President's newsletter

Issue #9: November 2022

Dear colleagues:

Our campuses are especially beautiful in the fall--all the more so this year with the return of students, staff and faculty to our classrooms, residences, recreational facilities and libraries.

As I reflect on the challenges of the past two-and-a-half years, I feel deeply grateful for and appreciative of the exceptional way our community adapted, pivoted and persevered in order to provide the high-quality education for which UNB is known, to conduct research with the same degree of dedication and to continue to serve our academic mission.

Despite the complications posed by the pandemic, we did not lose momentum in pursuing the five major goals of our Strategic Vision, UNB Toward 2030: Research Impact; Transformative Education for the Future; Engagement and Impact; A People-Centric, Values Informed University; and A Modern, Integrated, Sustainable UNB. As our Annual Reports and the UNB Newsroom demonstrate, substantial progress is being made, of which we can be justifiably proud.

With renewed on-campus activity there is much to take part in and to celebrate, beginning with our students.

Stories and accomplishments

We continue to be one of 20 partner institutions in the country chosen to enrol the accomplished recipients of the prestigious Schulich Leaders Scholarships. This year we are pleased to welcome Isaac Buckingham of Corner Brook, NL, who is entering Engineering, and Micah Landry of St. Stephen, NB, enrolling in Computer Science. Since 2012, these renewable awards, among the largest in Canada, have recognized academic excellence in STEM and entrepreneurial leadership.

Four entering students are the inaugural recipients of the Good Energy Scholarships supported by Irving Oil Limited. Estella Calderon of Richibucto, Veronica Garcia of Florenceville-Bristol, Kaley Paul of Fredericton and Chani Salomon of Riverview. Academic achievement, community volunteerism and extracurricular activities are the criteria for these new awards.

A work by PhD student Fawn Parker was named earlier this fall to the longlist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize for excellence in Canadian fiction. Her novel, What We Both Know, described as “original and funny” by David Huebert, co-director of UNB’s creative writing program, was among the top 14 selected from a field of 138—a significant achievement for an author at any stage of their career.

For the first time in two years, our Fall Convocations in Fredericton and Saint John were held in person. Between the two ceremonies, 614 graduates crossed the stages at the Richard J. CURRIE CENTER and the Imperial Theatre, to the enthusiastic applause of family and friends. Chief Stephen Augustine, OC--elder, respected scholar and hereditary chief of the Mi’Kmaq Grand Council--was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree.

Two outstanding professors, Ian Church, Geodesy and Geomatics Engineering, and Basil Alexander, Faculty of Law, received the Allan P. Stuart Award for Excellence in Teaching, based in large measure on student testimonials. Shelley Doucet, the Jarislowsky Chair in Interprofessional Patient-Centred Care, was the recipient of the UNB Award for Excellence in Research for her exceptional contributions to the improvement of health care in Canada.

Another of our fine teachers, English professor Sandra Bell received the 2022 Distinguished Teaching Award from the Association of Atlantic Universities. Only the most recent of many awards recognizing her pedagogical abilities, the AAU award recognizes teaching excellence over a period of several years, primarily at the undergraduate level. Dr. Bell teaches a wide range of literature courses encompassing prose, theatre and poetry.

Dhirendra Shukla, Chair of the J.Herbert Smith Centre for Technology Management and Entrepreneurship, won the Community Leader Award from the 2022 Ecosystem Impact Awards, recognizing his contributions to the Atlantic Canada start-up community through mentorship of entrepreneurs. Dr. Shukla attributed the award to everyone associated with the Centre, including students. His colleague, Dominic Blakely, who serves as innovation and entrepreneurship strategist with the centre, was presented the Award of Honour from the Nigerian Canadian Association of New Brunswick for his dedicated support of Nigerian entrepreneurs who have immigrated to this province. The award also marked the association’s National Day celebrations of 62 years of Nigerian independence.

Two UNB physicists, William Ward and Jeffrey Langille, will play lead roles in developing instrumentation for NASA’s Atmosphere Observing System, designed to advance our ability to tackle climate change and severe weather. They will be part of a 13-university consortium funded by $200 million from the Government of Canada.

Recently named to the Order of Canada, Imelda and David Perley, our former Elder-in-Residence and Director of the Mi’Kmaq Wolastoqey Centre, respectively, are lifelong educators and leaders in the area of Indigenous revitalization and Wolastoqey culture and language revival. We salute their substantial contributions to the support and visibility of Indigenous peoples at UNB and across the province.

Penny Ericson, Professor Emerita of Nursing who served as Dean of the faculty from 1988-99, was honoured with the Order of New Brunswick in recognition of “her outstanding achievements and leadership in improving the health, social and cultural well-being of her community and province.” These include her contributions to the education of nursing professionals, her work in establishing the Muriel McQueen Fergusson Centre for Family Violence Research and her active support of arts and heritage in Fredericton.

Also honoured at this year’s ONB ceremony were alumnae Lucinda Flemer, whose vision and philanthropy have benefited UNB and created the magnificent Kingsbrae Gardens in St. Andrews, and Sandra Irving, who is known to us as a generous supporter of our students, advocate for the transformative power of education, benefactor to health research and compassionate member of the community.

In recognition of his exceptional service to the legal profession, Mike Marin, Dean of Law, has been named King’s Counsel by a committee consisting of the Chief Justice of New Brunswick, the Attorney General and the President of the Law Society of New Brunswick. In addition to his academic leadership, Dean Marin serves on several professional councils.

While these long-serving faculty and staff members exemplify the diversity and quality of our University, we are pleased to welcome new talent and energy to our ranks. Among the newcomers is Josh Leon, who began his appointment as Dean of Engineering on October 1. A respected professor of electrical and computer engineering, Dr. Leon comes to us from Dalhousie University where he served for three terms as Dean of Engineering and a term as Chief Information Officer and Associate Vice-President for Information Technology. He succeeds Chris Diduch who has been a member of the Faculty since 1981 and its dean since 2015.

We also welcome Sally Ng as the new CEO of the Wallace McCain Institute (WMI), an organization focused on the development of the next generation of senior business leaders in Atlantic Canada. Ms. Ng brings a wealth of experience in entrepreneurship and innovation, most recently as COO of the Tribe Network, dedicated to furthering BIPOC communities in business. Ms. Ng will lead the strong organization built over 14 years by Nancy Mathis, founding CEO of the WMI.

And alumna Katie Davey is returning to UNB as the new Executive Director of the Pond-Deshpande Centre (PDC) to expand its impact in social entrepreneurship and innovation. Most recently the Director of Media and Policy at the Public Policy Forum, a leading independent Canadian think tank, Ms. Davey will use her skills and experience to work with students seeking to creatively lead change and address social challenges. She succeeds Karina LeBlanc, who served as PDC’s founding Executive Director over the past decade.

UNB is committed to observing National Truth and Reconciliation Day through ‘Ciw Wasisok | Mi’guwetelamanej mi’juwaji’a | Every Child Matters: Remembering The Children. We gathered on Sept. 30 in both Fredericton and Saint John to take part in a very moving ceremony organized with the help of Elders David and Imelda Perley. Engaging in Indigenous ways of knowing allows us to work collaboratively as we build a future of harmony and growth, in keeping with our strategic vision and our Truth and Reconciliation Strategic Action Plan.

As part of Elder Imelda Perley’s goal to establish sacred spaces on our campuses, a tipi, featuring the art of Natalie Sappier, was raised in Fredericton on Sept. 1. The Mi’Kmaq Wolastoqey Centre has held a smudging ceremony, conducted by UNB’s Kcicihtuwinut (Knowledge Carrier-in-Residence), Elder Jeannie Bartibogue, and a sacred fire for the University community. In Saint John, the Lorenzo Society hosted a Fall Indigenous Film Festival. And Hayden Hovey, fourth-year sociology student and the first Indigenous representative on the UNB Saint John Student Representative Council, has designed a line of clothing called Menahqesk, the Wolastoqiyik was the traditional name of the land we now know as Saint John, meaning “the place of the sea taking the land.” Items from the collection, aimed at building connections between cultures, are on sale at the campus store.

We continue to strengthen our support for equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) and are currently conducting searches for an Associate Vice-President for Human Rights and Equity and for the Piluwitahasuwin, a key position responsible for fostering engagement with the Indigenous community. Both of these appointments, to be filled in early 2023, are integral to building a university community in which everyone belongs.

As I mentioned at the outset, momentum toward our goals has been maintained, thanks in good measure to the support we receive from alumni and friends. Among the most notable examples of this is the McKenna Institute for Digital Transformation, namesake of alumnus and former NB premier Frank McKenna, who has not only pledged $5 million to this ambitious initiative but also dedicated himself over the past 12 months to raising an additional $45 million. He’s had considerable success, persuading many other individuals, corporations and foundations to get behind his vision to fuel economic growth and social progress through advancing digital technology.

Recently onboard are Bill and Ed Barrett, funding a $2.5-million Chair in Entrepreneurship for Digital Transformation, to be held by Computer Science professor Ken Kent; the Joyce Family Foundation contributing $1.25 million to digital literacy for students in UNB’s Promise Partnership; and John Khoury, whose $300,000 gift to the McKenna Scholars program will support women and Indigenous students studying computer science.

Further evidence of confidence in UNB’s future was seen in Electrical Engineering alumnus Subramonian Shankar’s donation of $1 million to completely renovate and re-equip a major laboratory in Computer Science and a record-breaking $2.8-million bequest from the late Philosophy professor Jack Iwanicki and his wife Eileen to support scholarships and endowments in the Department of Philosophy and the Faculty of Arts.

The world needs more UNB

There is no doubt that we at UNB have emerged from the pandemic with resilience and strengthened resolve to move forward on our growth plans, on tackling the “grand challenges” of health, energy, water and security, and on achieving the bold and far-reaching goals of UNB Toward 2030.

With great optimism,

Paul J. Mazerolle
President and Vice-Chancellor