The quiet of summer will soon be broken at Selkirk College with the arrival of students for the fall semester, bringing a new air of post-secondary excitement to campuses and learning centres across the region.
President Maggie Matear has been at the helm of the college since late May. Settling in and getting familiar with her new role over the past three months, Matear is looking forward to welcoming students and staff back to a learning environment filled with promise.
“There’s something about the energy that a building full of students brings,” says Matear. “The people who like to be in the post-secondary sector feed off that energy, so we’re all looking forward to September. There is an excitement around starting a new chapter of learning and achievement for students and staff alike.”
Matear moved into the college’s top leadership position after an extensive nation-wide search to replace outgoing president Angus Graeme. She began her post-secondary career 30 years ago as a community adult educator, teaching and coordinating training programs in remote Indigenous communities.
Since that time, Matear has worked primarily in rural communities in an array of positions that include management consulting, strategic planning, stakeholder engagement and organizational development.
“One of my challenges will be how to build on all the great initiatives that have gotten us to this point,” says Matear, who arrived at Selkirk from her position as vice president of university services, finance and administration at Yukon University in Whitehorse. “It’s ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’ and reaching further, as opposed to getting off and moving in a different direction.”
During the transition in June, Graeme toured with Matear around the region to meet with staff at different locations and leaders in the communities that the college serves.
“What I really appreciate is how much time community leaders had for Selkirk College,” says Matear, who has held leadership positions in economic and community development settings while serving on a wide range of non-profit boards.
“I met with very busy people — mayors, CAOs, superintendents of school boards, First Nations representatives, executive directors of non-profits — all of them were happy to meet with us. It wasn’t challenging to set up these meetings, and it speaks really loudly of the reputation Selkirk College has developed as a true community partner. It was invigorating to discover that, and I look forward to continuing to meet with all of these people who really believe in the potential of where they live.”
COVID-19 uncertainty still exists across Canada, but this September will mark the first full return to on-campus activity at Selkirk College since the pandemic turned the world upside-down in March 2020.
The pandemic-era saw a slight dip in enrollment numbers, primarily with international learners. As the federal government continues to work on backlogs with international student applications, the college is expecting more arrivals from across the globe to boost numbers in the coming months.
“International students bring different skills, ideas and ways-of-being that help us all learn to see through different lenses, and that’s important in an increasingly globalized world,” Matear says.
“This continues to be a priority at Selkirk College, but it needs to be done in a way that ensures we have the proper supports and services for students who come to Canada seeking new experiences and opportunities.”
Outside of the classroom, Selkirk College staff have been working on putting the finishing touches on the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Plan which will be released later in the fall.
Close to Matear’s heart and a part of her work in the past, Indigenization at the post-secondary level will continue to be a priority at Selkirk College. Under Graeme’s leadership, the college launched its Indigenization Plan 2019-2024 in late 2019.