Laurier president, Max Blouw, to chair the Council of Ontario Universities

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(File photo)

On July 23, the Council of Ontario Universities (COU) announced the appointment of their new chair as Max Blouw, president and vice-chancellor of Wilfrid Laurier University. On July 1, Blouw took over for the outgoing chair Dr. Alistair Summerlee, president of the University of Guelph, who had served his two year term with the COU.

The COU is a membership organization of Ontario’s 20 publically funded universities also including the associate member of Royal Military College.

In Bonnie Patterson’s words, the Council “is an opportunity where universities work together and strive for policy arrangements for…the kinds of policies that the government shapes and underpins.”

Patterson is the president and chief executive officer of the Council and explained that the chair plays a lead role in meeting with members of government and speaking on behalf of the Council.

Blouw was elected into the vice-chair role last year, knowing that he would serve chairmanship for the next two.

“It takes a commitment and understanding, not just of your own university, but of others,” explained Patterson. “And so elected into [the role of vice-president] means you do have the confidence of all these presidents in the sector and that speaks very highly of Dr. Blouw.”

Blouw said that it was his six years spent as president at Laurier that has prepared him for the role of chair of the COU.

“The VP role prepared me for the president’s role, and the president’s role has prepared me to be chair of the COU,” he continued. “So having experience now for six years in Ontario and understanding reasonably well the relationship amongst the universities, the relationship between the universities and governments and so on, that helps to prepare for the role.”

“I’m thrilled to be working with him,” said Patterson. “I have been blessed since joining COU four years ago to have excellent chairs and this is no exception.”

With the experience he gained working at the University of Northern British Columbia, his work on the east coast, and now his time spent in Ontario, Patterson believes Blouw brings a breadth that “gives him particular insight into the various perspectives that university presidents will bring to the table that he chairs.”

Blouw explained that there is a lot going on currently in Ontario in terms of post-secondary education. For one, the government will be negotiating its strategic mandate agreements with each university. As chair, Blouw will be acting as spokesperson for the universities as conversations incite.

They are also working on solutions to both pension issues as well as competitiveness of Ontario universities, all of which Blouw said he is hoping to make progress on.

“University education is hugely important and the university education is highly profound, not only to the person who gets [the education], but to our society more generally,” said Blouw. “I believe passionately in that and I’ll be speaking a lot about that.”

He concluded, “I believe strongly that Ontario has one of the best systems of post-secondary education in the whole world and I’m really quite proud, on behalf of the universities in that system, to act as the spokesperson for that.”

– With files from Shelby Blackley

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