Seeking stories

August 7, 2018

Dr. Lynn Wells takes on new role of associate vice-president, Students

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Just a few weeks into her new position, Dr. Lynn Wells is already starting to get comfortable – she quickly admits that she’s given in to wearing athletic sandals to the office.

Lynn took on the newly created role of associate vice-president, Students at MacEwan University in early July. Her casual footwear is matched by a quick laugh and friendly presence – fitting traits for the person who will be helping enhance the student experience at the university.

“My job here is to support the strategic position of the institution to make this an inclusive, dynamic, engaging learning environment for all of our students,” says Lynn. “Everything in my background, over many years, has prepared me for this work.”

She holds a PhD in English Literature from Western University, and taught English at the University of Regina before moving on to an associate vice-president position at the U of R and, most recently, a vice-president role at the First Nations University of Canada.

City lover

In Lynn’s office, an iconic, red double-decker bus careens into the foreground of a large photo on the wall, with the Tower Bridge staunchly spanning the Thames in the background. The image is the centrepiece of the office, just as much of Lynn’s academic career has centred on the city of London.

The bulk of her research, writing and teaching has focused on the intersection between modern British fiction and urban settings, and although she’s visited London over a dozen times, Lynn describes Edmonton as a “big city,” and part of the draw to working at MacEwan.

“I love the excitement and energy that comes with a downtown campus – the diversity of people and the sense that everyone is working together towards a common mission,” she says.

Lynn was charmed not only by the university’s location, but also the atmosphere. “What I really feel here is an energy that says everybody belongs. This institution will go out of its way to create that kind of environment.”

Story seeker

Now, Lynn plans to harness her experience, particularly her years as an English professor, to continue to ensure all students feel welcome within MacEwan’s walls.

“You need to know someone's story, at some level, to work well with them,” she says. “As an English professor, I’m always focused on how people's narratives are constructed, what perspective it’s being told from, and which voices are being left out.”

What I really feel here is an energy that says everybody belongs. This institution will go out of its way to create that kind of environment.
—Dr. Lynn Wells

That approach fuels Lynn’s desire to seek out people’s “detailed stories,” and respond compassionately – an outlook she also brought to her most recent role as the vice-president, Academic at First Nations University of Canada.

“Working alongside Indigenous people and getting to know more about their cultures – it was the greatest education of my life,” she says. “I’ve seen how energized a campus can be when people know they work and study in an inclusive, respectful way, and are learning from one another all the time.”

Student champion

Ultimately, Lynn looks forward to championing MacEwan’s ongoing efforts to support students through the successes, and challenges, of their undergraduate degree.

“There’s a lot of pressure on students, which leads to feelings of stress and anxiety. I know we have really great staff at MacEwan to help with those issues,” says Lynn. “I want to continue that really intense focus on putting students first.”

Most of all, Lynn hopes to create an environment where students feel empowered to embrace the best parts of the university experience, just as she did.

“I went to university straight out of high school. I moved from a town of less than 100 people to Toronto. What I remember most is a feeling of independence,” she says. “My life was my own and my direction was my own. That really stands out to me as a great freedom. I have never taken it for granted.” />

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