Lesley Brown on her first year at MRU
MRU’s newest provost and vice-president, academic talks about blending into campus culture and her plans for the future
By Rosemary De Souza, Staff Writer
In August of last year, new students started moving into campus before the school year started. This included Mount Royal University’s newest provost and vice-president, academic, Lesley Brown, PhD, who stayed at MRU’s east village residence beside the library at that time.
“In the evenings, I would longboard around campus,” Brown recalled, “I’d longboard over to watch some of the games playing at the soccer field.”
“It’s possible I may have gotten in trouble from security for longboarding,” she added, “I’m not going to validate that but it’s possible.”
And in the evenings, you can find Brown at the Riddell Library where she would come in with her ball cap on backwards and a coffee cup in her hand ready to do some work.
Who is Lesley Brown?
It all started in 1997 when Brown began teaching at the University of Lethbridge as a Kinesiology professor.
“I taught mostly anatomy but also some courses relevant to controlling movement, some statistics and I also had a very active research program,” she said.
During her years as a professor, Brown supervised two doctorate students and nine master’s students all the way through to the completion of their degrees.
“I would say that [was] my biggest career highlight,” said the MRU vice-president, academic. “I’m not sure I’ll have a chance to top [that].”
Brown continued teaching even after being temporarily reassigned for administrative duties.
“I was invited to be part of advancing research culture at the University of Lethbridge as the title of assistant vice-president,” she explained. “I would continue with my teaching and research and do some administration on the side, and then I realized with that opportunity which I haven’t expected… how much I loved administration right away.”
“What I loved about it was the fact that I got to help others be successful, particularly new and emerging faculty members and new and emerging scholars, helping them develop their research programs and be successful in some other ways that I had the privilege of achieving.”
Within the span of six years since her temporary reassignment, Brown went from being an assistant vice-president, to an associate vice-president of research and then she eventually became vice-president of research on an interim basis. She left U of L as the vice-provost and associate vice-president, academic.
“I certainly did not plan to be in administration,” Brown said, “and I certainly didn’t plan to be a provost but here I am.”
“I was in university and not really sure where the next step was going,” she recalled her years as an undergraduate student. “Every student has that [but] I just took the opportunities that were presented to me and as those opportunities were presented, I became more and more involved and I became more and more excited and more hungry for the next step.”
“Honestly, I was standing in front of a classroom teaching for the very first time before I actually realized that I was a professor.”
“It wasn’t something that I had planned to be,” she continued. “It just unfolded for me.”
“I was so excited when the ad posting came from Mount Royal because it was such a perfect fit for me,” she said. “The biggest reason is the emphasis on undergraduate education.”
“I think through the course of my career, I really learned the value that professors have in shaping students particularly at the undergraduate level and it really is a privilege, and I use that word a lot but I highly emphasize it here.”
Other than MRU’s commitment to undergraduate education, Brown also explains another reason she chose the university.
“Mount Royal recently transitioned from being a college to being a university,” she explained. “I want to advance the university and one of the key differentiators of being a university and no longer a college is that we conduct research, and that research that we do allows us to answer the questions that we have about the world. It helps to uphold and advance our communities, and make our communities and our province and our country better places to be not just economically but also socially and culturally.”
“Plus, it was close by!”
Brown looks back at the last eight months describing it to be a “very busy” but “invigorating,” “inspirational” and “incredibly exciting” experience. She also added another thing she liked about campus.
“What’s also really cool is that my wife Paddy works in the bookstore here in campus,” Brown said with a smile. “We have three kids who have all gone through universities so I think what she has liked was the interactions with the students and helping the students as well.”
“She even has her own hashtag. It’s #thebookstorelady.”
“We [at MRU] have such opportunities to contribute in research and to grow in research and also to share our excellence in teaching and to continue to be leading edge so that we can [provide] educational experiences for students that are going to serve them in whatever it is they choose to do next,” Brown said, adding that it is also an opportunity to “differentiate [MRU students] from students who are also graduating from lots of other post-secondaries in Alberta.”
For this reason, Brown “created a committee of faculty members and staff and students who are going to participate in advancing academic programming at [MRU].” She explained that the goal is to make academic programs challenging and of interest while making sure that the programs are what students want and what’s best for them.
Growth is another part of Brown’s vision.
“Another thing that’s really exciting is we’re creating a university that’s more accessible to many more students,” she said. “We have room to grow and grow enrolments.”
“So we are currently looking at how we can do that in a way that best serves the institution and that best serves the faculty who are a part of this institution.”
“In the future I’m looking forward to launching the new academic plan and implementing that,” she added.
“I’m looking forward to creating opportunities for research. I’m looking forward to recognizing the excellence of our faculty members. We’ve got some great ideas about that and for creating an institution that is like none other for students and for the people who work here.”