Whitehorse Daily Star

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KEEN TO ACCEPT THE CHALLENGE – Dr. Lesley Brown says she was ‘honoured’ to accept the presidency of Yukon University. She will begin her new role next month.

Incoming president responded to siren call of the Yukon

The new president of Yukon University has a burgeoning love affair with the Yukon.

By Whitehorse Star on July 30, 2021

The new president of Yukon University has a burgeoning love affair with the Yukon.

Dr. Lesley Brown will take over the reins at the university in mid-August.

Until then, she’s keeping busy making the transition from life in Calgary to rookie northerner.

She and her spouse, Paddy McLean, were house-hunting in Whitehorse last week ... and getting a crash course in the tricky and frenetic business of the local real estate market.

“Housing is a bit of an issue,” she conceded in an interview, showing a gift for understatement.

She and McLean are juggling their move at the moment, and it’s a complicated process.

“There’s lots of moving parts.”

Like many others, Brown said she fell in love with the siren call of the Yukon...and Whitehorse...while visiting on business.

In 2019, Brown explained she was in Whitehorse attending a conference. It was her first visit to the city, and she liked pretty much everything she saw.

Unlike most of the other attendees, she lingered behind to sample more of that tantalizing Yukon ambience.

After that, she couldn’t shake the desire to come back.

“I haven’t worked in the North before,” she said. “But since then I wanted to. I think I have a strong sense of the North and its communities.”

She and McLean are also outdoors enthusiasts who enjoy a variety of activities such as snowshoeing, skiing, mountain biking and fat biking.

That’s a good first step in fitting in.

“We both enjoy winter activities,” Brown said.

It helps that Brown is also a fan of the model of education being deployed by the university, and that it became the first university established North of 60 in 2020.

“The model of education is interesting,” she said.

Brown referred to what the university does as a hybrid program that offers an intriguing and practical mix of education stream from college to university.

She’s also a fan of the multiple campus model and community connections.

“There is lots of learning here,” she said.

Brown has been involved in post-secondary education for more than 20 years, both as an instructor and and as an administrator.

She said that gives her an unusual perspective, and the ability to merge the points of view from both sides.

She feels quite capable of merging those tensions into something facing in the same direction.

“I understand the primary business of the university is education,” she said.

Brown was most recently provost and vice-president, Academic at Mount Royal University (MRU) in Calgary.

In this role, she oversaw all facets of educational programming and research at MRU, which evolved into a university in 2009.

Under her leadership, Mount Royal University experienced significant growth in student enrolment, faculty research success, and academic programming, including the establishment of a long-anticipated Bachelor of Social Work program. 

Before this, Brown compiled an exemplary record at Alberta’s University of Lethbridge, serving as a faculty member and an administrator in a number of roles including vice-president Research (interim), associate vice-president (Research) and vice-provost (Academic). 

In addition to being a proven leader, Brown is an accomplished scholar in the field of Kinesiology, with a research specialization in balance and fall prevention in the elderly and people with Parkinson’s disease.  

“Yukon University’s exceptional potential to broaden its scope of impact through teaching excellence, research and student success, along with its deep commitment to Indigenization, reconciliation and community education, is what attracted me to this opportunity,” she said in a news release announcing her appointment.

“As I moved through the interview process, it became very evident that Yukon University is poised to influence the future of Canada’s Northern and Arctic regions and its people.

“I am so honoured to step into this role.”

Brown steps forward to lead YukonU as it settles into its new university status and the board prepares to launch a new strategic plan, created with input from students, faculty, staff, First Nations and stakeholders across the territory, to guide the institution for the next five years. 

Dr. Maggie Matear will continue serving as interim president until Brown assumes her duties. At that time, Matear will resume her role as vice-president, Finance and Administration.

Matear took on the role after the sudden resignation of former president Michael DeGagné in 2020 – after fewer than three months on the job.

He cut short his expected five-year commitment to succeed the long-serving Karen Barnes as the university president to become president of the Indspire charity.

Comments (10)

Up 3 Down 3

Disappointed on Aug 4, 2021 at 4:04 pm

I think it might be time for some optimism; it would be nice to have someone running the Uni who really appreciates the Yukon and what it stands for. You don't have to agree with everything someone says certainly, but maybe having some understanding of how big town universities function will help us out. She obviously has a track record, so we shall see how she does.

Up 11 Down 2

Anie on Aug 4, 2021 at 2:14 pm

To my opinion - I don't think many 'settlers" live in those neighbourhoods. I know I'm certainly not a "settler". I didn't come here from someplace else, and I certainly don't answer to some woke fool's newly minted slur for anyone deemed not to be historically mistreated. It really is time to grow up and move forward.

Up 7 Down 2

My Opinion on Aug 3, 2021 at 4:33 pm

You are correct. You can experience a bunch of the indigenization at 4th & Black, 6th & Cook, 5th & Wood just to name a few. Experience the Northern Culture, don't move into a area of town that is full of white dominated culture filled with settlers. That would just be wrong.

Up 13 Down 1

Anie on Aug 3, 2021 at 1:29 pm

C'mon, prove your love of everything Yukon. Buy a house downtown, I dare you.
And what the heck does "indigenization" even mean?

Up 15 Down 3

iBrian on Aug 3, 2021 at 5:07 am

Responded to the Siren call of the Yukon?
As a white heterosexual male with a family to support applying for a government job, I’d say the siren is wailing in a different manner.
Wish her the best of luck, my only advice would be to apply the full grades to students. I still haven’t met a person who has failed a course at Yukon College/University yet.

Up 11 Down 4

Reclaim the college on Aug 1, 2021 at 10:27 pm

Yes! Well said.

Up 31 Down 6

My Opinion on Aug 1, 2021 at 5:26 pm

"deep commitment to Indigenization, reconciliation and community education"

First, I have no idea what Indigenization means, but it doesn't sound like it means treating them equal allowing them to succeed through their own hard work. We don't need to lower the bar for people, help them succeed that is all that's necessary. Kids don't need everything designed to help them fail.

Up 26 Down 5

My Opinion on Aug 1, 2021 at 5:20 pm

Why did this whole article sound and feel like a job interview? Touching on all the points that would get you the job. You got the job, so tell us what you will do. Seems like more PC talk and no action.

Up 38 Down 10

Sheepchaser on Jul 31, 2021 at 9:53 am

Welcome, and:

-Build student housing, not classrooms.
-Reduce classroom time for textbook learning.
-Transform classrooms into labs, and collaborative spaces. 3D printers, electron microscopes, robotics, soil assay, water quality, etc...
-Create a two-year junior college type STEM upgrade with university credit that can springboard Yukon students into any program they like. Foundational and standardized first year with specialized second year offering pathways into engineering, machine learning, creative, etc...
-Adopt a facilitator model where instructors become tutors and the top experts in the field are presented to the students digitally (TED talk~ish)
-Increase learning supports, never lower basic standards
-Place a moratorium on buzz word bingo consultants. They will just run you in endless circles of BS.
-Require constant upgrading and lifelong learning from faculty.

Essentially, transform the college into a place where those who want to learn can do so in a self-motivated adult environment with support available for those who need it. An actual institution of higher learning, not just a continuation of the union-imposed No Fail high school model that is crippling the entire country. Yukon University is uniquely poised to help the youth here break out from the tyranny of mediocrity and shoulder shrugging that the current generation in charge protects as the status quo. Give them something more than hockey players, the Trailer Park Boys and Sons of Anarchy as role models. Create an environment of respect and aspiration to excellence while bringing tons of support for anyone willing to put in the work to get there.

Up 9 Down 24

bonanzajoe on Jul 30, 2021 at 5:12 pm

Dr. Brown, again, Welcome!

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