Embracing the Next Challenge

Convocation

Photo Credit: Matthew Mioduszewski

When I got the job of Vice-Provost, Students at York, my son Bennett boasted to all of his friends that I would soon be responsible for all the sports fields on campus.  As a seven-year-old athlete, he saw this as the pinnacle of career success.  He was devastated when I had to tell him that the job I was so excited about didn’t include driving a large mower or painting yard lines.

Reflecting on that experience, I was nervous about telling Bennett that I was applying to be Sheridan’s next President and Vice Chancellor.   Six years older and more mature, however, I need not have worried.  Predictably, he likened my interest in taking on a different leadership role at Sheridan to a baseball headline.  The day prior, Russell Martin – the Blue Jays’ veteran catcher — started against the Phillies at shortstop.   Martin noted that: “As a kid growing up, my dream was always to play shortstop at the Major League level … Getting that opportunity was awesome.”   A four-time all-star behind the plate, he was excited about using his skills to help the Jays win by contributing from a different place on the field.  Through that lens, Bennett thought my interest in taking on the role of President made perfect sense.  He watched me prepare diligently for each interview and helped me manage my nerves; he, Ken and Olive remain my most loyal champions and were almost as excited as I was when the call came from our Board Chair with the most wonderful news.

To say I am elated about being Sheridan’s eighth President would be a significant understatement.  Like Russell Martin, it’s an opportunity I’ve been working towards for over thirty years.  I have always been proud to lead within the post-secondary sector in Ontario – as a faculty member, program director, senior administrator and/or vice-provost.  Leading at Sheridan over the last twenty months as Provost, however, has been particularly rewarding.  Our learning community is distinguished by the exceptionality of its character, the quality of its people, and an unwavering commitment to the learners and communities we serve.  Sheridan is an amazing place.

That said, I am not naïve to the challenges, risks and disruptions that command our attention. When asked throughout the hiring process what I would focus on if appointed, I noted repeatedly that the world is changing.  Achieving our vision of becoming a global leader in career-focused, applied education will demand that – in response — we adapt and evolve too.  To ensure we’re optimally positioned and all on the same page, the Board and I will be initiating a process in August to draft Sheridan’s next Strategic Plan.  You can expect that our approach will be collegial, collaborative, consultative and creative.

Wherever our planning takes us, I think there are several things we need to do over the next five years to deliver on our Mission to deliver a premier, purposeful educational experience in an environment renowned for creativity and innovation, namely:

  • Affirm, champion and celebrate Sheridan’s unique identity;
  • Leverage our expertise in SRCA, creativity and innovation;
  • Continue to boldly live our commitment to student success;
  • Connect and co-create – locally and globally with industry, community and other partners; and,
  • Invest in developing talent.

All the while, I’m committed to enhancing organizational stability; providing clarity about future directions; and, putting the right people in the right leadership roles to propel us forward.   You can expect that I’ll continue to blog and communicate openly about these issues after I take office on August 7, 2018.

I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to Sheridan’s Board of Governors, the Presidential Search Committee, and the broader learning community for their confidence in my leadership.  I want to give a special shout-out to Dr. Mary Preece for her coaching, mentoring, and generosity; Mary is an exceptional leader who will be much missed.  Stay tuned for more information about our formal plans to acknowledge her contributions at a community event being planned for later this year.

I’m going to take the month of July off to relax, rejuvenate, watch some baseball and hang out at the cottage with my parents.  Rest assured that when I return to Sheridan on August 7, I will be recharged and ready to do everything I can – including if/as needed mowing the lawn and painting yard lines – to advance our community’s aspirations.