Jean-Paul Boudreau emphasizes the importance of listening as a university administrator
Mount Allison’s 15th president, Jean-Paul Boudreau, begins his term in July, replacing outgoing president Robert Campbell.
Selected at the end of a year-long presidential search process, Boudreau’s appointment to the position of president and vice-chancellor was announced on March 12. Initially, Boudreau was one of two final candidates selected by the Presidential Search Committee; however, the other, unnamed applicant bowed out of the process in January.
“When the search contacted me about declaring my interest for the position, well, it was a slam dunk to apply,” said Boudreau. “Staying, if I may, with the basketball metaphor, the fact that it was located in my native New Brunswick – well, that made the perfect three-point shot for me.”
Boudreau is currently the special advisor and executive lead of social innovation at Ryerson University in Toronto, where he has also served as the dean of arts and the chair of the psychology department. In addition to working in the university’s administration, Boudreau has been teaching at Ryerson for 15 years. He currently works with both graduate and undergraduate students as a psychology professor.
Boudreau’s transition into the position of president is just beginning. Boudreau said that his first step before moving to Sackville is finishing the projects he is working on at Ryerson, which include experiential learning programs and supervising students’ theses and projects.
Boudreau did not comment definitively on any plans for his term as president. He intends to go on what he called “a listening and learning tour” when he arrives in Sackville this summer. Boudreau said this would entail meeting with “students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors” and other members of the Sackville and Mt. A communities in order to hear their interests and concerns.
“[The listening tour] is an opportunity to build relations, but it’s also a genuine eagerness to understand what areas the community feels are opportunities going forward. Let’s see where we are and where we might go together,” said Boudreau. “It’s really about engaging, building support and moving together as a community. That is where I see the beginning of mapping out plans. I think the concrete plans will come from that kind of engagement – you need to first understand the institution and know the facts, like students when they first come to campus.”
Open communication is a point of emphasis for Boudreau, who said he would like to meet with the community outside of the context of Centennial Hall and administrative meetings.
“I think it’s really important for the president to go to the community directly, whether it’s in the classroom, in the Gracie’s Cafe, in the community centre or whether it’s out in the marshlands working with the biologists – to go directly to the community, to go to where you are so that I can appreciate your position from where you are in the community,” he said. Boudreau said that he would like to be accessible to students and open up lines of communication so that “all voices are heard at the table.”
Boudreau spoke highly of Mt. A, saying he was attracted to the University both because of its reputation and because he grew up in New Brunswick. He said he would like to give back to the province for providing him with an education.
“Interestingly enough, in May 1986 … I was on campus [at Mt. A] as an undergraduate student from the University of New Brunswick presenting my first ever academic paper, and it was given in the Crabtree auditorium. It was in the Crabtree auditorium that Professor Storm from psychology came to me after my presentation and very encouragingly said to me, ‘Y’know, you might want to consider graduate school. I think you might have the kind of skill set to be successful in graduate school,’ and I took her up on her advice. So in many ways I like to credit Mount Allison for encouraging me to pursue graduate studies,” he said.
Though Boudreau was hesitant to be specific in his comments about plans for the future, he says he wants to act with Mt. A’s unique needs in mind. “Every university is different in Canada. You can’t come from one location and apply the same model, make it fit somewhere else,” he said. “It really has to be organic and come from the community and I’m happy to help lead and support that process.”