The quiet of summer will soon be broken at Selkirk College with the arrival of students for the fall semester, bringing a new air of post-secondary excitement to campuses and learning centres across the region.
President Maggie Matear has been at the helm of the college since late-May. Settling in and getting familiar with her new role over the past three months, Matear is looking forward to welcoming students and staff back to a learning environment filled with promise.
“There’s something about the energy that a building full of students brings,” says Matear. “The people who like to be in the post-secondary sector feed off that energy, so we’re all looking forward to September. There is an excitement around starting a new chapter of learning and achievement for students and staff alike.”
Matear moved into the college’s top leadership position after an extensive nation-wide search to replace outgoing president Angus Graeme. She began her post-secondary career 30 years ago as a community adult educator, teaching and coordinating training programs in remote Indigenous communities. Since that time, Matear has worked primarily in rural communities in an impressive array of positions that include management consulting, strategic planning, stakeholder engagement and organizational development.
Fuelled by core leadership values focused on respect for those around her, excellence and kindness, Matear is taking an inclusive approach to her new job.
“One of my challenges will be how to build on all the great initiatives that have gotten us to this point,” says Matear, who arrived at the college from her position as Vice President of University Services, Finance & Administration at Yukon University in Whitehorse. “It’s ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’ and reaching further, as opposed to getting off and moving in a different direction.”
During the transition in June, Graeme toured with Matear around the region to meet with staff at different locations and leaders in the communities that the college serves.
“What I really appreciate is how much time community leaders had for Selkirk College,” says Matear, who has held leadership positions in economic and community development settings while serving on a wide range of non-profit boards. “I met with very busy people—mayors, CAOs, superintendents of school boards, First Nations representatives, executive directors of non-profits—all of them were happy to meet with us. It wasn’t challenging to set up these meetings, and it speaks really loudly of the reputation Selkirk College has developed as a true community partner. It was invigorating to discover that, and I look forward to continuing to meet with all of these people who really believe in the potential of where they live.”
Post-Pandemic Priorities Focused on Learner Success
COVID-19 uncertainty still exists across Canada, but this September will mark the first full return to on-campus activity at Selkirk College since the pandemic turned the world upside-down in March 2020. New challenges have emerged that point to even greater emphasis on what post-secondary education can provide local economies. Addressing labour shortages and the need for more skilled workers begins in the classrooms, labs, studios and shops of Selkirk College.
“The credentials and transferable skills you earn at community college are just as important as they’ve always been,” says Matear. “There are more opportunities in the job market today, but if you want to move forward or transfer across sectors, it’s important to be equipped with the educational tools and a foundation of transferable skills. We future-proof careers so that people have that foundation to build on throughout their lives.”
With more than 70 program offerings and anticipating up to 2,500 students for the coming academic year, Selkirk College provides a range of academic, career, vocational and technical educational pathways. The pandemic-era saw a slight dip in enrollment numbers, primarily with international learners. As the federal government continues to work on backlogs with international student applications, the college is expecting more arrivals from across the globe to boost numbers in the coming months.
“International students bring different skills, ideas and ways of being that help us all learn to see through different lenses, and that’s important in an increasingly globalized world,” Matear says. “This continues to be a priority at Selkirk College, but it needs to be done in a way that ensures we have the proper supports and services for students who come to Canada seeking new experiences and opportunities.”
Outside of the classroom, Selkirk College staff have been working on putting the finishing touches on the Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Plan which will be released later in the fall. Formalizing goals and objectives to ensure the post-secondary is welcoming to all, the plan will establish the college as a leader in this area amongst rural institutions.
Close to Matear’s heart and a part of her work in the past, Indigenization at the post-secondary level will continue to be a priority at Selkirk College. Under Graeme’s leadership, the college launched its Indigenization Plan 2019-2024 in late-2019. With a framework in place to support goals of truth and reconciliation, Matear is pleased to arrive at an institution where both students and staff embrace the work required to make change.
“There is a real willingness and openness to do the work of reconciliation,” she says. “It’s a leader’s dream to see this because getting people on the same page is the hardest part. The sense I have is that we’re at a good place and Selkirk College can be a leader in this capacity.”
Like students anticipating the first day of classes, the new Selkirk College president is marking the days until an exciting new learning chapter begins.
“Selkirk College is a remarkable destination. It’s completely unique and it’s located in an absolutely beautiful location,” says Matear. “Most importantly, what takes place here on a daily basis changes lives by providing better opportunities for the future. I’m just so happy to be part of it.”
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Selkirk College President Maggie Matear at her office at the Castlegar Campus. The new president will join the more than 480 full- and part-time college staff in welcoming students to a new academic year starting in September.
New president Maggie Matear has been busy over the first couple of months of her leadership at Selkirk College. In June, she welcomed community and provincial leaders to the Trail Campus for the announcement regarding the college taking ownership of the downtown property.