Concordia taught Alan Shepard “the power of good will”
In late November 2018, President Alan Shepard announced he would be leaving the University on June 30 to become president of Western University, in London, Ontario.
Much is being done to ensure that the transition period proceeds as smoothly as possible. Shepard said that leading up to July 2019, “each of the vice-presidents on [his] team will prepare a briefing binder of work going on in their portfolio and they will have that ready for the new president, whoever that turns out to be.”
As for projects currently in the works, like the health institute, Shepard said they will continue to be developed. Once projects have been announced, “the change of leadership wouldn’t typically interrupt that.” The same goes for ongoing negotiations like that of Teaching and Research Assistants at Concrdia. “We have professional teams that negotiate with mandates that are set out by the board of governors, so that’s all in place and that will continue too,” Shepard said.
Shepard became president of Concordia in 2012 after being provost at Ryerson University in Toronto. “I wanted to be a provost. That was my career goal.” Shepard said being president was not something he had planned for. Despite that, he said he’s loved it.
The job didn’t always come easy. “Sometimes it’s really hard. There are some very long days where things aren’t going well, we’re in the news for bad things,” said Shepard. “But I like the challenge of leading a community. I like seeing the big picture of an institution.”
He said when he first came to Concordia he felt that there was a mistrust of and skepticism about the senior administration. Because of this, Shepard said the Concordia community taught him about “the power of communicating really directly with people and the power of good will, operating in good faith, transparency.”
“I think the progression is awesome,” said Shepard, referencing nine strategic directions, which were implemented at Concordia five years ago. Shepard said, According to him, the plan has been discussed and copied by other universities across Canada. “It was a very progressive model of strategic planning that involved lots of people at the beginning of the conversations.” He added that “what we really wanted from people was engagement. It’s a university of all of us, so what is it we want this place to be and stand for?”
Shepard believes the nine strategic directions plan will continue once he’s left Concordia. “People really find it meaningful and a good framework for them, and my guess is that it probably still has another four or five years ahead.”
Shepard intends to implement a strategic planning process at Western as well, but not before consulting people there. “It probably won’t look exactly like this – it’s a different place,” said Shepard. “One of the things I like about this job is you get to kind of listen and talk, kind of diagnose what’s needed; what does that community need? And that community’s needs will be different, and I don’t know how different yet.”
Shepard said he is going to miss a lot about Concordia and Montreal. “I’m going to miss the students very much; I love Concordia students. There’s something really robust and resilient about our students. I like the diversity in the campus.”
Shepard believes he has things to learn when he takes on his new position. “Western is a different kind of institution,” said Shepard. “It’s in a very different part of the country; it has law and medicine, which have not been in my portfolio ever before. I’ll learn some new things there.”
When asked what Concordia is looking for in a new president, Shepard said, “they’re going to be asking you, they’re going to be asking the community.” In order to do that, a search committee is being formed and they will be tasked with putting together a job profile. Shepard said he wouldn’t participate in the search for a new president of the university. At most, he said he might appear before the committee and talk about the university and what he thinks they should look for, “but what they actually look for is their choice, not mine,” said Shepard.
Shepard said he doesn’t know when a new president will take over. Graham Carr, Concordia’s provost and vice-president of academic affairs will take over as interim president on July 1.
Photo by Mackenzie Lad.