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‘We can accomplish anything’

Valerie Howe named first woman head of Gardiner Centre

By Susan White

After leading Gardiner Centre through the pandemic, Valerie Howe has been named its new permanent director following an extensive external search.

Ms. Howe (B.Comm.(Co-op.)’89), MBA’97) became the centre’s interim director in May 2020. She’s the first woman to hold the position.

“Starting a leadership position during a time of great uncertainty for both the centre and the team was daunting, but it has also been full of opportunities for growth,” said Ms. Howe. “I’m excited to continue working with this fantastic team and explore how we can better serve our client communities and our province.”

Dedicated career

Ms. Howe joined Gardiner Centre in 2013 as a business consultant.

She later transitioned into the roles of operations manager and marketing lead before being named interim director. She was also a small business consultant with the centre’s predecessor, the P.J. Gardiner Institute.

“I’m very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work in every area of the business,” she said. “It’s been really valuable to both my professional development and my role as director.”

‘Progressive learning’

Gardiner Centre is the public engagement arm of the Faculty of Business Administration. It offers courses and certificate programs year-round for public, private, non-profit groups and associations.

Dr. Peggy Coady, the faculty’s acting dean, says Ms. Howe’s leadership during the pandemic has demonstrated her commitment to community and her enterprising talent.

“Valerie is deeply committed to delivering exceptional professional development opportunities to organizations throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, and beyond,” said Dr. Coady. “I’m confident that Gardiner Centre is well-positioned to be a progressive learning and engagement unit under her leadership, and a key contributor to business excellence in our province.”

Pandemic opportunities

Ms. Howe took over as interim director just as the COVID-19 pandemic was gripping the world. Like most organizations, the pandemic greatly affected the centre’s capacity to operate as usual.

“We were basically shut down. Everyone was working from home, training was stopped,” she said. “But that pause and that pivot gave us the opportunity to reimagine what Gardiner Centre could be.”

Within a few months, the centre began offering its programs fully online, allowing it to reach a greater number of learners in different regions as well as increase the number of programs offered.

“… that pause and that pivot gave us the opportunity to reimagine what Gardiner Centre could be.” — Valerie Howe

The centre expanded its program offerings to support current workforce challenges, adding topics such as improving immigration outcomes and supporting employee wellness, and launched its first national on-site training program.

“While the past two years have been challenging, the centre’s success and growth, combined with a dedicated and energetic team, makes us feel like we can accomplish anything,” Ms. Howe said.

‘Eye to the future’

Two initiatives launching this summer are a new look for the centre and digital badging.

Gardiner Centre logo has blue, purple and yellow parallelograms stacked and connecting at various points, with the text "Gardiner Centre" in grey to the right.

Gardiner Centre’s rebrand launched in July. It incorporates three colours: dark blue to reflect traditional business acumen, bright blue to represent the future and gold for maintaining a gold standard in curriculum delivery and client service.

The centre last revised its visual identity in 2009.

“We have changed a great deal in that time, and especially with all of the advancements we made during the pandemic, we felt it was an opportune time to refresh our look with an eye to the future,” said Ms. Howe.

The centre is also launching digital badging later this month. Digital badges provide visible credentials that support resumés and professional profiles.

“It’s an added value for our clients that validates their credentials. Employers can click on the badge and see exactly what was delivered in the program or course, and the new skills and knowledge that learners will have gained by completing it.”

Ms. Howe says she is committed to Gardiner Centre’s growth and program diversification, and to continually adapting to meet the changing needs of the workplace.

“Our goal is to support organizations and individuals from all sectors throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, building critical workforce skills and contributing to business excellence. It’s endless what we can do together.”

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