John Doerksen’s teaching and administrative career at Western has continuously circled back to this: helping students succeed.
Newly appointed as Western’s vice-provost (students), Doerksen is eager to shape a university community that builds student leadership, diversity, wellness, experiential learning and career development.
“Western has a long history of providing an exceptional student experience, and it’s exciting to be able to expand on that in this new role,” Doerksen said.
“We’re building a community of care here, a university where enhanced programs and services for students underscore a sense of belonging and support.”
The portfolio includes sports and recreation; leadership and learning, including career readiness; and wellness and well-being, including student mental health initiatives.
Among Doerksen’s new responsibilities will be co-leading a strategic council on student success, coordinating and aligning student programming and supports across campus and focusing on a holistic model of student life and learning.
Doerksen began serving as Western’s vice-provost (academic programs) in 2008 – a portfolio that included most of the current student experience units and the office of the registrar. He has served as co-interim associate vice-president (student experience) with Chris Alleyne since March 2021.
Doerksen was also acting provost and vice-president (academic) for two months this year, before being named special advisor to the provost.
Academically, Doerksen is a faculty member in music theory in the Don Wright Faculty of Music.
“Over his entire career, John has been deeply committed to the student experience Western offers and I believe he will move the portfolio forward at such a critical time in Western’s history,” said Western provost Florentine Strzelczyk.
“John is an experienced and skilled administrator who brings a wealth of institutional knowledge to the role. He is also known for his collaborative style that speaks to faculty and students alike,” Strzelczyk said.
Doerksen said opportunities for collaboration will only grow, as a new council on student success will draw together a range of expertise among a wide variety of teams. “The work we do to support students anchors a lot of our goals in the strategic plan, Towards Western at 150. I think it’s a recognition that each one of us plays a role in student success. It’s not one team or another; it’s all of us together,” he said.
That includes working with students and student leaders as “crucial partners” in helping build community, he said, noting that two-thirds of the student population are involved in clubs supported by the University Students’ Council.
Throughout his 27 years at Western, Doerksen has worked closely with students and campus partners to advance priorities, such as Fall Reading Week and Western’s experiential learning framework. He served on the implementation task force of the Indigenous strategic plan and is enthusiastic to build on Western’s equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility initiatives.
“Western is a dynamic and evolving place. Our community is about people, and that community changes each year, so we are a very different university than we were 10 years ago or five years ago.”
He will also be championing Western’s collective effort in supporting students, faculty and staff to help address and prevent gender-based and sexual violence. “This is a community effort and students are such key partners here,” Doerksen said. “I think we have the tools, the research, the will and the opportunity to become a national leader in this work.”