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Laurentian names new interim president, provost

Both new interim leaders are academics at southern Ontario universities

Laurentian University has named the two new interim leaders who will be leading the university starting next year following LU’s exit from creditor protection last month.

The university exited the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (or CCAA) Nov. 28 after 22 months, minus both its most recent president, Robert Haché, and provost, Marie-Josée Berger, who departed earlier this fall as part of the terms of Laurentian’s plan of arrangement. 

Their interim replacements were revealed by Laurentian Tuesday.

Dr. Sheila Embleton will assume the role of interim president, working alongside Dr. Brenda Brouwer, who will serve as interim provost. Both will be starting their new posts on Jan. 1, 2023. Both academics have been seconded from their home universities to serve in the interim positions, has learned.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do in a short period of time and we are fortunate to have someone with Dr. Embleton’s academic pedigree to lead the institution in this important phase of its transformation,” said Jeff Bangs, chair of the board of governors, in a press release.

“She’s a proven leader, someone who has built a reputation for transparency and developing strong relationships, which was paramount to us in the search process.” 

Recipient of many distinctions for her academic contributions, including the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Award, Embleton is a distinguished research professor of linguistics at York University, and a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. 

She served as vice-president academic and provost at York University (from 2000 to 2009), having previously been associate dean of the Faculty of Arts from 1994 to 2000.

“I’ve always been of the opinion that Laurentian University held a unique and enviable position within Canada’s post-secondary education ecosystem and it is an honour to be able to fill this role at such a critical time for the institution,” said Embleton, in the press release.

“I am committed to being a unifying presence, fostering greater collegiality and building on the strength of Laurentian’s tricultural identity and bilingual mandate.”

Brouwer, who will be taking on the interim provost position, is an accomplished academic with considerable administrative experience, said the press release. 

Early this year she was appointed senior advisor of academic innovation in Queen’s University's health sciences department following nearly two years as interim dean at the Smith School of Business and eight years as vice-provost and dean of graduate studies overseeing the expansion of credentials and resources in support of student success. 

In 2018-2019, Brouwer was seconded to the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence as head of academic partnerships to cultivate relationships between Ontario universities and industry to develop talent in support of a growing artificial intelligence ecosystem.

Brouwer, a professor of rehabilitation science and neuroscience, has been recognized for teaching excellence and her research contributions on the control of movement following stroke.

Following the departure of Haché and Berger earlier this fall, Laurentian administrators Tammy Eger and Céline Larivière stepped in as interim president and provost, respectively, until longer-term interim appointments could be made.

As stated above, those longer-term interim appointments have now gone to Embleton and Brouwer.

“On behalf of the board and the entire LU community, I wish to express our gratitude to Dr. Tammy Eger and Dr. Céline Larivière for their service to the university,” said Bangs. 

“They stepped up at a critical time, and while they will return to their respective roles of VP research and dean of education and health, they will be counted on to provide guidance to our new leaders.”

At a speech presented to the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce in November, Bangs said he expects the interim Laurentian leaders will be in place throughout 2023. It’s hoped that in 2024, new leaders will be in place in those positions.

Concurrent with the arrival of Embleton and Brouwer, the search process for their permanent replacements will soon begin, one that is guided by a rigorous and transparent framework involving both internal and external stakeholder groups, said the LU press release.