Faculty members, librarians, staff, and select students gathered in the David Lam Auditorium foyer on March 27 for an informal tea to welcome UVic’s new Vice-President Academic and Provost (VPAC) Valerie Kuehne.
“What Valerie is committed to is the entire academic community: our mission of research, education, and also community engagement; she’s got a real passion for each one of those,” said UVic president Jamie Cassels. “She sees UVic’s particular strengths in the integration of research and teaching, experiential learning, [and] support for indigenous students, and I’m looking forward to her helping us to achieve national leadership in those.”
Maral Sotoudehnia, a UVic PhD candidate in geography, worked closely with Kuehne and brought that knowledge to the VPAC selection process. “Who the VPAC is will shape and inform how the student experience develops over time,” said Sotoudehnia. “I think the compassion, care, and respect that [Kuehne] brings to the role and [to] interacting with students makes for a really great opportunity for us to collaborate with her.”
Kuehne will serve as VPAC for the next five years. In this role, she will take charge of UVic’s academic environment by promoting positive student experiences, advancing inspired teaching, supporting equity and diversity across campus, recruiting and supporting academic leaders, and integrating teaching, learning, research, and civic engagement across disciplines.
“I’d love to see all students have the opportunity to have an experiential learning opportunity in their time at UVic,” said Kuehne. “I think if we could take experiential learning opportunities up to 100 per cent, and be able to say ‘come to UVic because at UVic everybody gets a chance to not only learn in the classroom, but also to learn outside the classroom,’ that would be an awesome national profile for our university.”
Kuehne is also passionate about fostering greater research opportunities for undergraduate students at UVic. “I would love to see undergraduate students participate more in research than they currently do,” she said. “It would be awesome for students and if we had that national reputation.”
Providing students with the right supports is another priority. This includes ensuring that the Student Mental Health Strategy is sufficiently funded and can make a real difference for students, budgeting so that UVic can provide enough classes for students, fostering TA support, and taking a close look at student funding. “In these budget times, all of those are priorities,” said Kuehne. “Having to choose is inevitable, but all of them are important.”
“I really want to see our students succeed beyond their own expectations and it doesn’t mean we can do everything that we would like to do, but students and their success is big on my mind, so that is really probably my top priority,” said Kuehne.