New Vancouver Island University president says reconciliation a priority
'VIU has taken some really bold steps in engaging First Nations,' says Deborah Saucier
Vancouver Island University will have a new president starting this summer: accomplished neuroscientist Deborah Saucier.
Saucier comes to the Nanaimo university for her five-year term as president by way of Edmonton, where she has served as the president of MacEwan University since 2017.
"I've been watching what's been going on at VIU for a long time," she told Gregor Craigie, the host of CBC's On The Island.
"VIU has taken some really bold steps in engaging First Nations."
Saucier, who has Metis heritage, has made STEM and Indigenous education a focus throughout her career in higher education across Canada. which she plans to continue pursuing in her new role. STEM is an approach to learning that focuses on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
"It's absolutely critical that we not only engage our communities but that we hear what they need and respond to that," she said.
'Optimism and kindness'
In a statement from the university, Chancellor Louise Mandell described Saucier as "a brilliant Indigenous woman whose values are congruent with VIU's Indigenous commitment.
"Her leadership combines optimism and kindness – qualities important to VIU's continued success as a regional university making social and cultural changes through transforming the communities we serve," Mandell said.
Saucier said she plans to continue some of the work of current president Ralph Nilson, but push it further in terms of community engagement and accessibility of education.
"Ralph Nilson has been amazing with the kinds of things he's been able to do with advancing the agenda for reconciliation and access for students who might not otherwise be able to go to university," Saucier said.
"I wouldn't want to lose momentum on those but, again, I think we can go further."
Saucier is from Saskatchewan but has deep roots on Vancouver Island, where she attended Pearson College. She holds two degrees from the University of Victoria.
She leaves her current position in Edmonton this July.
With files from On The Island