Elizabeth Dowdeswell named Lieutenant Governor of Ontario

University of Saskatchewan alumna Elizabeth (Liz) Dowdeswell (BSHEc’66, LLD’94) was appointed lieutenant governor of Ontario by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

In 2007, Dowdeswell was listed one of the university’s 100 Alumni of Influence to mark the institution’s centennial. Her citation read:

Liz Dowdeswell’s eclectic public service career, which has included serving as Undersecretary General of the United Nations and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program, has spanned provincial, federal, and international borders and transcended traditional disciplinary lines. Her global vision and pragmatic managerial skills were shaped in Saskatchewan in positions as Deputy Minister of Culture and Youth, educational consultant, university lecturer, extension worker, and high-school teacher. She also served as Assistant Deputy Minister of Environment Canada and led a number of public inquiries into such politically sensitive issues as Canada’s unemployment benefits program and federal water policy.

Read CBC News’ announcement

A conversation with Gordon

Interim President and Vice-Chancellor Gordon Barnhart

On May 29, 2014, Interim President Gordon Barnhart (BA’67, PhD’98) sat down for an interview with Shannon Boklaschuk (BA’00, MPA’14), a communications coordinator in Student and Enrolment Services Division at the U of S. The following is the text from that interview.

Q: Many stakeholders, both on and off campus, have expressed their concerns about the issues that have arisen at the U of S. What would you like to say to faculty, staff, students, alumni and members of the public?

GB: What I’ve been saying—and I very strongly believe this—(is) that I think we’ve turned the corner, or turned the page, as the chair of the Board of Governors has said. I don’t think anybody is minimizing the problems that we’ve had, but that we’re now saying (is), OK. Those things happened. Some corrective action has taken place, and perhaps more yet will come. We (will) start anew, and start rebuilding our reputation. I think people have to appreciate that the things that the university does so well were being done all the way through all of this. It’s just that the controversy took precedence over everything else, and that was all that people were thinking about and talking about.

Q: The University of Saskatchewan’s reputation has been tarnished locally, nationally and internationally in recent weeks. How can our reputation be restored?

GB: I think that it has been. Some people have been saying that perhaps that’s a very long-term thing. I’m thinking that perhaps it won’t be. We certainly have some donors that are showing that they’re unhappy, but I think that we can very quickly show them that we’re taking actions to solve the problems. I’m very, very confident the reputation will (be restored). I’m seeing it already in terms of a positive feeling from the emails that I’m receiving. I think it will also depend on how we work our way through the change that’s needed…in a very, hopefully, painless, or less painful, approach.

Q: Some alumni have questioned the value of their U of S degrees in light of the recent events on campus. How would you respond to their concerns?

GB: I think I want to reassure them that their degree is worth as much now as it ever has (been worth). I think the University of Saskatchewan has a solid reputation, and that won’t change. I don’t think their degree has lost its value at all. The first week in June is a time to celebrate student success at convocation.

Q: Why should we continue to have pride in this institution?

GB: This is an oasis for learning, for research. It’s a community that works together. That’s very enriching in its own way. We should also have pride, I think, in the number of people who have graduated from here and that they have gone on for very well-established, illustrious careers for the province and for the country and for the world. And when you look at people like Gordon Thiessen (BA’59, MA’62, LLD’97), the former governor of the Bank of Canada, he was from Saskatchewan. He graduated (from) the U of S. Those are the kinds of people that we can very proud of, because they came from here, small-town Saskatchewan, and have gone on to do great things in their careers.

Q: Many faculty, staff and students have observed that morale has been low on campus. How can that be improved?

GB: I think we have to stop dealing with the negative, and we have to start to say this is an excellent place to study and to work. I just met in the hallway five minutes ago a young woman who’s here with her mother, and she’s been accepted to university in the fall and she is so excited to be coming to the U of S. That’s one example, but I think we have to take our focus away from the cost-cutting, even though that’s important. We have to shift our focus to educating the young minds that are coming here from across this nation and realize that we have some very, very good things happening.

Q: You have said that you anticipate serving as interim president and vice-chancellor for about 12 to 18 months. What are your immediate priorities?

GB: Obviously, the first and the biggest priority would be to make sure that we improve the reputation, which we’ve already talked about. (We need to) make sure that we have our financial house in order, but also make sure that we have good, clear direction as to where we’re going from an academic point of view. I think we need to help people restore their confidence in the campus. It’s a wonderful campus, and I think we’re all proud of it.

Q: You have previously served as Saskatchewan’s 20th Lieutenant Governor, clerk of the Saskatchewan Legislature, clerk of the Canadian Senate and university secretary at the U of S. Why did you agree to take the job of interim president and vice-chancellor of the University of Saskatchewan?

GB: I was happily minding my own business and working part-time at three different contracts—one with the province, one with the city and one with a mining institute—and the invitation came from the Board of Governors saying that they were experiencing difficulties and they wondered if I would take over. I first thought, “Why me? What do I have that I can contribute?” But they seem to have great confidence in me. And I love this institution. I’m not interested in doing it for the long term, but I said I will do it for a year, year and a half. It will depend on how long it will take for them to complete the search and to find a candidate that will serve this university well. My goal there would be to make sure that I can leave this place in very good shape for the person who will follow.

Northern governance program has La Ronge mayor thinking long term

Thomas Sierzycki, mayor of La Ronge and MNGD grad. Photo by Lindsay Blair

It wasn’t that long ago that Thomas Sierzycki (MNGD’14), a new graduate of the Master of Northern Governance and Development program at the U of S, was grappling with the question of whether the program was for him. It certainly wasn’t like he needed a graduate degree to advance his career; at just 25 years of age, Sierzycki has already filled roles as teacher, mayor and industry-community liaison.

Born and raised in La Ronge by his Polish immigrant parents, Sierzycki’s family formed a deep connection to northern Saskatchewan and forged close bonds to the community. The family lived and worked in La Ronge and vacationed just 80 kilometres north in picturesque Missinipe, one of Saskatchewan’s best-kept secrets.

After completing high school, Sierzycki undertook a Bachelor of Education from the University of Regina via the Northern Teacher Education Program (NORTEP). NORTEP’s distance delivery model meant that Thomas could continue to live in La Ronge studying. Reluctant to leave La Ronge to pursue his degree to begin with, Sierzycki had definitively ruled out leaving when his mother became seriously ill. When she passed away a few years later, he said his commitment to the north had only grown stronger.

“The support I received when mom was sick was only further evidence that this is where I belong,” said Sierzycki. “They took care of me and my family, and I knew I wanted to be able to repay that in some way.”

He began his career by taking a shared teaching position that allowed him to split his time between the community and band high schools. The community had also elected him as city councillor a few years prior, and he decided to see if they would support his bid for mayor despite being only 21 years old. They did and in 2009, Sierzycki became Canada’s youngest elected mayor.

“It’s important to me that I build on my experiences but still feel like I’m growing and accessing new challenges and opportunities,” said Sierzycki. Through his work teaching and governing in those years, he was gaining different but complementary knowledge about education and community building.

At the start of his second term as mayor, Sierzycki was approached with an opportunity he couldn’t resist; AREVA Resources Canada Inc. and Cameco Corporation had joined together to create a position that would help industry and northern communities gain a better understanding of ways to work together. Sierzycki decided to take a step back from teaching to gain some insights into the private sector as the Areva-Cameco Community Vitality Co-ordinator.

“It was then that I became aware of the Master of Northern Governance and Development program,” Sierzycki recalled. “I didn’t think it was something I’d pursue initially, but this program was so aligned with my interests and the things I care about. It was an opportunity to study northern governance and development issues while continuing to live and work in La Ronge. It definitely had me thinking.”

But the timing could not have been worse, what with a new term as mayor and a new private-sector job. He consulted with faculty members in the program and determined that, while he was indeed intrigued, the timing was not right to embark on graduate studies. By the following fall, Sierzycki knew it was that time, and he was accepted into the program. Sierzycki said the MNGD has exceeded his expectations.

“I’ve had such a good experience with the program. You get to study northern economics, communications, and policy planning—all courses that have real world applications here at home.”

When asked about the highlights from his graduate study experience, Sierzycki pointed to a few things. He appreciated that the program attracted students with very different backgrounds and ways of seeing the world. He called the 10-day international field school “a tremendous and transformative” experience that made him look beyond traditional answers and approaches. He referenced the quality of the teaching and the northern expertise of his professors. But overall, it was the opportunity to consider the north’s future in a way he hadn’t before.

“Everyone going into the MNGD program has pre-existing ideas about what the north needs. The program makes you evaluate that thinking and to consider the repercussions of short-term thinking. As mayor, you’re so worried about issues like water and sewer; seldom do you get the chance to think about the dozens of longer-term ideas and solutions. This program was my chance.”

Now that he has his degree, the question of what’s next arises.

“I’m going to continue to govern responsibly, and to ask myself how I can best serve my family, friends and community. This program has reignited my passion for education and planted an awareness of its critical importance.”

Colleen Cameron is communications specialist in the International Centre for Northern Governance and Development.

Seeing convocation from a whole new angle

Danielle Rudulier

Danielle Rudulier’s favourite part of the University of Saskatchewan’s convocation ceremonies is seeing the students’ smiling faces as they walk on stage to receive their degrees.

This year, she will be one of those smiling students.

Rudulier (BEd’08), the co-ordinator of registration and convocation in Student and Enrolment Services Division (SESD), has completed the requirements to obtain a Master of Educational Administration degree from the U of S College of Education. On June 5, she will officially receive her parchment during one of the seven spring convocation ceremonies to be held at TCU Place from June 3 to June 6.

For her, the convocation ceremonies symbolize a time to come together as a community to celebrate our students’ academic achievements.

“I find convocation is all about the atmosphere,” she said. “Yes, it is a long ceremony with lots of students crossing the stage, but I think it is definitely worth attending for those two minutes that you get to be on stage, be hooded with your degree colours and shake a hand while receiving that valuable piece of paper that is going to hang on a wall for years to come.”

While Rudulier is excited about receiving her own degree, she is more focused on ensuring the hundreds of other graduates have a great convocation experience.

She works tirelessly year round on the many details associated with the annual spring and fall ceremonies, such as providing information to the graduating students, sending out the invitations, organizing the ticket distribution, collaborating with co-workers on producing the program and printing the parchments. She also works with staff from TCU Place to make sure the stage is set up and the decorations are ready. There are many other tasks, too: “everything else in-between,” she said.

“One of the challenging aspects is that the ceremonies are live, so everything has to be in place before the curtain goes up for the first ceremony, at which point there is no going back.”

While juggling all those details may sound stressful to some, Rudulier thrives on them. As the adrenaline get pumping, the tasks get done.

“Call me crazy, but I love all the little details and the need to be precise, especially in convocation planning.”

Attending this year’s spring convocation will admittedly be a little different for Rudulier; after all, it’s the first time she’s planned her own ceremony. Like any other student, she had to order her gown. Now she is feeling a growing sense of excitement each time she sees her own name on the graduation list.

“I like coming across my name on the graduation list. I will also get to see my parchment early, too, but I will have to wait until the ceremony to get my hands on it. There are some perks to being in the know.”

But once Rudulier receives her parchment, it will be back to business as usual.

“I am excited to be the busybody backstage like I always am, step in line, cross the stage and go back to my behind-the-scenes work. I think it will be unique experience to have the inside scoop; I just have to make sure I don’t miss my chance to cross.”

Rudulier has worked in her job for nearly five years, and this year’s spring ceremony will mark the 10th convocation cycle she has organized. It will also be the last one that will she do for a while; in the fall, she will welcome her first child with her husband, Adrien, so she will be on leave from her job for a year.

Rudulier will miss co-ordinating all of the convocation details while she is away, but she knows she is leaving the ceremonies in good hands. Her co-workers, who pitch in to make the ceremonies a success each year, will pick up the torch. Like Rudulier, those co-workers will continue to work to enhance the student experience.

“I want family and friends to have the chance to celebrate their graduates, and I also want graduates to feel a sense of accomplishment as they hear their name and cross the stage,” she said. “A university degree is no small feat. It is about celebration of years of hard work.”

Shannon Boklaschuk is a communications co-ordinator in Student and Enrolment Services Division. She will be attending a convocation ceremony on June 4 to receive her Master of Public Administration degree from the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy at the U of S.