The search for Thompson Rivers University’s new president and vice-chancellor started at the beginning of the 2017 Fall semester. On April 12 in TRU’s Grand Hall, the announcement was made that the search was over, and Brett Fairbairn would be taking on the role.
Fairbairn is currently a professor at the University of Saskatchewan’s Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy. He has taught and conducted research at the U of S for more than 30 years and held other positions in senior leadership including provost and vice-president academic.
Jim Thomson, search committee chair, said that once it was announced that TRU’s current president, Alan Shaver, would be serving his final year, the board quickly went to work in finding a new president.
“We knew that we had a big job ahead of us and that it would be a significant undertaking. We formed a search committee of 16 people affiliated with TRU, to ensure that the voices of our varied community would be represented,” Thomson said.
Back when the search process started, Thomson noted that competition for finding the perfect candidate could be stiff due to TRU’s salary restriction and 11 other university president searches going on across Canada. However, the committee had their work cut out for them as they were able to vet and interview a total of 41 applicants for the position.
“I think that goes to show that TRU is on the radar. There was no shortage of interest in this position,” Thomson said.
Thompson added that he feels the search was a success and that Fairbairn is a great fit for TRU. Fairbairn himself said he took this position at TRU because of his love of universities and academics.
“You have to love what it is that defines universities, the students and learning. It’s about a free and open academic discussion, participatory self-governance, community engagement, internationalism; those are the things you love and are a motivation to be a university president,” Fairbairn said.
Being new to both the province and the university, Fairbairn says that one of his goals is to make and build relationships with members of the community, faculty, staff and students.
“I know that communicating with students is something that presidents can never do enough of,” Fairbairn said. “So, I will certainly be looking to do more of that through meeting with student leaders, through meeting with students wherever I can meet with them and talk to them.”
Shaver will finish his term in August and the new president will start his five-year term on Dec. 1. Current provost Christine Bovis-Cnossen will take over as interim president for the time in between Shaver and Fairbairn.