Thompson Rivers University
Thompson Rivers University

President's Biography: Dr. Brett Fairbairn

Dr. Brett Fairbairn is a distinguished academic and a passionate advocate for universities and higher education. His special interests include students and access, participatory governance and community-university engagement. As a leader he strives for strategic leadership, relationship development, and a strong value system of integrity, respect and accountability.

A Rhodes Scholar and a Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Brett taught and conducted research in history, public policy, and interdisciplinary studies at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) for over 30 years. He has held numerous grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. For his last five years at USask, he was a professor at the Johnson Shoyama School of Public Policy, teaching about ethical leadership in democracy and public service, social economy, and co-operatives in the new economy.

Brett’s academic work has focused on the history and interdisciplinary study of democracy, social movements, and co-operative enterprises in Canada and around the world, with a special focus on organizational governance. A strong believer in community-based research, he has more than 80 publications, which are a mix of scholarly and community-oriented writings.

His latest book, tentatively titled Risk and Relevance, will be published by the USask Centre for the Study of Co-operatives in spring 2019. It is a study of organizational change, leadership, governance and strategy in Western Canada's retail co-operatives, a system of 170 federated enterprises with 1.9 million individual members. The book was researched with the support of Federated Co-operatives Limited.

Brett held increasingly senior leadership positions during his time at USask, serving as director of the Centre for the Study of Co-operatives from 2000 to 2004, as head of the Department of History until 2008, and as provost and vice-president academic from 2008 to 2014. As a proponent of active citizenship, Brett has also served in voluntary leadership roles, including chair of the Saskatchewan Academic Health Sciences Network and chair of the Saskatchewan Archives Board.

For his university and public contributions, Brett has been honoured with a number of awards including the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002. In 2018 he received the Co-operative Contribution Award from the Saskatchewan Co-operative Association, recognizing the impact of his research and teaching on the development and expansion of co-operatives.

He completed a DPhil in Modern History at the University of Oxford. He holds a Bachelor of Arts from Oxford (honours first class) and from the University of Saskatchewan.

Brett is joined in Kamloops by Norma, a ceramic artist. They are the parents of three adult children, one of whom has special needs. Brett is dedicated to family, to Norma and all their children, and always looks forward to family games or movie nights, by digital connection if need be. Brett’s other interests, apart from family, university and academics, include hiking, photography, science fiction and cats.

Brett Fairbairn officially became TRU's president and vice-chancellor on Dec. 1, 2018.

Dr. Brett Fairbairn

Dr. Brett Fairbairn

President and Vice-Chancellor