Brett's Blog

Leadership and governance in higher education

Occasional reflections by a university president on themes mostly related to higher education, university governance, and particularly Thompson Rivers University

Reflections on the year ahead

Friday, Jan. 15, 2021

In my last blog post, I wrote that “We don’t exist to do a job, provide a service, or build a building.” We are people, and we have jobs, and those jobs serve a greater cause. “The purpose of all jobs at TRU is to help students and communities to be successful in their own terms.”

What does that mean, in the context of 2021?

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Vision in times that feel like crisis

Friday, Nov. 6, 2020

Times are stressful. Families and businesses are under stress. Sectors of the economy are hard-hit. Some businesses are going under. There are loved ones we cannot visit, and people who are seriously ill or dying because of the pandemic. In universities, there are constraints on activity and restraints on our finances. Some have lost their jobs. Many vacancies are unfilled. And we continue trying to do the university’s work while also juggling increased care responsibilities or worries. Inevitably, it feels like trying to do more with less. It can feel like a decline.

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COVID-19: What kind of recovery?

Friday, June 26, 2020

As this province and other jurisdictions move into different phases of restarting life in the midst of a pandemic, we can’t help but think about the recovery. And it’s good to do so. What kind of recovery will it be? And top of my mind, what role will universities play?

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Racism, divisions, and the purpose of education

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

A year ago, when I addressed TRU graduating students for the first time, one of the themes I stressed was the growing divisiveness in society, and the role of education in healing that division.

In the year since, TRU’s commitment to inclusion and belonging for all has become ever more explicit, as exemplified in the university’s new Vision Statement.

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Finding a way forward and peace of mind

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

As I write this, it’s been three weeks since the Province announced its Go-Forward Strategy on COVID-19. And a week since some businesses started dipping their toes with restarting in a pandemic. Hair salons, restaurants, gyms. Face masks, hand sanitizers, and Plexiglas barriers.

Any notion of getting back to normal is a ways off. The virus has not gone away, and we are now at a point of figuring out how to live with it for the foreseeable future.

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Universities in unprecedented times

Friday, April 3, 2020

The word unprecedented is going around a lot these days. The last few weeks have seen our university, like a great many others, send most students away from classrooms, and most faculty and staff away from their offices, to study and work remotely. This is an astonishing amount of change in how we do education, in a very short period of time.

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Vision and reality

Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020

Thompson Rivers University is considering a new vision statement, the result of many months work by a large number of people. It’s a document I find exciting. It embodies the work of so many hands and hearts and minds. It reflects who we are, who we have been, and who we are becoming.

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TRU’s 50th—What do anniversaries mean?

Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020

January is a month to look both ahead and back. That’s why the month is named after Janus, a Roman deity who had one face looking at the past and one at the future. As I look ahead and back from 2020, one number has been much on my mind. Fifty.

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Territorial acknowledgements

Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019

Universities in Canada now commonly do “territorial acknowledgements.” For TRU, I currently use a version in the footer of my e-mails that goes like this:

Thompson Rivers University campuses are on the traditional lands of the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc (Kamloops campus) and the T’exelc (Williams Lake campus) within Secwepemc'úlucw, the traditional and unceded territory of the Secwépemc. The region TRU serves also extends into the territories of the Stat’imc, Nlaka’pamux, Tsilh’qotin, Nuxalk, and Dakelh, and Métis communities within these territories.

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Why universities raise funds

Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019

Recently our university announced the highest fundraising goal in our history: to raise $50 million for our 50th anniversary in 2020. Quiet work over a period of years has already brought together $41 million from donors for our Limitless campaign. If this is a marathon, we are running the last few miles.

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What I wish politicians knew about universities

Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019

Our once-every-four-years practice of electoral democracy is a good moment to reflect on what we expect and hope for in the people’s representatives. At time of writing, it seems unlikely that higher education will figure much in the current federal campaign. No doubt the candidates will focus on large issues like the economy, the environment and health care. But higher education is a significant part of long-term solutions regarding those three issues and many others.

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Fostering a new vision, one step at a time

Monday, Sept. 9, 2019

Research shows that people expect many things of leaders. Integrity, competence, communication skills, and relatability are likely high on most lists. But I find one expectation is particularly interesting: the idea that a leader should have a vision.

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Making sense of blogs

Monday, Sept. 9, 2019

I’m not certain yet who will be interested in reading a university president’s blog, but I have to imagine an audience. My mental model for a blog relates to the lost art of letter writing, and letters don’t make sense without readers.

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