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A message from the president

Memorial welcomes Dr. Vianne Timmons, OC

By Dr. Vianne Timmons

I am honoured and excited to join Memorial University as president and vice-chancellor, and I am looking forward to meeting as many members of the university community as possible in the very near future.

Covid 19 and me

The COVID-19 pandemic – to which the Memorial community has responded with such dedication and creativity – will delay those meetings for a while, however.

I had hoped to be officially on-site for the start of my tenure as president, but when I learned on March 20 that the provincial government required people to self-isolate after inter-provincial travel, I knew that wasn’t going to happen.

I needed to arrive in St. John’s as quickly as possible, so I flew here a week before my original travel date to begin self-isolation right away.

Two of my daughters – Kelly and Taylor – arrived a few days later. We’re currently self-isolating (on separate floors of our accommodation!), and I will be able to venture out to campus a few days after my April 1 start date.

In the meantime, my husband Stuart is finishing packing in Regina, and he and our two dogs will arrive here later in April, at which time we’ll begin the process of fully moving into our house – once his period of self-isolation ends.

Since arriving

Since my arrival here, I have been working remotely for two universities, which has been an interesting experience, to say the least.

I have been completing a number of things as president of the University of Regina, while at the same time preparing to take over as Memorial’s president.

Life will be a bit simpler when I am at last in my office at Memorial’s St. John’s campus, with only one email address to monitor!

Since December I have remained in close contact with Memorial’s leaders, the presidential transition team and the staff in the Office of the President, learning as much as I can about the university and getting briefed appropriately so I can get to work as quickly as possible.

In those briefings, I have heard a great deal about the tremendous job everyone at Memorial has done to plan and implement measures for dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

I am particularly grateful to the Emergency Operations Centre group and the many Memorial people who are keeping the university’s critical functions running.

I also want to thank the faculty and support staff who have worked intensively to prepare course content for remote delivery.

That extraordinary commitment to preserving the semester for our students in this unsettling time speaks highly of the calibre of Newfoundland and Labrador’s university system.

Just as importantly, I want to express my appreciation to our students who are being so patient and understanding while all of this work is being undertaken. I know this has not been an easy time for you.

My plan

While I am no stranger to this province, having been raised in Labrador, I have not lived here for many years.

My plan is to get reacquainted with the province and to get acquainted with Memorial University itself as quickly as possible when the COVID-19 situation improves and I am able to meet people face-to-face.

As I noted when my appointment was announced in December, I want to take time to learn from the people who make up the Memorial community and the wider community of Newfoundland and Labrador.

I want to hear your perspectives and learn about your vision for Memorial and for this province.

In the meantime, I do come with some priorities in mind, specifically:

  • Strategic planning to continue to deliver on the university’s frameworks for teaching and learning, research and public engagement;
  • The promotion of equity, diversity and inclusion;
  • Strengthening communities and relationships, particularly among the multiple campuses;
  • Continuing the Indigenization work already underway;
  • The continued promotion and growth of Memorial’s research capacity; and,
  • The development of leaders throughout the organization.

My commitment

We will build on this list together with each conversation, balancing the need to respect tradition with the need to innovate and look to the future.

I am thrilled to have the opportunity to lead this incredible institution, and I commit to bringing my 12 years of experience as president of the University of Regina – with my passion for community building in all its forms – to this place.

I would like to thank the presidential search committee and the Board of Regents for the faith and trust you are placing in me.

Over the next five years I will do my very best to justify it, and at the same time earn the faith and trust of the members of the university community and the people of this wonderful province.

I have often said that universities should not reflect the world in which we live; rather, they should reflect the world in which we want to live.

I believe that together, we can help Memorial live up to that ideal in the years to come.

For now, separated as we may be from each other due to necessary social distancing measures, we must find creative ways to work together to provide our students with the best possible education in the face of this global health crisis.

But, I look forward to the time when we can literally work shoulder-to-shoulder together, fully united in our efforts to make Memorial University of Newfoundland the best institution it can be for our students, our province and our world.

I hope to meet as many of you as possible in the months to come.

Visit Dr. Timmons’ website here.

Dr. Timmons’ biography

Dr. Vianne Timmons is the 13th president and vice-chancellor of Memorial, coming from the University of Regina where she served as president since 2008. During her tenure there, the university attained its highest-ever enrolment and diversity, greater recognition for faculty work and increased levels of external research funding.

Dr. Timmons grew up in Labrador City as one of six children and moved to Nova Scotia during high school. She holds a BA (Mount Allison), B.Ed. (Acadia), M.Ed. (Gonzaga), and PhD (Calgary).

A teacher by training, she maintains a wide-ranging research program emphasizing family literacy and inclusive education. Her credits include nine books, 12 book chapters, 40 peer-reviewed articles, 30-plus funded research projects (as principal or co-investigator) and more than 200 invited lectures.

Her many awards include Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women (WXN), a National Inclusive Education Award, a Humanitarian Award (Red Cross), a Community Literacy Award (Canada Post) and the first Gender and Leadership in Higher Education Award (EMULIES). In 2019 she received the Indspire Award for Education. In 2017 she was named an officer of the Order of Canada for her lifetime contributions to inclusive education, family literacy, Indigenous post-secondary education and women’s leadership.

An active volunteer, Dr. Timmons has served various post-secondary and other organizations, including as president, International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities; chair, Universities Canada’s Standing Committee on International Relations; and member, Canada Foundation for Innovation.


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