“I think the Concordia community itself wants to have the conversation about what makes Concordia special and what defines us,” said Concordia President Alan Shepard. “So what I’m hoping for next year is that we’ll have a strategic planning process. I’m hoping that much of the next academic year will be a series of organized reflections and conversations about ‘where is Concordia going’?”
Nearing the end of Shepard’s first year at Concordia, there is a lot for him to reflect on.
“It’s really important to know what’s going on and sitting in this office, you can get into a bubble. You can spend all day long having meetings and still not get the pulse,” said Shepard. “What’s the community feeling, thinking? How’s it doing? What’s its morale?”
Coming to Concordia as an outsider, Shepard had a lot to learn about the community and said he had his work cut out for him.
“It’s been extremely important coming from outside of Quebec, and outside of Concordia, to build relationships and I’ve devoted a lot of time to getting to know people. You can’t start proposing changes and doing stuff until you get the lay of the land,” he explained.
In his efforts to learn more about the Concordia community, Shepard discovered that “there is a hunger amongst Concordians for ‘how do we define ourselves and what makes us special and different’?”
While he doesn’t have a response to that question just yet, it certainly piqued his interest.
“One thing I have been preoccupied with this year and will continue to be preoccupied by probably for the whole time I’m here as president is Concordia’s reputation. To close the gap about what I know to be true about the high quality of the place and how we’re perceived, not only by others but by ourselves,” he said.
Shepard described his biggest challenge coming into the university as one of integration. Being “the new guy” is never easy and forming strong relationships and “building trust” was a major priority for him throughout the year.
Shepard isn’t quick to parade his accomplishments but he does feel positively about his experience at Concordia thus far.
“From where I sit, I think it’s been a successful year so far,” he said. “A lot of this job is an intuitive thing. [Numbers] are one set of gauges on the dashboard but there’s another which is this emotional intelligence meter, and I’m paying a lot of attention to that too.”