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Coming home: Vianne Timmons named as new MUN president

CBC with Vianne Timmons 12 December 2019

 

Memorial University has announced that Vianne Timmons will be taking over as president and vice-chancellor of the university. 

Timmons will replace longtime president Gary Kachanoski, who ended his term about six months early and plans to teach at MUN.

Vianne Timmons, who grew up in Labrador City, previously was the president and vice-chancellor of the University of Regina. She held those positions since 2008.

Timmons said at a press conference Thursday she is happy to return home and begin her new position March 31.

“I always have seen Labrador as my home because that is where all my childhood memories are.”

According to the University of Regina’s website, Timmons has also taught in Alberta and British Columbia and has worked at universities in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

Timmons, who has Mi’kmaq ancestry, has an interest in family literacy and inclusive education, according to the website.

“When I think of Memorial, I cannot help but think that there is a young girl from Labrador that will come here for the first time, stand outside this campus and see the world opening to her,” she said.

“Just like the university did for me.”

Timmons was also the recipient of a 2019 Indspire Award for Education.

Although she will not take over the role officially until March 31, Timmons said she has a number of priorities already in mind. She said she will emphasize strengthening the relationships among campuses across the province and continued growth in MUN’s research capacity. 

The search for a new president was done internationally and was led by a private executive search firm.

However, there was some criticism over the transparency of the search levelled by MUN’s faculty union, which wanted the short-listed candidates to be revealed publicly. At the time, MUN said its hiring policies are similar to those across the country.

Timmons is taking over at a time of ongoing budget cuts from the province, infrastructure deficits, and widespread belt-tightening.

More than 80 per cent of MUN’s funding comes from the Newfoundland and Labrador government.

“We have to show our value and our worth so that the public recognizes that investing in the university is investing in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. We’re an economic engine,” said Timmons.

“We generate revenue for the province. We bring in people. We bring in students from all over the world. We need to get that story out.”

The incoming president wouldn’t commit to saying whether the university’s long-standing tuition freeze should stay or go.

“I think it’s time to have a discussion on tuition and for me to fully understand the tuition framework and how it was put in place. Yes, I think a discussion is warranted,” she said.

First woman

Timmons is looking forward to the time when giving a university president job to a woman is not newsworthy.

“I’m thrilled that Memorial decided to go with a woman. It’s important to recognize that there are women and men who are leaders in our country,” she said.

“But I’m also a bit sad about being named first. I was the first dean of education at the university of Prince Edward Island. I was the first female university president in Saskatchewan and now I’m the first female president of a university in Newfoundland. I’m looking forward to the day when women can say, ‘I’m the fifth and sixth.'”

Mi’kmaq heritage

Timmons also has a connection to Newfoundland’s south coast.

“I wasn’t raised in the Mi’kmaq culture but my great, great grandmother was a Mi’kmaq woman from Conne River. Marie Therese Benoit grew up there with seven brothers and then moved to Tracadie, Nova Scotia, and married a Timmons, and that is my heritage. So I am of Mi’kmaq heritage.”

Compensation

An article in a Memorial University newspaper outlines details of the new president’s compensation.

“As part of a five-year contract, Timmons will receive an annual salary of $450,000 plus $34,000 in allowances including transportation and housing for a total of $484,000,” said The Gazette.

Outgoing president Kachanoski will be eligible for the equivalent of nearly two years’ salary and other benefits after he leaves the position in December, which will come with a price tag of nearly $1 million.

 

Vianne Timmons is the president and vice-chancellor of the University of Regina.