Plan calls for division of vice-provost’s duties

By Jason Winders
April 03, 2014

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Familiar faces will assume new positions as the university looks to reorganize the vice-provost (academic programs and students) [registrar] office. It’s a move, Western officials say, will bolster the university’s commitment to the student experience.

“The portfolio, as is stands, is not sustainable. The job is too big,” said Janice Deakin, Western’s provost and vice-president (academic). “There are too many important things coming down the pipe from government – related to pathways, e-learning, and the like. I need someone who gets up in the morning thinking about the academic component of the job.”

Toward that end, Western’s administration has proposed a plan to divide the position of vice-provost (academic programs and students) [registrar] into, essentially, three portfolios: vice-provost (academic programs) and associate vice-president (student experience), as well as splitting off the position’s registrar duties into a new position – university registrar.

“It’s a direct report of the registrar to the provost, somebody in charge of students and somebody in charge of academic programs,” Deakin said.

Senate approved the change March 21; it now goes to the Board of Governors, who will take up the issue at its April 21 meeting.

The wheels, however, are already in motion. John Doerksen, the former vice-provost (academic programs and students) [registrar], has been re-appointed to a second five-year term, now serving a vice-provost (academic programs). He served as vice-provost (academic programs and students) [registrar] for six years.

Last week, Deakin named Angie Mandich, currently the associate vice-provost (academic programs and students), as acting associate vice-president (student experience) and Glen Tigert, currently associate registrar, as university registrar.

Both positions were effective as of April 1. Mandich’s acting position runs until June 30.

“These appointments mark the beginning of an important transitional period,” Deakin told senators, “during which time organizational changes will be undertaken to expand and strengthen Western’s capacity and reputation for delivering a world-class student learning experience.”

Last fall, as Doerksen’s reappointment drew near, the Senate-appointed selection committee requested an external reviewers’ report on the entire portfolio. Among the findings, the committee recommended dividing the portfolio in two – one focused on academic programs, one focused on student affairs. The report also suggested the associate registrar be renamed registrar to reflect the position’s current responsibilities.

The reorganization raised some concerns at Senate.

English professor and senator Jane Toswell applauded the return of the registrar, and nodded to the fact the position needed addressing. “Only the fact John is incredibly tall and fast-moving has allowed him to do a job requiring three or four different offices,” she said.

However, Toswell expressed concern over the lack of clarity around the role of the associate vice-president (student experience). She also questioned the position as a vice-president vs. vice-provost.

Traditionally at Western, vice-presidential positions are staff positions held by either an academic or non-academic. However, vice-provost positions are academic positions held by an academic.

Positions filled by academics have academics on the selection committees, while vice-presidential positions do not necessarily require one.

As it stands, the associate vice-president (student experience) position could go to an academic or non-academic. Like the vice-provost (academic programs) position, it answers directly to Deakin.

“I don’t know how bothered I am by the possibility that the vice-president (student experience) might not be a faculty member,” Toswell continued, “but I know I want to think about that. I know I want to get in front of me what that portfolio is.”

Deakin said the title was about options – and nothing more.

“We should be open to whether this is an academic or a non-academic, someone trained in student affairs could be an academic or might not be. We don’t want to close the door on that,” she said. “There is nothing Machiavellian about this. Let me tell you, as long as I am provost, there will be no moving the student experience out of the provost’s portfolio. It is central to the work of the institution.”

Deakin admitted, however, that dividing an important position – especially one which has been so successful in recent years – is a bit of a gamble.

“We don’t want to destroy any of the good stuff that’s happened by virtue of it being under one umbrella,” Deakin said. “I know that’s a risk. So, we work to mitigate that risk.”

However, she added students felt a direct report to the provost signals the importance of the position.

Their representative on the Senate agreed.

“This has been a huge priority for the University Students’ Council (USC),” said Patrick Whelan, USC president. “It is something we think is really going to improve the student experience. You are getting two new leaders here – someone who gets to think about that in-the-classroom experience and someone who thinks about out-of-the-classroom.”

Doerksen was originally appointed to his position on Sept. 1, 2008. He holds a bachelor of music degree from the University of Saskatchewan, a master of music from the University of Alberta and a PhD in Systematic Musicology from Western.

At the Don Wright Faculty of Music since 1995, Doerksen’s areas of specialization in Music Theory include post-tonal music and computer applications in music analysis. He served as associate dean (academic) in Music (2001-08) and has served on many faculty and university committees, including a period as chair of the Senate Committee on University Planning (2004-06), a member of the Strategic Planning Task Force (2005-06) and a member of the ad hoc Committee to Review the Faculty of Graduate Studies (2007). He also served as Western’s Academic Colleague at the Council of Ontario Universities.  

Mandich holds three degrees from Western – a BSc in Occupational Therapy, MSc in Occupational Therapy and a PhD in Kinesiology. Prior to her current role, she served for five years as director and graduate chair in the School of Occupational Therapy. Previously, she worked as an occupational therapist in paediatrics and adolescent mental health for almost a decade.

Tigert holds two degree from Western – a BA and MBA. He received his certified management accountant designation and worked in the private sector for 15 years prior to joining the university in 2000 as Student Financial Services director. Since, he has led a range of initiatives within the Office of the Registrar.


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