Yukon University finds new president

Yukon University announced Wednesday that Lesley Brown will be stepping into the role of president on Aug. 16. Brown most recently served as provost and the vice-president of academics at Calgary's Mount Royal University.

Lesley Brown, most recently at Mount Royal University in Calgary, steps into role on Aug. 16

Lesley Brown has been appointed as Yukon University's next president. Brown will step into the role beginning Aug. 16. (Submitted by Yukon University )

The search for Yukon University's next president is over.

Lesley Brown will step into the role, as well as that of vice chancellor of the university, beginning Aug. 16, the university announced Wednesday.

Brown, who has a PhD in kinesiology from the University of Waterloo, was most recently the provost and vice-president of academics at Calgary's Mount Royal University, which, like Yukon University, was previously a college.

She has also been a faculty member and administrator at the University of Lethbridge and has served on organizations including the Social Science & Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Alberta Epigenetics Network.

"I'm so honoured to have been appointed as the next president," Brown said in an interview.

"[Yukon University] is so highly regarded throughout the country and I'm looking forward to stepping into the leadership role and stepping into the possibilities that this institution can bring for the region, for the territory and also for Canada, and for helping Canada recognize the importance of the North." 

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Brown will be filling a seat that's been vacant for nearly a year following the departure of Michael DeGagné, who quit in September 2020 after less than three months on the job. 

Maggie Matear, who's usually the university's vice-president of finance and administration, has been serving as interim president. 

Yukon University Board of Governors chair David Morrison said in a press release that Brown impressed the presidential search committee with her "insights and vision." 

"Dr. Brown brings over 20 years experience as a collaborative professor, researcher and administrator — all with a student-centered focus," Morrison said in the release.

"We believe she is the right choice to lead YukonU as we grow into our new status as a hybrid university." 

'I really want to embed in the community'

Brown said Yukon University's "hybrid" approach — meaning it offers a variety of education options including degrees, diplomas, certificates and trades — was one of the biggest attractors for her, as well as its "leadership in reconciliation." 

"One of the things that Yukon is doing that is unique is that it is recognizing the importance of Indigenous voices in the decision-making and accountability of the institution," she said.

On larger issues of equity and diversity, Brown said she is prepared to listen to and learn from Yukoners at large as well as faculty, staff and students. 

"I want to be able to ensure that we are taking the responsible and tangible actions that will need to be taken so that we can be an institution that truly embraces the richness of perspectives that is afforded when you uphold [equity, diversity and inclusion] as a priority," she said. 

Brown said Yukon University's 'hybrid' status was one of the biggest attractors for her, as well as its 'leadership in reconciliation.' (Laura Howells/CBC)

"I really want to embed in the community," she added. "I want to understand the Whitehorse people and culture [while] recognizing, respectfully, that I'm coming from the south."

Brown said she was looking forward to meeting students, First Nations leaders and donors, as well as the fact that Yukon University is in the early stages of planning a new science building. 

She's also eager to get outdoors — she attended a summit at what was then Yukon College in 2019, bringing her mountain bike up with her and spending a few extra days riding on Grey Mountain and in Carcross. 

"That was probably about some of the most enjoyable mountain biking that I have done," she said. "It's such an impressive system, so I'm looking forward to coming back with my mountain bike."