Deborah Saucier Appointed Next President of Vancouver Island University

Dr. Deborah Saucier is VIU's next president

Dr. Deborah Saucier will serve as VIU’s next president and vice-chancellor succeeding Dr. Ralph Nilson, who has held the role since 2007. Saucier, currently president at MacEwan University in Edmonton, begins a five-year term in July 2019. Photo Credit: MacEwan University

March 1, 2019 - 9:30am

Saucier, an accomplished neuroscientist, dedicated educator and university administrator with a deep commitment to STEM and Indigenous education, will start a five-year term at VIU on July 4, 2019.

Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) Board of Governors is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Deborah Saucier as the university’s next president and vice-chancellor.

Saucier, who starts a five-year term on July 4, 2019, is an accomplished neuroscientist, dedicated educator and university administrator with a deep commitment to Indigenous education and reconciliation. Originally from Saskatoon with Métis heritage and connections to Vancouver Island through both her education and her family, Saucier comes to VIU from MacEwan University in Edmonton, where she has served as president since 2017.

VIU Board Chair Makenzie Leine says Saucier was selected through an extensive, international presidential search process involving consultation with VIU’s internal and external communities, and was recommended by a Presidential Search Advisory Committee comprised of student, faculty, staff, board and senior administrative representatives.

“We are pleased to welcome Dr. Saucier back to the Island to help lead VIU through the next stage of its journey,” says Leine, who chaired the search advisory committee. “Her deep passion for student success and employee engagement, her extensive experience as a distinguished researcher and educator in psychology and neuroscience as well as an academic and community leader are impressive. For these reasons, along with her own personal connection to Indigenous peoples and commitment to reconciliation, we are excited to welcome Dr. Saucier as our next president.”

Saucier says she was drawn to VIU by its commitment to student success, teaching quality, supporting a healthy workplace, as well as its proven commitment and track record of serving coastal and Indigenous communities. She is also excited to bring her advocacy work related to encouraging more women to enter careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to VIU.

“I am so excited to be part of the unique ways that VIU is transforming the communities of coastal British Columbia – allowing people to realize their dreams without having to leave their homes,” says Saucier. “I identify strongly with the values that VIU brings to these conversations and look forward to the ways in which we can do even more in the future.”

Saucier spent many of her formative years on Vancouver Island. After completing an International Baccalaureate diploma at the Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific (1985), Canada’s United World College in Metchosin, BC, she went on to the University of Victoria where she completed bachelor’s (1988) and master’s (1990) degrees in psychology.

With a PhD in psychology (1995) from Western University in London, Ontario, Saucier's academic career includes time as a professor of psychology at the University of Regina and the University of Saskatchewan, and later as chair of the department of neuroscience at the University of Lethbridge where she also served as a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in behavioural neuroscience, with a specialty in spatial cognition. Between 2011 and 2017, Saucier was dean of science and later provost and vice-president, academic at Ontario Tech University in Oshawa, Ontario.

As MacEwan University’s president, Saucier has made student success, employee engagement and implementing the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission top priorities for an institution that serves as Edmonton’s downtown university. For more details, see Saucier's curriculum vitae.

VIU Chancellor Louise Mandell notes Saucier’s experience combined with her knowledge of Indigenous peoples, culture and ways of knowing are the right fit for the VIU presidency.

“With great respect and excitement, I welcome VIU’s next President, a brilliant Indigenous woman whose values are congruent with VIU’s Indigenous commitment,” says Mandell. “Her leadership combines optimism and kindness – qualities important to VIU’s continued success as a regional university making social and cultural changes through transforming the communities we serve.”

Saucier is married to Chai Duncan, a curator and contemporary artist, and they have an 11-year-old daughter. They will relocate to Vancouver Island this summer.

“My family and I are delighted to be able to come back to Vancouver Island in this role,” adds Saucier. “Not only did I complete high school in Metchosin, but both my husband and I completed our undergraduate education at the University of Victoria. Returning to the Island feels like the closure of a long journey. For my daughter, she is delighted to be able to spend time with her extended family, who are located throughout the Island, exploring the places that I did when I was 10 years old.”

Saucier will succeed Dr. Ralph Nilson, who has served as president of both VIU and its predecessor institution, Malaspina University-College, since 2007 and will complete his final term on June 30, 2019.

“We are deeply grateful to Dr. Nilson for his incredible dedication, commitment and passion for our students and our community during the past 12 and a half years,” says Leine. “He has left an incredible legacy not only for VIU, but also for Vancouver Island, BC and Canada, and we look forward to his continuing involvement and contributions in the future.”



Jenn McGarrigle, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University

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