Sharilee Fossum is the newest addition to MacEwan University's senior leadership team. Under her portfolio as vice-president, Finance and Administration & chief financial officer, Fossum oversees the areas of financial management and planning, human resources, facilities management, information technology, and campus services (which includes sports and recreation, residence and food services).
"Starting anything new during a pandemic is interesting," she says. "But I've found the people here to be very warm and welcoming, and I look forward to a time when the campus hallways will be full and bustling again."
As she settles into her new role, we asked Fossum about her own post-secondary experience, recommended reads and advice that continues to inspire her.
Q. In your opinion, what makes MacEwan unique?
MacEwan has only been a university for just over 10 years. We're still growing and there is a lot of energy here. Post-secondary in general is just an energizing sector to be part of because there are a lot of smart and curious people — faculty, staff and students. I've always considered myself a lifelong learner and it's inspiring and fun to be around others who feel the same way.
Q. How did your career path lead you here and shape who you are now?
My career has always been about following my curiosity and the opportunities that come about. What can I learn next or how can I make things better for those around me?
When I was going to university, I knew what I didn't want to do, but I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. My family tree includes pastors and farmers and teachers — very much service kinds of roles — so I didn't know a lot about my other options. I took business because by process of elimination, I didn't want to study anything else.
At the point where I finished my undergraduate degree, I had gotten married and moved to a small rural farming community. The way my career unfolded was very different than if I had stayed in a city the size of Edmonton because my jobs would have been very different. So because I went to a small place, I ended up in jobs that were very broad (not unlike this one I have at MacEwan).
The one I would describe as my first "grownup" job was at a regional college in Saskatchewan. My responsibilities covered everything except the academic side. Very quickly I fell in love with both the breadth of this kind of work and with seeing how the full picture comes together. That job really informed my future.
I think most people might plan out their lives, but it might not turn out the way they think it will. Really it's about finding the opportunity where you are. There's no point regretting what you didn't do; you start from where you are and you make your next choice.
Q. What is it that you hope to accomplish in your role at MacEwan?
I strive to build on the good work of my predecessors. I want to be a good partner to my colleagues as we collectively share leadership responsibilities, encourage my teams, and make the administration work of the organization easier for all that interact with those tasks.
I’m excited to have a part in helping MacEwan achieve the new vision that is currently evolving.
Q. What are you currently reading, or have just read?
I love books. I have stacks of books everywhere — by my bed, on my coffee table, double-stacked on my bookshelves. I love books. I have a Kindle, but I always default to a paper book. There's just something about the tactile experience of holding a book. I read all the time, and multiple books at a time.
I have lots of business books and try to stay relevant, but I'm always curious about how we got to where we are today. I recently started to revisit older authors and influencers. Right now I'm reading The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, known for The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. I appreciate the richness of his vocabulary and how he can ignite my imagination. I see quotes attributed to him regularly on LinkedIn and other sites, so I think he is still striking a chord with his thoughts today.
Q. What advice have you received that you continue to draw on today?
Author Ken Blanchard talks about "servant leadership," and that concept really resonated with me. Someone who is fair and compassionate while still setting the course. There are lots of people who lead but don't have a leadership title and there are those with leadership titles who people don't want to follow. Being a leader worth following is the aspirational star that I try to follow. I want to be a leader worth following.
MacEwan appoints new VP Finance and Administration & CFO
Sharilee Fossum joined the university on January 4, 2021.
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