Expert in democracy and public trust joins Vancouver Island University

Michael MacKenzie sits on a bench in front of a stone building

Dr. Michael MacKenzie joins VIU as the institution’s first Jarislowsky Chair in Trust and Political Leadership. Photo Credit: Natalia Baqueiro Photography ­

April 12, 2023 - 4:00pm

Dr. Michael MacKenzie, VIU’s inaugural Jarislowsky Chair in Trust and Political Leadership, joins unique network across Canada.

A new position at Vancouver Island University (VIU) will focus on educating future politicians and civil servants.

Dr. Michael K. MacKenzie is VIU’s inaugural Jarislowsky Chair in Trust and Political Leadership. The Jarislowsky Foundation invited Acadia University, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (in collaboration with l’École Nationale d’Administration Publique), Trent University, the University of Lethbridge and VIU to set up a first-of-its-kind network at five universities across Canada. The Jarislowsky Foundation invested $2 million as part of a $4 million endowment supported by the community, including a $375,000 gift from Scotiabank and matching funds from the VIU Foundation, to help establish the new Research Chair at VIU.

“I plan to leverage the prominence and resources associated with this position to make substantive, positive contributions to how democracy is understood and practiced in Canada,” said MacKenzie. “Over time, I have come to think that political knowledge, deliberation, trust, effective leadership and robust democratic institutions are needed if we are going to make our shared futures together in intentional ways.”

MacKenzie has spent the past 20 years studying and writing about democracy. He holds a PhD in political science from the University of British Columbia, a master’s in political science and social statistics from McGill University and a bachelor of arts in politics from the University of Winnipeg. He is currently working as an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Pittsburgh.

MacKenzie has also worked as a policy analyst and facilitator with the Ontario Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform. He was a Democracy Fellow and post-doctoral researcher at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the Harvard Kennedy School between 2013 and 2015.

The long-term goal of the network created by the Jarislowsky Foundation is to develop educational programming and training for both students and politicians and public servants. The programming will focus on trust and ethical practice in governance and political leadership.

“I hope to help make the network of Jarislowsky Chairs in Trust and Political Leadership a prominent and valuable resource in public discussions about democracy in Canada and elsewhere,” said MacKenzie. “Jarislowsky’s idea to create a national network of Chairs is itself an innovative bit of leadership. Most endowed university chairs are not formally networked with other research chairs. This network will provide future leaders with opportunities to learn about different aspects of our vast and diverse country.”

Dr. Elizabeth Brimacombe, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, said MacKenzie’s extensive background in researching the democratic process, including his exploration of the challenges and possibilities of making long-term decisions in democratic systems, is an exciting addition to VIU.

“The Political Studies program at VIU is a strong contributor to interdisciplinary scholarship and education, notably with the Global Studies program, so the Jarislowsky Chair initiative will broadly enhance learning opportunities and innovation across the university,” she said. “The position will examine ethics and governance at a time when globally democracy is facing some of its biggest challenges in decades. We are excited to engage with other universities across the national network in building education for the political leaders of our future.”

Stephen Jarislowsky, President of the Jarislowsky Foundation, was born in Germany in 1925 and lived in the Netherlands and France between the two world wars. He witnessed situations like those in Ukraine today. He said the creation of these new chairs responds to a need in our democratic societies.

“People need to understand historical experiences in order to prevent repeating them. And one of the ways to do that is to ensure our governments are led by inspiring, highly trusted, reliable men and women who exercise fiduciary responsibility,” said Jarislowsky. “Once democracy disappears in a country, it takes years to re-establish if it is even possible. Optimistically, it’s a question of how we are going to strengthen and build trust in our public institutions, our organizations and ourselves.”

To learn more about the Jarislowsky Chair in Trust and Political Leadership at VIU, visit the Research and Innovation Chairs website.


Media Contact:

Jenn McGarrigle, External Communications Manager, Vancouver Island University

C: 250.619.6860 | E: | T: @VIUNews

Tags: Community Engagement | Political Studies | Announcements

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