Q&A: Timmons reflects on 11 years of growth, learning and reconciliation at U of R
Outgoing U of R president Vianne Timmons reflected of 11 years of transformation With CTV News Regina's Creeson Agecoutay.
Q: When did you find out you would be going out east?
A: I just found out a couple of weeks ago and things moved very quickly. I had been approached by the head hunter in the spring and again over the summer and gave it a lot of thought. I had 11 fabulous years here and I thought, maybe it was time for a new challenge.
Q: What are you going to be doing out east?
A: I’m going to be president of Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Q: What was your experience when you first moved to Regina?
A: When I first arrived in 2008 the university had experienced a 15 per cent drop in enrollment. The board said to me that was my number one priority, to turn that around. So over the last 11 years we definitely did turn that around. That was a big challenge for us.
In 2019, the U of R has 19 per cent international students, 14 per cent undergrad students who self-identify as Indigenous and over 1,200 students with disabilities.
Q: What did the university have to do to get to this point?
A: It was a challenge at the time. We had to get out into the community so I would spend time in Yorkton, Swift Current, and up north to La Ronge, Prince Albert and even further north to Sandy Bay. We had to get out the message that we were a provincial university. It really helped. The other task was to invest in and support international students. We wanted a campus where a student from Regina could get an international education right in his, her or their backyard. We wanted to achieve that by bringing in students from all over the world. I think it makes it a richer campus and for our students from Regina it gives them chance to learn about different cultures. Indigenization was a major focus for us over the last decade.
Q: How did the TRC inform what you were doing in terms of Indigenization?
A: When the TRC brought its 94 calls to action it gave us a real focus and direction. We actually have a committee that works and focuses on all of those calls to action. It’s more than just recruiting Indigenous students and making sure they’re successful. It’s about changing how the campus looks and feels, it’s about renaming buildings, which we did, it’s about renaming streets. It’s about appointing an Indigenous advisory committee to guide me as I go forward. It’s about making sure that we have Elders embedded in our campus.
Q: Do you have anything you regret from over the years?
A: One of the first ones was the federal and provincial withdrawal of money form First Nations University. That was a very difficult time and I was to credit the First Nations University students who stood shoulder to shoulder with me and worked on that. Many of those students are leaders in the community today, like Chief Cadmus Delorme.
Q: You’ve been recognized by a number of organizations, including the YWCA, for your work. What is your message to other women out there?
A: I would tell women that this is your time. It’s a transformational time in society. Gender equity is a conversation that is being had. We are going to see a lot of changes where it won’t be the ‘first woman’ anymore it will be the third or fourth. I think it’s a time of change in society where diversity is celebrated and recognized. For our newcomers, our LGBTQ2+ community and our Indigenous brothers and sisters, this is a period of transformation.