dean of science. Within two years, Saucier was made provost and vice-pres­i­dent, aca­demic.

Then Saucier, now 51, was asked to ap­ply for the job at MacEwan to re­place out­go­ing pres­i­dent David Atkin­son, who had spent six years in the role.

“There is lots of pos­i­tive mo­men­tum go­ing in here … Ed­mon­ton is a hid­den gem,” she said.

Un­sure just yet as to her own vi­sion for the univer­sity and its fu­ture — “I’ve been some­what re­luc­tant to crys­tal­lize that yet,” she ad­mits — Saucier plans on sit­ting down with ev­ery unit and ev­ery depart­ment over the next six months to bet­ter un­der­stand the ed­u­ca­tion ecosys­tem.

Saucier is, how­ever, cer­tain on three core prin­ci­ples that should be at the heart of what MacEwan Univer­sity rep­re­sents.

“A down­town univer­sity needs to ex­em­plify Canada’s vi­sion for eq­uity, di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion,” she said.

“It needs to be a safe place for peo­ple re­gard­less of their gen­der, sex­u­al­ity, lan­guage of first learn­ing, colour of skin, re­li­gion. It’s got to be the ex­am­ple of the di­ver­sity we see around us all the time.”

Fur­ther­more, be­ing Métis, the calls to ac­tion from the Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion will form an un­der­ly­ing large part of her fo­cus over the next five years.

“For me this is a very per­sonal thing … (be­cause) I re­ally do be­lieve in the trans­for­ma­tional value of ed­u­ca­tion,” she said.

Al­ready the univer­sity is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing changes, Saucier said.

At Saucier’s very first board meet­ing, with the sup­port of board chair Ione Chall­born, a smudge and Plains Cree prayer were of­fered. Saucier also ap­pointed a di­rec­tor of Indige­nous ini­tia­tives who will col­late and co­or­di­nate all Indige­nous ini­tia­tives on cam­pus and, come Oct. 18, the univer­sity will per­ma­nently raise the flag of Treaty 6 and Métis Na­tion.

Any new Indige­nous pro­gram­ming will go through the reg­u­lar aca­demic gov­er­nance process.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.