Students at Western University welcome new academic year, new president
It’s a day of firsts for many, with students heading back to school and starting their post-secondary journeys.
Another person starting a new journey is Western University’s incoming president, Alan Shepherd.
Although no stranger to working in the world of post-secondary education, this will be Shepherd’s first year at Western, taking over for former president Amit Chakma.
Shepherd spoke with 980 CFPL’s Craig Needles Show about helping students start the year off on the right foot, as well as plans for the future.
“Something I always do when I am in these administrative leadership roles is to try to engage students and their families,” he said.
Shepherd said the school had a great move-in weekend, with 1,000 volunteers helping 5,000 new students move into residence.
The Iowa-born Shepard is Western’s 11th president, and comes from Montreal’s Concordia University where he served as president and vice-chancellor for two terms.
Shepard took over his new role on July 1st from Amit Chakma, who had served as Western’s president and vice chancellor since 2009, and who announced in 2017 that he would not seek a third term.
Chakma’s time as president was marked by both highs and lows.
The school more than doubled its endowment, quadrupled its international enrollment, and saw 17 major capital projects under his leadership.
But a “double dip” pay scandal in 2015 garnered significant controversy, and last year’s mass “fake homecoming” — or FoCo — gathering on Broughdale Avenue elicited criticism from city and police officials over the administration’s perceived resignation of responsibility.
When asked about issues including FoCo, Shepherd said changes had already begun prior to his arrival, including the formation of a task force involving school brass, along with city, fire, paramedic, and police officials.
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Last week, school officials also said they had been in talks with other post-secondary institutions in Ontario to align homecoming dates to deter people from travelling to other schools.
“There is no magic potion to make these things go away,” Shepherd said, “but there are steps that communities can take when they work together, especially to try and reduce and eliminate these kinds of unsanctioned parties.”
Last week, councillors passed changes to the city’s public nuisance bylaw, which will allow for stiffer penalties for students who throw unsanctioned parties.
Shepherd also talked about the potential for the school to expand downtown, similar to what Fanshawe College has done with its two new campuses.
“Western has its continuing studies program downtown and that is something we will be looking at going forward. It’s important to go where the people are and bring the programs we offer to the people,” he said.
Moving forward, Shepherd added Western is looking at expanding the school’s engagement with the community, adding there is already a lot of work being done.
“I think the model of university campuses is changing. In the old days, you got all of the credit for being behind gates and bars, and we don’t have gates and bars, but we are like a separate campus,” Shepherd said.
“I think in this generation, things are going to change.”
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