The search for St. Thomas University’s new president and vice-chancellor has been narrowed down to two candidates.
Rosa Bruno-Jofré spoke in the Noel A. Kinsella auditorium on Nov. 16. Originally from Argentina, Bruno-Jofré has been dean of education for almost 11 years at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. She has also taught at the University of Manitoba, Western Washington University and at the National University of San Marcos in Peru.
Dawn Russell spoke on Nov. 17. An STU alumnus, Russell has been dean of the faculty of law at Dalhousie, and is now the Purdy Crawford Chair in Business Law at Dalhousie as well as an associate professor.
Both spoke on a formal topic titled “Perspectives on the future of post-secondary liberal arts education and my vision for my leadership of St Thomas University in this context.”
They identified their intentions for the university and how their past work could help STU if they became president.
St. Thomas at risk
Rosa Bruno-Jofré began her speech by describing what she wants for STU.
“St. Thomas is positioned to be Canada’s post-secondary leader in liberal arts education with a strong international cosmopolitan dimension,” Bruno-Jofré said.
But Bruno-Jofré admitted that when she told her friends she was a candidate for president at STU, they had no idea where it was.
“We need to pull together. We need to generate an atmosphere of common good.”
But there is more than one reason why Bruno-Jofré wants to be president of STU.
She’s sees the university as a potential “fixer-upper.”
“I thought it was wonderful to be president of a liberal arts university, which also has education and has…fascinating applied programs, a good number of centers and chairs…a Catholic institution with a spiritual dimension,” she said. “I thought it was an interesting place.
“But the point is to do something you can do well, and also to have the feeling that you can leave a legacy of some sort, that’s what I would enjoy and would have fun doing.”
Bruno-Jofré hopes her teaching record and past experience as dean of education will allow her to help make STU’s distinctive applied arts program stand out.
“The liberal arts provide the means to develop the conditions to move beyond conventional thinking,” she said. “We certainly want our graduates to behave as sophisticated inquirers and inspiring visionaries.”
According to Bruno-Jofré, liberal arts are more than just an academic practice.
“We can think of liberal education as a way of life. It involves the discussion of diversity and liberal arts, and realizing policies cannot be selective,” she said. “It involves immigrant multiculturalism and diversity rights, aboriginal rights, women’s rights, gay and lesbian rights, rights of people with disability, minority rights – all of these intersect in various ways.”
St. Thomas University’s reputation not what it should be
Dawn Russell has a “deep and longstanding affection for St. Thomas University.”
A 1977 graduate, Russell has also attended UNB, Dalhousie and Cambridge, but claims STU as her alma mater.
But in her speech on Wednesday, she pointed out some of the harsh realities STU faces.
Whether we like it or not, Russell believes tuition is going to have to increase soon so that some of the extra money can be put aside for more scholarships and bursaries.
She also spoke about STU unknown reputation. Russell said she recognizes change as good, but hopes to pressure people to understand the traditional importance of a liberal arts education.
“It’s the job of presidents and chancellors to proclaim the value of a liberal arts education, loudly and often, and to at least…understand what is lost when traditions of culture and art that have been vital for hundreds and thousands of years disappear from the academic scene,” Russell said. “That is something I would commit to doing with the help and assistance of the St. Thomas community.”
She said STU needs to nurture students to be able to prove the value of their education.
“I am optimistic that…articulate and outspoken defenders of a liberal arts education…are prepared to challenge the accepted…irrelevance of a liberal arts education,” Russell said. “Its value will be rediscovered and better understood.”
However, she knows this isn’t easy because of the pressures of society.
“The cost of an education is rising and student debt loads are high, the pressure from parents, let alone anyone else, to pursue a coarse of education or training that leads one directly into a job. Those pressures are considerable,” she said.
She said in order for anything to change, the whole university has to be behind it.
“The way forward has to be determined through a deliberate careful transparent strategic planning process, led by the president and supported by the Board of Governors,” she said, “but it’s something in which faculty and students here are intimately involved in. In fact, they have to be.”