Lynn Wells is Laurentian University’s new president and vice-chancellor. She is the 12th person in the university’s history to fill this role. Hugh Kruzel photoHugh Kruzel, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Preparing for her installation as the new president of Laurentian University on April 1, Lynn Wells is more than willing to speak about her plans and mandate.

Her contract is for five years, but already she says she would willingly look at extending that.

“Yes, if offered a second term I would stay,” Wells said.

Set for the move to Sudbury, she fondly recalls a childhood visit to the Big Nickel. More recently, she had a guided tour of the city and campus. Speaking from her then home at Brock University in St. Catharines, she says is looking forward to moving to Sudbury with her husband, who was a research officer in government and retired nearly a decade ago.

“We were introduced to Sudbury and I found it had a familiar feel to where I grew up,” Well said. “Windsor has a similarity. There are parallels in the economic landscape and I did learn about mining while in Saskatchewan.”

The prediction is that Wells will have invitations to see the world of underground hard rock mining. There will naturally be trips to SNOLAB, NORCAT and other locations in Sudbury where the world of research meets implementation and application.

She said she realizes Sudbury is a manufacturing, supply and services hub and is more than mining. Health care and education are other key elements of this regional centre.

She knows technology and entrepreneurship are strong characteristics of the Sudbury ecosystem. Naturally, there will be a collaboration with Cambrian College.

Asked if she believes in getting out of the office – and tower – to better understand the moving parts of the university, Wells indicated that she sees benefits in “management by walking around.”

She joked she has “long legs and good shoes.”

She will rely on current Laurentian officials to get a feel for the university and its issues.

“I’m friendly,” Wells said. “I want to know people. I will get to meet staff and I love interacting with students.”

Does Wells have a 30-60-90 day plan?

“Yes, I have benchmarks and have done transitions like this before. What I find are the similar challenges that all universities face … and are facing. Funding is one of them. (The other day) I just spent all day in budget meetings. Laurentian does have a unique history.”

Laurentian, of course, has had a couple of difficult years. In 2022, it announced it was heavily in debt, could no longer pay its bills and sought creditor protection so it could restructure. It then cut staff and programs, and ties to its affiliated schools, as it worked to balance its books.

Wells acknowledges the past but wants to use the clean slate to go forward.

“I recognize the work of Jeff Bangs, board members, and so many others who really committed themselves to the process. Never rest on your laurels.”

Wells is cognizant of the imperative of growing student attraction as numbers drive the whole system.

There are the local and regional populations, but also national and international student markets. What brings individuals and groups to Laurentian?

“We need to focus on recruitment. Students are not just revenue … when students choose a university, number one is for a program.”

A program has to be valid, current, relevant and delivered successfully. What programs are for today, and what are needed in the future? Wells is sure to be posing those questions often.

When asked why a student chooses a specific university, some will say because of a friend, others because of awareness and many because they felt welcome.

“Largely, though, it is very focused on program. We need to ensure there are strong, interesting programs that differentiate our university from any other. Our tri-cultural and bilingual mandate is important. I gained respect and attentiveness to the importance of the First Nations while in a previous rôle.”

Wells wants to share this message: “I am coming to work with you. We will make this institution strong so it will be here for another 100 years.”

Quick bio

– Lynn Wells began her career at the University of Regina, serving as acting dean and associate dean, Research and Graduate Studies, in the Faculty of Arts, and finishing her time there as Associate Vice-President, Academic.

– Following this, she was appointed vice-president, Academic, at First Nations University of Canada where she actively supported national reconciliation and worked directly with Indigenous communities, students, and employees.

– At MacEwan University in Edmonton, she served as the inaugural associate vice-president, Students and Teaching.

– Since 2020, she has been the provost and vice-president academic at Brock University, where for 15 months she served concurrently as interim president, providing critical executive guidance during the difficult pandemic period.

– Wells received her Ph.D. in English from Western University as well as a Master of Arts in English and Honours Bachelor of Arts in English and French Studies both from York University.

– She is a highly regarded scholar, having authored multiple articles on contemporary British fiction as well two books, the most recent of which is on the prominent writer Ian McEwan, on whom she is an internationally recognized expert.

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By Hugh Kruzel, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Mar 30, 2024 at 00:32

This item reprinted with permission from   The Sudbury Star    Sudbury, Ontario
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