New beginnings

September 11, 2018
Can you feel that buzz in the air? The excitement of a new academic year is something I’ve always enjoyed. It’s a time of such promise – fresh starts, new beginnings and endless possibilities. I hope all of you are rested, rejuvenated and excited about the year to come.

Before we get started, I want to take a look back at a few things I was thinking about as we congratulated the Class of 2018 on their achievements in June: the values I hope each of these students took with them from their experience at MacEwan. I mention these things – optimism, bravery and kindness – because I think they’re important to keep in mind as we all begin a new term.

I can’t think of a more optimistic time than the beginning of a new academic year – in large part because I believe that people who work and study in universities find themselves here because they want to be part of building a better world.

Planning for our future

A conversation about values naturally leads into the ones we’ve been discussing as a community as we develop the Integrated Strategic Plan (ISP), a process that will continue to unfold during the coming year.

We are currently creating foundational plans built out of the Institutional Strategic Framework and looking at changes we need to make as an institution to implement our strategic directions.

Over the summer, we launched a page on the MacEwan website ( where you can read background documents, hear the latest news about the development of the ISP and provide your feedback. Watch for additional opportunities to provide input over the course of the upcoming academic year.

As our plans begin to take shape and you provide feedback, I hope you will keep the following in mind.

If you’ve met with me or heard me speak about the ISP, then you know that I feel very strongly that a strategic plan needs to engage all of our students, faculty and staff. If something doesn’t speak to all three of these groups, then at the very least it should put students first.

I hope you’ll also remember that you will likely not see particular university departments or units mentioned in the plan. That is deliberate. Some aspects of the ISP may feel like they are far away from you, but I would argue that those are the pieces you need to look at most closely. One of our institutional priorities, for example, is to be recognized as a leader in the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls to action. While the connection between that particular priority and an area like kihêw waciston is clear, that doesn't mean it’s their sole responsibility to implement it. If, on the surface, that part of the plan seems like it doesn’t apply to your area or discipline, then I encourage you to dig deeper. That you will take your assumptions and turn them on their heads. That you will look for ways to make this plan part of everything you do. That’s what I mean when I say that I hope each and every one of us will be able to see ourselves in the ISP.

Summer in photos


I thoroughly enjoyed the sunny June afternoon we spent celebrating summer and thanking faculty and staff for their hard work over the past academic year.
National Indigenous Peoples Day fell on the final day of our June Convocation ceremonies. It was an honour to have Sarah Paquette, Dustin Stamp and the Blackstone Drum Group lead our graduate procession on June 21.
I was honoured to give Alberta’s Lieutenant Governor, the Honourable Lois Mitchell, a tour of MacEwan and to discuss the future of our campus and community with her.
It was so sweet to hear that Libby and our Community Superheroes summer campers painted a buddy bench for our community. Watch for the full story on next week.
There was activity all around the pedway this summer. Excited that the Students’ Association of MacEwan University is a few steps closer to realizing their dream for a dedicated space.

Reaching out

Last year, I spent a great deal of my time focused on building our profile as an institution locally, making sure people know about the good work we’re doing here. The Board of Governors has also asked me to make sure that happens not only here in Edmonton, but in other parts of the province, the country and even the world.

It’s important work, and a long and deliberate process. Improving our reputation and being recognized for the things we do well are part of planning for a sustainable future – one where our community understands what we do, sees the value in it and stands behind us.

I will still be on campus in the coming months – if you see me in the hallway, be sure to say hello – but it will be a little less often than last year. While I’m away representing MacEwan at Universities Canada or meeting with organizations like the Association of Commonwealth Universities to discuss topics like reconciliation and peace, you will see our vice-presidents taking the helm.

We have a tremendously talented group of vice-presidents around us, and in the upcoming year you will see a lot more of them. I think that’s absolutely appropriate. They run large pieces of our university and I know they have the good of the institution at heart.

The role of the provost

The provost and vice-president, academic will be taking on a larger role in our daily work. If you don’t really understand what a provost does, you’re not alone. Although many people understand that the vice-president, academic is responsible for safeguarding the institution’s academic mission, it is often not as clear what a provost does. At many institutions, the provost works alongside the president to set academic priorities and has significant responsibility for the university’s budget, recommending budget allocations in alignment with the strategic plan. It’s an incredibly important, but often misunderstood job. In my mind, the provost plays a central role in all institutional decisions, large and small, which is why I often refer to the provost as our senior academic leader. Thus, the roles of the provost and president go hand in hand – the provost having largely internal responsibilities for the academic mission of the university, and the president, although having similar responsibilities, taking a more external focus. These responsibilities are why many institutions have the provost as the most senior member of the president’s executive committee, and why I have designated the provost as vice-chair of the Executive Council. This is also why the provost takes on the role of acting president when I am away from campus.

Provost search

The search for MacEwan’s next provost and vice-president, academic is currently underway, and many people have already provided their input through an online survey. Feedback has been incorporated into a draft profile, and the next step in the search will sharing the draft profile with the university community for further consultation. Stay tuned for this in the next week or so.

In searching for a new provost, we are very cognizant of the fact that we have what I think is a unique culture here at MacEwan, and that we need to bring someone to the role who will value and nurture that culture.


Planning our future footprint

I hope you have all had a chance to look at our campus master plan and think about what the physical changes proposed within it will mean for our future. The aspect of the plan that I really like is that the changes we are proposing will put all of us – students, faculty and staff – out into the community more, and at the same time bring the community in. Those connections are important because they give us opportunities to demonstrate the value we bring to our community, and the value our community can bring to us.

The plan was approved by the Board of Governors in June 2018, and you will be able to see it soon within the Campus Master Plan segment on

Next steps will include a feasibility study for the consolidation of programming at Alberta College Campus with City Centre Campus, initial planning for the expansion of the library and a School of Business building.

From my perspective, one of the most exciting next steps is planning and design for a new Indigenous Centre. A larger, enhanced space for kihêw waciston will allow us to embrace the spirit of the ancestral lands on which the university sits. To invite even more Indigenous students to pursue a post-secondary education. To engage our community – both inside and outside the university – in ways that promote reconciliation and moving forward in a positive way. Watch for more information as our plans develop.

Organizational updates

  • We welcomed Lynn Wells, associate vice-president, Students, on July 1.

  • Myrna Khan, the university’s first vice-president, University Relations, joined us on September 1.

  • David McLaughlin is now associate vice-president, Planning & Analysis and Registrar, and leads the Office of the University Registrar, Institutional Analysis & Planning, and Student Financial Aid within Academic Affairs.

  • Rick Ellis has been appointed chief financial officer (CFO), reporting to John McGrath, vice-president, Resources and People.

  • Gina DeVeaux is our new director of governance, responsible for all matters related to the Board of Governors and Academic Governance Council.

  • Jeremy Wilhelm has joined the university as the new senior manager for Faculty Relations.

  • Tim Crisall has been appointed as MacEwan’s chief information security officer (CISO). He now leads the IT Compliance and Information Security Office and advocates for MacEwan’s information security needs.

See you on Twitter

I’d love to see you on Twitter. You can follow me @DocSaucier, where you’ll see me tweeting and retweeting everything from the latest developments in neuroscience to my personal puck-dropping practice.


 Things you should know

I’ll leave you all with best wishes for a fantastic Fall semester, and hopes that September will bring us all new inspiration (and at least a few more warm days).



President, MacEwan University
@DocSaucier on Twitter


Read Deb’s past columns on


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