(Graphic by Daniel Salas/AQ)

St. Thomas University remains on schedule to elect its new president and vice-chancellor by the spring of this year, according to a university timeline obtained by The Aquinian.

Finalists Nauman Farooqi and Ian Sutherland gave public on-campus presentations in early December following an announcement on Nov. 21, 2022, that Dawn Russell, who served as STU’s president and vice-chancellor for 11 years, took an administrative leave of absence.

Related: Dawn Russell takes leave as STU president, vice-chancellor

Russell’s leave was not the start of the search process, however, as she was set to retire from her role on June 30. Her sudden departure meant Kim Fenwick, STU’s current vice president of academic and research, also took on the role of acting president and vice-chancellor. 

Peter Forestell, chair of STU’s board of directors, wrote in an email sent to students on Nov. 22, 2022, that the process to replace Russell remained on schedule. 

“Recruitment began in the spring following consultations on our issues and opportunities, and with requisite skills, experience and leadership attributes a new president should possess,” wrote Forestell. 

Jeffrey Carleton, STU’s associate vice president of communications, provided The Aquinian with a timeline of the steps detailed in the selection process. 

He would not provide an interview to The Aquinian, saying it “would not be appropriate” as an interview would move “beyond the confidential aspect of the search.” 

Timeline for the selection process

Beginning in the winter semester of 2022, STU consulted with stakeholders and Saint John-based consulting firm Knightbridge Robertson Surrette (KBRS) to start the search for a new president and vice-chancellor.

David Ferguson, chair of the presidential search committee, announced in an email on March 14, 2022, that he assembled a group of members from various areas to represent STU. 

Those members are:

  • Graydon Nicholas, chancellor of St. Thomas University
  • David Farrar, secretary of St. Thomas University’s board of governors
  • Krista Han and Phillippe Ouellette, external members of St. Thomas University’s board of governors
  • Andrew Secord and Mary-Lou Babineau, faculty members nominated by St. Thomas University Senate
  • Kim Fenwick, associate vice president of academic and research at St. Thomas University
  • Julia Evans, a member of the St. Thomas University Students’ Union
  • Stephanie Underhill Tomilson, a member of the St. Thomas University Alumni Association
  • Jeffrey Carleton, associate vice president of communications at St. Thomas University

STU posted the job advertisement early in the spring of 2022. 

“The ideal candidate will bring a strong foundation of experience in the liberal arts and a passionate belief in the value of liberal arts education in the contemporary world,” read the advertisement. 

The timeline shows the committee assessed applications over the summer before conducting interviews and community engagement presentations with finalists at the end of the fall semester.

The committee will collect recommendations over the semester and announce the successful candidate this spring.

The home stretch

Nauman Farooqi and Ian Sutherland, the two finalists competing for the job, held public presentations on Dec. 5 and 6, respectively, to share their vision for the STU community and engage with students, faculty and staff. 

Related: Farooqi gives presentation on candidacy for STU’s presidency

Farooqi, a dean of business and social sciences at Mount Allison University who describes himself as an “accidental academic,” said he would establish benchmarks and measure the university’s success through comparison to the competition. He also expressed a need to give students hands-on experience.

“[Students] want to be co-creators, they don’t want to be pushed content,” he said. 

Related: Sutherland gives presentation on candidacy for STU’s presidency

Ian Sutherland, the current vice president of Grenfell Campus at Memorial University, said as a member of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, they would prioritize equality and diversity, alongside Indigenization and anti-racism. 

“I want us to be a university of all, for all,” said Sutherland. “Belonging is the [university’s] secret sauce.”