MacLatchy announced as president and vice-chancellor of WLU

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Photo by Paige Bush

Deborah MacLatchy, provost and vice-president: academic, will officially be the seventh president and vice-chancellor of Wilfrid Laurier University.

On Jan. 11, the university officially announced MacLatchy as the appointed president on their official website. MacLatchy will be replacing current president, Max Blouw, on July 1 on a five-year term.

MacLatchy, a recognized and awarded scientist, has been the provost and VP: academic of the university since 2009. Before coming to Laurier, MacLatchy earned an honours B.Sc. in biology, a PhD in zoology from the University of Manitoba and did her postdoctoral work at the University of Guelph.

MacLatchy began her academic career at the University of Winnipeg and the University of New Brunswick, where she served as the Dean of Science, Applied Science and Engineering and the director of their International Office.

There does seem to be a bit of a barrier, a glass ceiling or something there that makes it challenging for women…

-Deborah MacLatchy, incoming president and vice-chancellor

In 2007, MacLatchy came to Laurier as the dean of the Faculty of Science and was appointed as VP: academic and provost two years later. She also served as the active vice-president: research from December 2014 to November 2015.

In addition to being the seventh president of the university since 1967, when Waterloo Lutheran University became Wilfrid Laurier University, MacLatchy is the second female president overall. Lorna R. Marsden served as the first female president from 1992 to 1997.

According to MacLatchy, a female president may influence young girls and women to take on more challenging career roles. While there are various female leaders throughout the university, less than a fifth of university presidents in Canada are women, a percentage that has not changed in decades, as said by the Globe and Mail.

“There does seem to be a bit of a barrier; a glass ceiling or something there that makes it challenging for women to become university presidents. I think partly we’ve worked hard on the pipeline … so there’s more female faculty, there’s more female deans, that means more female provosts and ultimately I think that will lead to more female presidents,” MacLatchy said.

In her time at Laurier, MacLatchy has had a role in establishing various significant initiatives at the university. She participated in the establishment of a new strategic academic plan, of innovative undergraduate and graduate degrees, she participated in the development of the university’s integrated and engaged learning model and worked in the development of the multi-campus governance framework, amongst many others. As a distinguished scientist, MacLatchy has promoted the field by participating in initiatives such as the Laurier Institute for Water Science, as well as the creation of the Centre for Women in Science.

“I’m comfortable with using analytical approaches to help in problem solving and so understanding data, getting data, it comes very natural to me because of my background and training,” she said.

In February 2016, the university had announced they will be establishing a presidential search committee, which included faculty, staff, students, alumni and the Laurier Board of Governors, to find Laurier’s next president, as Max Blouw was nearing the end of his second five-year term as president and vice-chancellor.

I’m comfortable with using analytical approaches to help in problem solving…

-Deborah MacLatchy, incoming president and vice-chancellor

During this time, members of the Laurier community, including staff, faculty and significant stake-holders, were asked for their input on the characteristics of the university’s next president.

Over 250 people wrote in their feedback and consultations were later held with individuals, groups and internal and external stakeholders, including various student and graduate associations, Indigenous student leaders, government partners and academic and administrative leaders, among many others.

After finishing the evaluation and interview process, the search committee voted unanimously that MacLatchy be appointed as the next president and vice-chancellor.

According to MacLatchy, the final decision was made on Jan. 10. The appointment was recommended unanimously by Laurier’s Senate and approved unanimously by the Board of Governors.

“I think it is really important in that there is such an extensive amount of work for preparing for this type of interview and also [the] work that the search committee does in order to make sure that on both sides that there’s a good alignment and that everybody’s happy and that the right person’s been selected,” MacLatchy said.

Until she takes on her role as president and vice-chancellor on July 1, MacLatchy explained the first thing she wants to commit to is figuring out how best to make her transition work for herself and for the university as a whole. She said part of this will be stepping back from her role as provost.

I just love being at Laurier and all the interactions I’ve had on a daily basis…It’s just an amazing place.

-Deborah MacLatchy, incoming president and vice-chancellor

“There will be an acting provost put in place over the next few months as we get closer to July 1 so I can focus on not being the provost anymore and starting to be the president.”

MacLatchy explained that her transitioning period will begin in the next month or so, as she starts focusing more on the president’s role rather than the provost’s.

MacLatchy explained that she hopes that the entire process will be much more of a transitional

period rather than a total changeover.

“I’m really, really, really happy to be coming into the role of president. I just love being at Laurier and all the interactions I’ve had on a daily basis with faculty, staff [and] students has just been amazing. It’s an amazing place,” she said.

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