Becoming a university president was never something Brian Stevenson aspired to do. But as of Aug. 1, 2010, University of Winnipeg’s outgoing provost and vice-president (academic) will become president of Lakehead University in Thunder Bay.
“I’ve always been drawn to leadership positions, but I never thought I would be president of a university,” Stevenson said.
Since he took his position at U of W in 2006, Stevenson has successfully managed all academic programs at the university and has played an integral role in the development and support of several university initiatives, including the H. Sanford Riley Centre for Canadian History.
Perhaps his largest accomplishment at U of W has been spearheading the creation of a new academic plan for the university, which the senate passed last fall.
President and vice-chancellor Lloyd Axworthy commended Stevenson for his leading role in the project.
“He headed that up and did a very good job of it,” he said.
But Stevenson’s work experience is not limited to university administration. Over the years, he has developed a vast career portfolio. In addition to his work as a professor of business at universities in Mexico and Canada, Stevenson has worked for international organizations such as the Organization of American States and the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars. Stevenson also worked for the federal government as senior policy advisor to the foreign affairs minister from 1996 to 1999.
Stevenson feels that his wide range of experience will provide him with confidence useful for his new position.
“I am actually not nervous because I have had a lifetime of training to get to this point, and I am very confident about my skills and my ability,” he said.
But out of all his experience, it is his position at U of W, an institution he considers a “jewel” among Canadian universities, that stands out the most to him.
“The University of Winnipeg has been my most exciting job,” he said. “The combination of a great cause and a great team has made the experience here first class,” he said.
Axworthy said Stevenson’s exceptional leadership skills will be greatly missed.
“Brian is somebody who has a talent for being able to bring people together and get agreement and to work as a consensus builder,” he said.
Courtney Maddock, vice-president (internal) of the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association, said Stevenson has been very attuned to student issues.
“He has been willing to work with us ... and listen to our concerns,” she said. “I think he will be missed here.”
For Stevenson, the hardest part about leaving the U of W will be leaving his colleagues.
“Institutions are about the people that you build friendships with and the people you get attached to. It is going to be very hard to leave behind so many good friends,” he said.
Published in Volume 64, Number 21 of The Uniter (March 4, 2010)