Following a term that has seen the University of Northern British Columbia increase the number of students attending, improve its research support and activity, and bring key programming and facilities to the North, UNBC will renew the contract of the president charged with leading these steps forward, Dr. Daniel Weeks.
Since joining UNBC in July 2014, Weeks has focused on positioning the university as a destination university, an institution that revels in its original mandate of being in the North for the North, while striving to expand its influence beyond northern B.C. Weeks has accepted a five-year term that runs through August 2023.
“I thank the many people in the University community and beyond who reached out and encouraged me to consider taking on another term,” said Weeks. “People indicated a desire for stability, and told me that they were enthusiastic about the progressive and positive steps this institution is taking. Building and developing a University takes a tremendous amount of effort. I’m proud of the work I’ve done in my first term, but even prouder of the relationships I enjoy with a great many students, faculty staff, alumni donors and champions. Support from them is critical to UNBC’s continued presence as one of Canada’s premier small research Universities.
UNBC’s Board of Governors appointed a committee this spring to review and evaluate Weeks’ performance and the potential for re-appointment. That 12-member committee was made up of the Chancellor, Board members, a regional First Nations representative, faculty, students, and staff, and was chaired by UNBC Board of Governors Chair Tracey Wolsey. It led an open process, and solicited and received thoughtful input from a broad range of internal and external stakeholders
“Under Dan’s leadership, the university community has been encouraged and empowered to re-think the way we do things, and to strengthen our commitment to northern B.C. while expanding our reach across Canada and around the world,” says Wolsey. “We are emerging as a globally recognized destination University, and this is due to Dr. Weeks’ determination and the tremendous support from the entire regional community.”
The University has made significant progress across a wide range of priority areas during Dr. Weeks’ first term:
- Student recruitment – The University has intensified its focus on student recruitment, both domestically and internationally. The University has seen student number growth for two years running, reversing a trend of declining enrolment that had evolved over several years.
- Aboriginal relationships – The University continues to value and enhance its relationships with Aboriginal communities. The relationship with the Lheidli T’enneh in Prince George was strengthened as a new sign was unveiled at the Prince George campus entrance on University Way written in the Dakelh (Carrier) language, meaning “House of Learning,” the Lheidli T’enneh flag permanently flies at the campus and UNBC signed a Memorandum of Understanding between UNBC and the Lheidli T’enneh to mark a statement of relationship building for a collaborative future. President Weeks also created, for the first time in UNBC’s history, a Senior Advisor to the President on Aboriginal Relations.
- Academic Planning – Last year, UNBC’s Senate approved a new Academic Plan for UNBC following a robust process supported by the work of several Senate committees that took on the task with enthusiasm and dedication. Working towards objectives in UNBC’s Strategic Planning Road Map, conceived and launched by Dr. Weeks, the teams gathered feedback and direction for the Plan’s development and implementation from faculty, students and staff. It is the first Academic Plan the University has developed in more than seven years.
- Strategic and Financial Planning – The University has redefined its strategic planning processes, providing the community with greater clarity regarding UNBC’s strategic priorities and objectives. This has fostered shared understanding amongst the UNBC community regarding the opportunities and challenges UNBC faces and the initiatives that can be undertaken to meet them. Over the past few years, the University has also adopted an engaging and transparent budget process that is inclusive of the University community.
- Donor support – The University launched its first-ever comprehensive fundraising campaign, a vision Dr. Weeks presented upon arriving at UNBC. Northern Leadership – The Campaign for UNBC focuses on three key areas (strengthening research and teaching excellence, inspiring next-generation leaders, and creating local solutions with global impact). The campaign is well on its way to surpassing its original $15 million goal thanks to the generosity of UNBC’s donor community.
- Engineering – For more than a decade, Northern British Columbians have sought new programming at UNBC, specifically, a civil engineering program in the North. Following a reinvigorated push for the program led by Dr. Weeks, UNBC will be home to new undergraduate engineering programs beginning in the fall of 2019. For the first time, students will be able to complete an entire civil or environmental engineering degree in Northern British Columbia, eventually bringing as many as 280 new students to UNBC and the North.
- Research – Prior to coming to UNBC, Dr. Weeks was the Vice-President Research at the University of Lethbridge. His commitment to that aspect of academia was felt immediately upon his arrival as he encouraged and supported a renewed focus on research success. As a research-intensive University, UNBC continues to expand its research profile, securing more funding, submitting more applications for support, and recruiting more graduate students who are supported by inspiring faculty. The University also continues to play a prominent role in global research initiatives, including an outstanding complement of Canada Research Chairs, endowed Chairs, and a tremendous network of faculty and graduate students who are conducting ground-breaking work on a daily basis.
- Facility improvement and growth – UNBC continues to invest in its physical facilities, opening the globally recognized Wood Innovation and Research Lab in downtown Prince George. Dr. Weeks maintains that the key to UNBC’s success is a strong Prince George, and vice versa. With UNBC’s graduate engineering program housed at the Wood Innovation and Design Centre and the adjacent WIRL, Weeks continues to develop UNBC’s footprint in and commitment to Prince George’s downtown core. Weeks’ leadership has also been instrumental in the University’s continued environmental commitments including expanding the reach and impact of bioenergy systems to more efficiently heat the Prince George campus buildings.
As for the future, Dr. Weeks is committed to realizing the initiatives undertaken in his first term, while turning an eye towards UNBC’s continued evolution.
“We can use the great work done by the University community as a launch pad, to encourage us to think about the kind of University we want to be in 2040, the occasion of our 50th anniversary,” he said. “We are big enough to be a relevant, global, research institution, but small enough to care passionately about our students, a competitive advantage that not many other Universities can claim. It’s an exciting prospect.”