New Lakehead president eager to continue moving the university forward

By Kevin Jeffrey
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Gillian Siddall wants to be an approachable leader and well-connected to Thunder Bay and Northwestern Ontario.

Siddall was unveiled as the next Lakehead University president and vice-chancellor in January and officially took on the role on July 1, succeeding Moira McPherson.

Siddall said her first two months have been spent touring around with the various administrative and academic units, listening to people to learn what has been going on at the university, and how things might have changed she was last here eight years ago.

“One of the remarkable things about Lakehead University is that it is a comprehensive university, and the only one in Northern Ontario,” she said in an interview on Friday, as the university prepares for the start of the next academic year.

“Students who attend [the] university get the richness of being at a comprehensive university, but also the kind of intimacy of being at a smaller university. My vision is to continue to nurture that [while] looking at some growth both in Thunder Bay and on the Orillia campus. I am [also] very committed to reconciliation and equity, diversity and inclusion and social justice. I also want to [ensure] that the incredible research record at Lakehead remains strong and continues to grow.”

Siddall was previously the president of Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver, getting that role in 2018. She started her career 25 years ago at Lakehead University as a faculty member, and was in Thunder Bay for 17 years before moving out west.

Siddall hasn’t been surprised about anything in the role thus far, even though there are a lot of new faces walking around on campus.

“What I have really noticed is that, you know, even though everyone’s coming out of [the COVID-19 pandemic], it’s been a very tough time to be at a university. [That said] there is incredible spirit among faculty, staff and [the] students [who attend],” she noted.

Dr. Siddall mentioned that work will commence on a strategic planning process, which will include among other things, the partnership to launch a new veterinary program with the University of Guelph.