Internationally recognized academic leader Lesley Rigg will join Western as Vice-President (Research) on Aug. 1. Western’s Board of Governors approved a five-year term for Professor Rigg at its meeting on April 23. She is also appointed professor of geography.
Currently, Rigg is dean of the Faculty of Science at the University of Calgary where she leads 250 faculty, 300 staff and 6,000 students spanning six departments and five multidisciplinary programs. Prior to joining Calgary in 2015, she served in progressively senior roles at Northern Illinois University, including a stint as Vice-President (Research).
“We are delighted to have Lesley join our team at Western. She brings a breadth of senior academic leadership experience gained at a comprehensive American university and at Calgary, one of Canada’s top research-intensive universities,” President Alan Shepard said.
“As a successful researcher with expertise and interests ranging from geography, biology and soil science to women’s studies and environmental studies, Lesley embraces a multidisciplinary approach to discovery and innovation. As an academic leader, she has demonstrated her abilities as a strategic planner and a champion for inclusivity, entrepreneurship and internationalization.”
Rigg takes the reins from Sarah Prichard, who served as Acting Vice-President (Research) since July 1, 2019.
“The experiences I have had at various universities have instilled in me a belief in the impact that research, innovation, creativity, artistry can have on society,” Rigg said. “That may sound big. But when a great university like Western interacts across disciplines and communities through research, that is what powers change.
“For me, I am excited to come back into the role as a Vice-President (Research), where I can take the various lessons I have learned and focus them on the strategic mission of an outstanding research-intensive university.”
As the first in her family to attend university, Rigg coupled the excitement of that adventure with an uncertainty about with what to expect from the experience. However, she found her calling during a pair of undergraduate summer research experiences – one to Northern Ontario working on a methane emissions project, one to Belize working on rainforest diversity.
“Research opened a door to a world I didn’t know existed. Just experiencing the joy of collecting data that was being used to answer large, global problems and challenges was inspiring,” she said. “Helping students get their feet wet and their hands dirty in a research environment, an innovative environment or through a creative lens is our means of sparking interest of the next generation of change-makers. For me, that’s really the passion.”
Rigg earned her BA in Geography and Environmental Studies from York University, an MA from the University of Colorado, and a PhD from the University of Melbourne where she began her academic career as a lecturer in 1997.
At Northern Illinois University, she served in numerous leadership roles, including Associate Dean Research and Graduate Affairs of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, Interim Vice-President Research & Graduate Studies, and Vice-President for Research & Innovation Partnerships.
“I truly enjoy helping others – whether that’s researchers at the institution, whether it’s industry partners, whether it’s community members – to focus on solutions-based endeavours,” Rigg said. “I love the notion of grand challenges, being able to focus efforts on improving society, creating a solution. That all comes through research, through innovation, through creativity, through scholarship.”
Members of the Vice-President (Research) selection committee included Professor Emily Ansari, Don Wright Faculty of Music; Dean Matt Davison, Faculty of Science; Professor Beth Gillies, Department of Chemistry; Professor Andrew Nelson, Department of Anthropology; Biology graduate student Daniel Olteanu; Cec Rorabeck, MD’68, DSc’09; Professor Nadine Wathen, Faculty of Information and Media Studies; and, Kathleen Kwan, University Secretariat as committee secretary.