Provost Andrew Hrymak pivots to special advisor role for sustainability and partnerships

Western University's Andy Hrymak has been named special advisor on industry partnerships, the green economy and sustainability. He has been provost and vice-president, academic, since 2018.

After leading Western’s academic operations through the tumultuous COVID-19 pandemic, Professor Andrew Hrymak will take on a critical new role in building Western’s future, as special advisor to President Alan Shepard on industry partnerships, the green economy, and sustainability.

Hrymak, who has served as provost since 2018, will begin his term as special advisor on January 1, 2021. The search for a new provost will begin shortly.

Dr. Sarah Prichard, who served the university as acting vice-president, research, from July 2019 to August 2020, will become acting provost and vice-president, academic, for a one-year term beginning January 1.

The special advisor role comes at a time when the university is working to strengthen its partnerships in advanced manufacturing and bolster its efforts around sustainability – areas in which Hrymak has deep experience and a track record of success. He will also continue to co-chair the recently reinvigorated university committee on sustainability, PACES, alongside Lynn Logan, vice-president, operations and finance.

“Andy has made heroic efforts to help the university successfully pivot our academic operations during an incredibly challenging time for our sector,” said President Shepard. “The way Western responded to the pandemic set us apart from many other universities, and has set us up well for whatever the future of learning may look like.”

Since March, Hrymak has guided the university through some of the biggest academic decisions in its recent history – including quickly pivoting to online learning, bolstering resources to help instructors plan for a new kind of academic year, and creating a range of additional supports for students. This year Western also saw stronger-than-ever undergraduate enrolment.

During his time as provost, Hrymak also built a strong culture of collaboration among the academic leadership, recruiting five new deans in the past two-and-a-half years and advancing Western’s internationalization and Indigenous strategic plan priorities.

Hrymak continues his faculty appointment as professor in the department of chemical and biochemical engineering in the Faculty of Engineering, where he also served as dean from 2009 to 2018. Under his leadership, the Faculty saw strong growth in undergraduate and graduate enrolment, important new industry partnerships, and increased opportunities for women in engineering. Hrymak also oversaw construction of the Amit Chakma Engineering Building.

“Andy is a true citizen of the Western community,” said Shepard. “We have benefited from his extensive experience and talents in many ways, and we’ll continue to do so through this new role. The deeper partnerships Andy will help us build are critical not just for Western but for our regional and national economy in the post-COVID environment.”

London Mayor Ed Holder said Hrymak’s new appointment, and a focus on partnership-building, bodes well for the city and the region. “Our local and national economies have taken a real hit as a result of COVID-19,” said Holder. “Whatever Western can do to build more bridges with industry in the region will pay dividends. And I have the highest respect for Andy’s work.”

In these pandemic times, Shepard also expressed appreciation for Prichard’s willingness to help Western through another important transition period.

“Sarah helped Western reinvigorate our research culture and set the stage for our researchers to be bold in tackling big ideas in new ways,” said Shepard. “I know she will apply that same thinking to how Western approaches teaching, learning and the overall student experience. This portfolio will be in terrific hands while we search for a new provost.”

Prichard’s academic career began at McGill, where she was a professor of medicine from 1979 to 2005. During that time she served as assistant dean of student affairs in the Faculty from 1979 to 1983 and associate dean of inter-hospital affairs from 1993 to 1998. While at McGill, Prichard also served on the Queen’s University Board of Trustees and the Governing Council of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. She is currently vice-chair of the board for the McGill University Health Centre.

As Western’s acting vice-president, research, Prichard improved key areas of the university’s research infrastructure, developed a new governance model for its research institutes and re-energized researchers’ thinking about collaborations across disciplines and with external partners.

Prichard says she will bring to the provost’s office the same insights and enthusiasm she applied to the university’s research portfolio. “When I joined Western, I saw huge potential to build the research culture, and this is true of our teaching and learning culture as well,” she said. “Western has been a leader in demonstrating how a university, and its students, can continue to perform successfully even during a global pandemic. This bodes very well for the next chapter.”