Brescia dean sees ‘challenges as interesting opportunities’

The toughest interview questions for Donna Rogers came from students at Brescia University College.

Visiting its London campus earlier this year for a job interview, the new academic dean of Canada’s only all-women university was asked by a student what it is that makes her unique. “Talking to students – they asked the most challenging questions – it was one of my favourite parts of the interview process,” said Rogers, who will take up her new post at Brescia July 1. John Mitchell has held the position since 2010.



“One student asked me what makes me unique. I thought of all the characteristics and, as good as they may be, they don’t necessarily make me unique. It was a great, challenging question. I look forward to many more questions I can’t answer,” she said.

Rogers, currently associate dean (academic) at Dalhousie University, brings a great deal of both academic and administrative experience at larger public and smaller private postsecondary institutions.

After completing a PhD in Hispanic Languages and Literature at the University of Toronto, she began her teaching career at Pennsylvania State University, moving on to Middlebury College in Vermont, a smaller private institution known for its intense undergraduate experience. She has been, for the past decade, in various academic and administrative roles, contributed to the academic success at Dalhousie.

The move to Brescia, and return to London (Rogers holds an MA in Spanish from Western), presents an exciting change an opportunity, she said.

“I think, for me, it’s just getting to know the institution, getting to know the students and understanding the things that make Brescia special,” she said of her first priorities.

“One of the things I’m keen to do is to get to know the students better and understand what they get out of their education at Brescia and the opportunities it gives them. I do foresee challenges, even though I don’t know what they will be. There will always be some.”

Rogers noted Brescia would be shifting gears shortly after her arrival, holding a Town Hall, re-evaluating some of its academic activities and discussing a new prioritization process to bring the best experience possible to its students.

“The process, as I understand it, is going to be a series of meetings with different stakeholders, certainly through the fall, to figure out what we value and how we build on the solid foundation. I know Brescia has plans in its strategic plan. I know there’s a new residence in the fall and one of the things we need to do is fill it,” she said.

“I see challenges as interesting opportunities. I genuinely am excited for this new step for me and the new relationships and the challenges and triumphs they will bring.”

Brescia Principal Colleen Hanycz, who chaired the selection committee, is confident Rogers will be an asset to the institution, strengthening its profile and raising it to new levels.

“She truly shone (in the interview process). She’s a strong academic and scholar and she has experience in administrative work. She’s a strong champion of the liberal arts model – she has lived it in her areas of teaching and scholarship. And she has an appreciation of Brescia’s mission,” Hanycz said, adding Rogers’ strengths will help Brescia’s already bold image.

“She’s a creative problem-solver. She refuses to see impediments in problems and looks at opportunities and is innovative in how she approaches issues from different angles. I look forward to having her voice at the table and in our community.”

As for Rogers, she couldn’t be more excited to come to the table.

“This is an institution that is solidly ground and knows who it serves. I’m looking forward to working with people dedicated to its mission.”