Message from President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Gillian Siddall
Dear members of our Lakehead University community,
I am very pleased to be sending you this greeting as I begin my term as President and Vice-Chancellor of Lakehead University. It is a great privilege to return to Lakehead – where I have spent most of my career – to take on this role, and I am eager to get to work with all of you as we face the challenges and embrace the opportunities that lie ahead.
My partner, Laurel, and I are so happy to be back in Thunder Bay, and I thank those of you who have sent welcoming and congratulatory messages to us. We truly feel like we are part of this Lakehead family and the regions and territories our campuses call home.
My story at Lakehead began in 1998 when I accepted a faculty position before I went on to become the founding director of the teaching and learning centre, and ultimately the Dean of our Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities for six years. In 2015, I accepted an appointment as the Vice-President Academic and Provost at the Ontario College of Art and Design University before being appointed President of Emily Carr University of Art + Design in 2018.
It is good to be back, and I am proud to help lead an institution that reflects so many of my values alongside so many talented and passionate students, faculty and staff who advance and support issues that are very important to me, including reconciliation, EDI, climate action, and excellence in research, teaching, and learning. I am particularly proud to be part of an institution that has continued to address reconciliation – I believe strongly in the need for our university to engage meaningfully with the urgent and necessary work to respond to the Calls to Action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report.
Universities can play a significant role in effecting change through addressing major challenges of our time, and all members of the university can contribute to that work through research, curriculum, pedagogy, policy development, community partnerships, and examining our own organizational structures. It is the people — our students, faculty, staff, alumni, partners, volunteers — who are the ones driving change. I believe in the skills and talents of each person in our university community and recognize that our collective contributions inevitably exceed our individual work and performance.
Universities are dynamic, energizing, and complex entities. I love the environment of inquiry, knowledge production, and creativity that is the lifeblood of universities. They are also institutions of centuries old traditions, some of which have created barriers for women, IBPOC, and LGBTQ2S+ students, faculty, and staff, and we must continue to be vigilant in examining and changing the structures to ensure universal access, and creating a working and learning environment in which all members of the university community feel seen and can show up as themselves.
The violent attack on a faculty member and two students in a gender studies class at the University of Waterloo last Wednesday, described by the police as motivated by hate, brutally illustrates the fact that equity-deserving groups are not always safe on our university campuses. For many years I taught courses with a focus on gender and was a graduate student when the École Polytechnique mass shooting occurred, and I can imagine how anxious and disturbed many of our faculty, students, and staff are feeling right now. I stand in solidarity with you all, and remind everyone of the resources available to you to help address violence on our campuses (Office of Human Rights and Equity, Security Services, Student Health & Wellness, LUSU, Employee & Family Assistance, and our Mobile Safety App), and encourage you to seek out the supports you need.
I know we will stand strong as a university community in the face of such threats, and I look forward to seeing you all on both campuses.I know we are going to do great work together. Over the coming months, I will focus my efforts on meeting and listening to as many members of our Lakehead University community as I can — both in Orillia and Thunder Bay.
I have missed being here. It is great to be back.
I look forward to meeting new faces, as well as getting to know so many others and our exceptional campuses all over again.
Thank you. Miigwetch.
Dr. Gillian Siddall
President and Vice-Chancellor