Let’s start conversations on fine examples of leadership in our university community

Dear members of the University community / Boozhoo / Aanii / Kwe kwe,

In today’s blog posting (which I originally drafted in January but put off for a while), I thought of sharing some thoughts on the visit of a great educator on campus, convey my appreciation for a great initiative undertaken by faculty, talk about needs that are specific to our region, give you an example of an organization that succeeded in making huge improvements in student success and invite you to watch a 7 minute webcast on transformation leadership which I have found to be very inspiring. I will do so in fewer than 1,100 words, promised!

I was delighted to welcome on the Sudbury campus in January a very dear friend of mine, Dr. Avis Glaze, former Chief Student Achievement Officer of Ontario and CEO of the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat. A former school board administrator, she has taught at all levels of the K-12 education system, in rural and urban areas, in public and Catholic schools, and at the elementary, secondary, community college and university levels. In the mid ‘90s, she served on Ontario’s Royal Commission on Learning (the Bégin-Caplan Commission) which lead to significant changes in Ontario’s education system (elimination of grade 13, creation of the Education Quality and Accountability Office (I served on its board from 1997 to 2005), Ontario’s College of Teachers, implementation of French-language education governance, etc)

As former colleagues in the Ontario Ministry of Education, we have done several webcasts together on a wide range of topics including aboriginal education, character education, aménagement linguistique and pédagogie culturelle for French-language schools, boys literacy and school effectiveness.

Avis was in town to attend two events, including the “Reading Rocks the North 2010 Conference”, held at the School of Education. I would like to commend the 20-member organizing committee chaired by Dr. Jan Buley for taking on such an endeavour.  Over 30 workshops were planned between 7 pm and 10 pm on a Friday evening (now that’s commitment to education!)

As a university, it is our duty not only to provide outstanding research-based teacher education and continued learning programs, but also to disseminate the knowledge arising from evidence-based high-yield strategies to enhance students’ literacy and numeracy skills. This conference was an excellent example of creating an opportunity for students to further engage in their discipline, which is one of our four key goals.

It also advances another of our key goals: being responsive to the communities we serve.

Why?  In all but one of the 12 district school boards in Northeastern Ontario, the proportion of grade 6 students achieving the provincial standard in reading and grade 10 students being successful on the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test is below the provincial average.

Improving student achievement and closing gaps in student outcomes is possible. In less than six years, the school district in Ottawa where I first served as school board trustee, board chair and eventually chief administrative officer went from being #20 out of 72 school boards in 2001 to #1 on provincial assessments – and still remains today.

How did educators in this school board do it?  A few things come to mind:

  • They focussed on a limited number of clear measurable goals commonly understood across the system;
  • They set targets for improvement;
  • They monitored on a regular basis with ongoing reporting;
  • They reallocated resources internally from lower to higher priority areas, including by making very tough decisions such as 25 school closures in four months;
  • They created self-directed teams to share effective practices where evidence showed that they had a positive impact on the articulated goals and targets;
  • They planned for staff training “in context” (i.e. in the job environment as opposed to conferences which are proven to be not very effective).

I would suggest that these “winning conditions” observed in that school board apply in other kinds of organizations, including universities.

If you haven’t had an opportunity to hear Avis speak, I encourage you to watch this 7 minute webcast on transformational leadership. While the intended audience for this presentation was leaders from the K-12 system, I am sure that you will concur that Avis describes very eloquently the kind of leadership we are looking towards in the organizations in which we serve and the kind of leaders we can all be in our roles – irrespective of the nature of our job within our university community – irrespective of whether you are a student or not. Let me know what you think.

If you are a student, why not talk with your friends about the kind of leaders you are and aspire to be – not as “leaders of tomorrow” (which is an expression that I hate because it assumes that Canadian youth don’t or can’t exercise leadership now) but rather as “leaders of today”? Why not ask for feedback and explore with your friends how you can exercise leadership in your classroom, on campus and in the community?

If you are a faculty member or staff, why not ask yourself what you can do to exercise more or a different form of leadership in helping make Laurentian the best university it can be? Each of us is a leader in some way and can develop his or her leadership skills. Why not ask your peers to give you feedback on situations where you really showed leadership and on situations where they thought you could have “stepped up” a little bit more or been more constructive in making your department or the university an even better place?

I look forward to hearing about the stories that resulted from these conversations.

Each of us can make Laurentian an ever better place to learn and work. That’s what leadership is all about!

Finally, I would like to seize this opportunity to commend Dr. John Lundy for his leadership in the development of the Accord on Indigenous Education on behalf of the Association of Canadian Deans of Education (ACDE).  This development generated national recognition for our university in publications such as Maclean’s and the Globe and Mail.  Most importantly, as pointed out by a representative of the Assembly of First Nations, it helps “move the goalposts” for indigenous education.

As usual, I welcome comments and questions on the topics discussed in my blog postings, or any other matter that may be of concern to you. My email is: dominicgiroux@laurentian.ca

You can also follow me on Twitter and Facebook

Merci/Thank you/Miigwech

Great Convocations and Staffing Update

Dear members of the University community / Boozhoo / Aanii / Kwe kwe,

I would like to congratulate our 1,925 graduates from our 15 Spring convocations.I was delighted to preside once again eight convocations as well as the NOSM hooding ceremony on the Sudbury campus, preside a convocation in Barrie and hand out degrees at the convocation of Northern College. Dr. Patrice Sawyer and Dr. Vincent Salyers handed out nursing degrees at Cambrian College and Sault College on my behalf. I will be handing out more degrees at St. Lawrence College on Thursday, Algoma University on Saturday and Université de Hearst on Sunday. The total travel involved for one Laurentian representative alone represents 4,200 kilometers, the equivalent of a trip from Sudbury to Los Angeles!

While this is a very intensive period for many faculty and staff members who play such a key role behind the scenes (and on it too!), I find these are the most exhilarating moments of the year. I want to thank faculty members who joined the platform party at one or more convocations to take part in these exciting events for their students.

I would also like to pay tribute in particular to the Chair of the Board of Governors, Carolyn Sinclair, and to Board member Dr. Claire Perreault – who both attended every convocation on the Sudbury campus – and to Vice Chair Floyd Laughren, Board members Julie DeSimone,Stan Pawlowicz, Bela Ravi and Ian Wood who have also attended some convocations. Their dedication to the University is truly commendable.

Staffing Update

Yesterday, I informed the Board’s Executive Committee that our esteemed Vice-President, Administration, Robert Bourgeois, will be leaving the University in February 2011, four years after joining Laurentian.Robert is a valued member of the Executive Team who served with distinction as Acting President in 2008-09.He led the development of the Three Year Plan to Regain Sustainability and played a key role in drafting the business plan for the proposed Laurentian School of Architecture.Robert was instrumental in ensuring a smooth transition as I joined the University in April 2009.Robert and Catherine plan on returning to Ottawa. I am very grateful to them for extending their journey in Greater Sudbury longer than they had originally anticipated.The recruitment process for a successor will begin immediately.

It’s also with mixed feelings that I announce that the Assistant to the President, Diane Massicotte, has informed me of her intention to retire on December 31st.Diane has recently returned from a three week leave where she helped take care of her newest grandchild in Ottawa.After over 35 years of service at Laurentian, Diane is also planning to move to Ottawa to be closer to her daughter and grandchildren.I cannot emphasize enough how much Diane has had such a positive impact on our university community. She is any President’s dream Assistant, always available, reliable, proactive, knowledgeable and insightful.

I have also informed the Board’s Executive Committee that the former Dean of the Faculty of Professional Schools, Dr. Anne-Marie Mawhiney, has agreed to postpone a sabbatical leave and serve as Special Advisor to the President, effective August 16th.As part of this assignment, she will lead the development of the University’s 2012-17 Strategic Plan, expected to articulate a select number of high-yield strategies that will enable progress against our four key goals.

Our greatest asset as a university community is our human capital.To enhance our national recognition, be the university of choice, foster student engagement and be responsive to the communities we serve, we will need to be even more effective collectively in attracting, retaining and engaging faculty and staff. Outstanding organizations are relentless in their efforts to foster continuous improvements on what are considered the top attraction, retention or engagement drivers for their employees.To inform such efforts, we will work with an outside consultant to conduct on a regular basis confidential employee satisfaction and engagement surveys, that provide a measurable baseline and help plan future efforts to improve the workplace environment.Anne-Marie will lead this project.

She will be also working with the Vice-President, Research and Graduate Studies, Dr. Patrice Sawyer, in advancing new major cross-department research initiatives to continue increasing our research intensity.

The Vice-President, Academic and Provost, Dr Robert Kerr, and I are pleased to inform you that the Executive Committee approved yesterday, on behalf of the Board of Governors, the appointment of Dr. Bernadette (Bernie) Schell as Vice-Provost.  Senate unanimously endorsed her appointment at its meeting of May 18th.  Bernadette will be based in Barrie.  She was the Founding Dean of the Faculty of Business and Information Technology at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.  She previously served as a faculty member at Laurentian in Sudbury from 1978 to 2002, and demonstrated her leadership as Director of the School of Commerce and Administration and as President of the Laurentian University Faculty Association.  Bernadette is the 2000 recipient of the Laurentian University Research Excellence Award.  She has written numerous journal articles on industrial psychology and cybercrime topics. She has published seven books, four of which focus on hackers and Internet security. She is currently the President’s Advisor on Cybercrime and designer of the Centre for Cybercrime Research (CCR) at UOIT.


 The new position of Vice-Provost replaces the position of Dean, Laurentian@Georgian.  It is meant to emphasize the importance of our programs in Simcoe County and eliminate any confusion in referring to the “dean” – a position which is common both on our Sudbury campus and within Georgian College.


Robert and I want to thank Dr. Tom Gerry for his outstanding leadership as Acting Dean over the past two years.  He will be on sabbatical leave during the upcoming academic year.


On May 10th, I had the opportunity to present some of Laurentian’s successes and future plans to Barrie’s City Council. You can read my presentation here, or read the media coverage in the Barrie Advance or the Barrie Examiner.


I would also like to echo Robert’s comments in his recent communication to the university community and congratulate Dr. Sheila Cote-Meek and Lisetta Chalupiak for their respective appointments as Associate Vice-President, Indigenous Programs and Acting Director, Academic Staff Relations.  I also want to express my personal gratitude to Dr. John Isbister for his exceptional contribution to our university community over the past four years, for his unquestionable support to me as President and for his always insightful advice.  I wish him much success and happiness as Ryerson University’s new Vice-Provost, Faculty Affairs.


As usual, I welcome comments and questions on the topics discussed in my blog postings, or any other matter that may be of concern to you. My email is: dominicgiroux@laurentian.ca


You can also follow me on Twitter and Facebook.