International scholar and accomplished academic administrator Florentine Strzelczyk will join Western as its new provost and vice-president (academic) effective May 1. Western’s Board of Governors approved a five-year term for Strzelczyk at its meeting on Feb. 3. She is also appointed professor in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities.
Strzelczyk, currently provost and vice-president, academic at Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN), said she is looking forward to contributing her ideas and expertise at Western.
“Western is uniquely positioned to be bold, to increase its reach and impact to cement its position as a top university in Canada and internationally. Western has made great strides under the current leadership.”
Prior to joining MUN, Strzelczyk held several senior academic and administrative appointments at the University of Calgary, including three years as deputy provost and roles as vice-dean of the Faculty of Arts; department head of linguistics, languages and cultures; and director of the Language Research Centre.
“Florentine brings with her an impressive track record in academic leadership and scholarship. Together, we look forward to welcoming her to the Western and London communities and to the university’s senior leadership team, as she will play a critical role in advancing Western’s strategic objectives,” said Western’s Acting President Sarah Prichard, on behalf of President Alan Shepard.
A scholar of European history and German language, literature, culture and film, Strzelczyk earned her MA from Georg August Universität Göttingen (Germany). She first came to Canada as an international student, earning her PhD from the University of British Columbia. She began her professional academic career at Queen’s University in 1995 as assistant professor of German and European culture and film studies before joining the University of Calgary in 1997.
Promoting internationalization and understanding of world cultures have been a passion for Strzelczyk and is reflected in the roles she had held as a professor and administrative leader in higher education.
“Great universities are a magnet for international talent,” she said. “The role postsecondary institutions play in internationalization matters to me. We have an obligation to help solve humanity’s most pressing problems. And that is typically and increasingly done in international teams and through international research partnerships.”
Born and raised in Germany, Strzelczyk’s research focuses on the legacies of the Third Reich, the European struggle with diversity, and its interest in Indigenous Peoples. Her research projects have been funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the German Academic Exchange Service. Her work, which includes interdisciplinary journal and book publications, has been recognized with the Canada Council for the Arts’ Killam Award and several fellowships.
Strzelczyk is a perpetual learner of how world history shapes and evolves into the current paradigm, and she believes higher education has an important role to play in those transitions.
“As a university, we are in the business of nurturing and developing talent,” said Strzelczyk. “We have an obligation to educate local and international students to ensure they return equipped to make a difference in their communities and their countries. I’m committed to internationalizing our curricula and preparing and enabling our graduates to lead as world citizens.”
Strzelczyk will replace Prichard, who prior to stepping in as acting president on Jan. 1, 2022 had been in the role of acting provost and vice-president (academic) since Jan. 1, 2021. John Doerksen, vice-provost (academic), is currently serving as the university’s acting provost.
“The entire Western community has benefited immensely from Sarah and John’s experience and expertise throughout the pandemic,” said Rick Konrad, chair of Western’s Board of Governors. “On behalf of the Board, I want to sincerely thank them both for their ongoing, exceptional leadership and support.”
At Western, the provost functions as both chief academic officer of the university, leading the development, implementation, and continued improvement of academic programs and services, as well as chief operating officer, responsible for institutional planning and administration in all aspects of the academic endeavour as it relates to students, faculty, staff, alumni, members of governance committees and the faculty and staff associations.
Members of the provost selection committee included: Alan Shepard, Western president and chair of the selection committee; Jacquelyn Burkell, associate vice-president of research; Mark Garabedian, undergraduate member of Western’s Senate; Jayne Garland, dean, Faculty of Health Sciences; Rick Konrad, Western board chair; Lynn Logan, Western vice-president of operations and finance; Beth MacDougall-Shackleton, biology professor; and Catherine Steeves, vice-provost and chief librarian.