June 18th, 2024

Paula Burns resigning as Lethbridge College president

By Lethbridge Herald on January 27, 2022.

Herald file photo Lethbridge College President and CEO Paula Burns has announced that she will be stepping down at the end of May as she takes on a new role at Langara College in Vancouver.

Dale Woodard – Lethbridge Herald

Paula Burns is leaving Lethbridge for her next leadership role.

On Thursday morning, the Lethbridge College President and CEO announced she will be stepping down from her role at the end of May to take on the new challenge as President and CEO of Langara College in Vancouver.

“It’s bittersweet, actually,” said Burns. “I love Lethbridge and I love Lethbridge College. The people here are fantastic. It was a tough decision, but I am looking forward to the opportunity at Langara College in Vancouver.”

Burns, who joined the Lethbridge College community in February 2013, is the eighth president in Lethbridge College history as the college’s Board of Governors immediately begins the search for a replacement.

Burns now looks to her next role on the west coast.

“As I considered the opportunity I looked at what type of college it was, which is very different from Lethbridge College,” she said. “It’s predominantly a university transfer college and a premier pathway college. So I’m looking at the opportunity of creating additional pathways for students as they’re going to universities, coming from universities and looking at partnerships with other colleges as well.”

Burns oversaw numerous achievements during her time with Lethbridge College, including the completion of the successful $27.8 million Possibilities are Endless campaign in 2016 and the opening of the Trades, Technologies and Innovation Facility in 2017, which was the largest construction project in the college’s history.

As well, she saw the growth of the college’s Centre for Applied Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the launch of LC Extension.

In 2020, Lethbridge College was named Canada’s third-fastest growing research college.

“There are so many things that stick out to me,” said Burns. “But probably one of the things I’m most proud of is really the development of the leadership team, from the executive level to the deans and directors throughout the college, which really focused on people development. We have a fantastic team here.”

Burns also pointed to the college’s connection with the Indigenous community, including the creation of the President’s Indigenous Advisory Council in 2017, the college receiving a Blackfoot name, Ohkotoki’aahkkoiyiiniimaan – Stone Pipe, in 2017, the permanent raising of the Blackfoot Confederacy flag in 2018, the launch of the Niitsitapi: Coming Together in a Holistic Way strategy in 2021 and the creation of the Iissksiniip Coulee Walk in 2021.

There was also the focus on culture-building activities and initiatives, such as the inaugural raising of the Pride Flag at the college in 2016, the opening of the college’s Pride lounge in 2018 and multi-faith room in 2019.

One of the key areas of growth is applied research, particularly in the agricultural area.

“Looking at what is going to happen with the food corridor with the Exhibition and types of research we’re involved with, which are really going to make a difference in food security for Canada. I’m certainly going to follow that,” said Burns. “We’ve also been really going at the virtual and augmented reality area. We have some leading researching and programs being done in that area.”

As far as navigating the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, Burns felt Lethbridge College was prepared in terms of being able to pivot quickly to promote online learning.

“Our leadership team has done a fantastic job in keeping our focus on our community being safe as well as our opportunity to bring students into face-to-face, in-class learning,” she said. “Those two goals have been ours since the beginning, so I’m proud of what we’ve been able to do and I think we’ve been leaders in being able to make sure students have as much opportunity as possible. Certainly, the pandemic has been a challenge for all leaders, but I think the fact we have a distributive leadership team that many people got involved in many different roles has helped us tremendously.”

Burns will remain at Lethbridge College until the end of May.

“Our convocation is May 27, so I plan to be here for that,” she said. “My focus will be on transitioning with the leadership team and continuing to focus on some of the projects I’ve been involved with, including a social innovation lab around Indigenous curriculum we’re working on and working with my colleagues in the province on Alberta 2030 and the implementation of that and really focusing on what Lethbridge College’s role is in the future, jobs and the economy as we come out of the pandemic.”

On hand for Thursday’s announcement, Lethbridge College board chair Michael Marcotte said he’s had the chance to work alongside Burns for the last two-and-a-half years.

“It has been fantastic,” he said. “We have a full and robust board now. (We have) an incredible leadership team behind Paula. I think Paula has spent the last nine years preparing the college for this moment. Obviously, it always takes a moment to digest, but we’re excited for Paula and we’re very excited to work hard and make Lethbridge College continue to thrive.”

With Burns’ announcement, Marcotte said the new committee will be struck with the approval of the board and will do a search for their next president.

“Then there will be lots of engagement both internally and externally as we go through this process. We’re blessed to know Paula will be here through the rest of this term, which allows us to take our time and make sure the next leader here lines up very much with the strategies Paula has put in place and we can continue to do the great work she has started here with her executive team.”

“I think the college in the Lethbridge community has grown over the last number of years and it’s been a great time here and I’ve really enjoyed it,” added Burns. “I would point people here as a great career opportunity for anybody. I have two kids who are graduating, one from here (at the college) and one from the university this spring, so that’s exciting for me. I know I will continue to have family in Lethbridge.

“I will miss this place a lot. I’m glad I get to spend a few more months here and transition and I wish everybody the best.”

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The college president who created the ethos of amateurism while pursuing a hyper-corporate, PR-saturated agenda that resulted in a dispirited faculty walking the folorn hallways of edu-tainment. Of course she would be rewarded with a more lucrative position.

Southern Albertan

Another, off to B.C.