Joanne MacLean will become the University of the Fraser Valley’s female president to hold the position on a permanent basis. She says she’s keen to work with rural areas and Indigenous groups in the valley. Submitted photo

First female president of UFV to connect with rural, Indigenous communities

All about listening in the first year, Joanne MacLean says

The soon-to-be president of the University of the Fraser Valley says she is keen to listen to rural and Indigenous communities.

Joanne MacLean will officially become president May 1, taking over from interim president Jackie Hogan who has held the position since last June. MacLean said the first year in the president’s chair will be all about listening, understanding what the university is doing and what more can be done to have a stronger role.

Agassiz, Hope and other rural communities will not be forgotten, she assured.

“One of the things that I feel really passionate about is that we are the university of the Fraser Valley and that includes this lovely, beautiful, wonderful geographical area and that its important for us to be looking for ways to have an impact, yes in the City of Abbotsford and the City of Chilliwack and the City of Hope, but also much more regionally than that,” she said.

“Certainly the upper regions of the Fraser Valley are important to us.”

Understanding, then improving, programming in smaller towns is something MacLean is focused on.

Hope, which hosts a small outpost of the university, offers upgrading courses, continuing education classes and services for students of UFV such as the options to take university exams there.

MacLean also wants to collaborate with Indigenous communities in the area.

“We have been doing some great work in trying to build partnerships and relationships across Seabird and Sto:lo Nation and others,” she said, referring to one joint research project with Fraser Health, Seabird Island Band and Sto:lo Nation. The land-based resiliency project involved youth from Seabird learning from elders about their traditional foods, stories and ways of life to protect youth from the threat of suicide.

“Here at UFV and out in the community there are great ideas being born, of other things that we can be doing,” MacLean said.

She added the university has been working to indigenize teaching at the university, looking at the recommendations of the TRC and making sure the curriculum and faculty present a full history of the country including the history of Indigenous people.

It’s about listening, MacLean said.

“The importance of us not projecting out, but listening to the stories, listening to the needs and opening up the university as a place of comfort and a place of support for all people in Canada, particularly Indigenous people,” she said.

While MacLean’s merits stand on their own, including 30 years in teaching and administration in the academic fields of sport, recreation and health, she is also a woman with a female partner.

“I bring a perspective to the campus, certainly, as a female, as a gay woman,” she said, even though she would prefer to focus on her achievements as she says they are much more interesting than her gender or sexual orientation.

“I grew up in a family with a couple of parents who always told me, you work hard, you give it your all and your best and you can do anything.”


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