Dr. Mark Evered has been watching the University of the Fraser Valley with interest for the past few years. Now he’ll be getting to know the place a lot better, after recently beginning his term as the university’s fifth president and vice-chancellor.
“This is really the capstone to my career,” he says. “It provides me with the opportunity to give back and share experience and knowledge that I’ve gleaned over a long career that started out in a very traditional academic setting and has now led me to an exciting institution early in its university life.”
Evered comes to UFV from the academic vice-president role at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops. That institution made the transition from the University College of the Cariboo to regional university status in 2005, so he will bring recent applicable and relevant experience to the job. (UFV, the former University College of the Fraser Valley, received university status in 2008.)
Evered enjoyed being part of a new kind of university in Kamloops, and is looking forward to leading one in the Fraser Valley.
“What’s particularly appealing to me about these new universities in BC is the chance to help create something that’s different from the traditional model. There is an opportunity here — and indeed an already-established practice of doing so — to integrate theory and applied learning in innovative ways. It is often more challenging to achieve such integration in a traditional university setting.
“I want there to be tangible advantages to having trades such as welding and carpentry offered in a place that also has programs in business, biology, sociology, and history, etc. Our breadth of programming is one of our strengths and we’ll be looking for more ways to truly interweave theoretical and applied programming.”
UFV went through a long apprenticeship as a university college before being granted the university label last year, but Evered underscores that it has been a university in essence for many years now, a point that local communities drove home as they lobbied for university status for most of the past decade.
“There is a solid foundation here, and we are now the stewards of that legacy. I’m happy to note that there are already many internationally recognized strengths at UFV, and we have good reason to be proud of this university’s past successes. Our job now is to build on what’s been well established.”
Evered values the regional focus of UFV, and its strong community connections.
“I’m a great believer in universities playing a role not only in education, but also in the economic, cultural, and social development of our communities. UFV clearly has a lot of community support. Watching from afar, I was very impressed with the huge turnout at what turned into a de facto community rally when Geoff Plant visited the Fraser Valley as part of his Campus 2020 fact-finding mission. People made it very clear to the provincial government that they wanted a university here.”
UFV’s new president will be launching a strategic planning process in the fall, but he already has ideas about which priorities will emerge, based on UFV’s mandate, values, and past successes.
“As we develop into a university, our governance structures are changing. For instance, we will be building on the strong tradition of collegiality at UFV to develop a vibrant, consultative Senate that provides strong academic leadership.
“I will also be familiarizing myself with our university budget and our funding issues,” he adds. “We are in an era where more of our funding will have to come from non-government sources and that brings with it a number of challenges.”
Evered also wants to focus on the student experience and enhancing student retention.
“We are doing very well in meeting or even exceeding our enrolment targets, but we need to be very aware that students are making decisions not based solely on academic reputations of universities, but also on ways in which they will be supported once they get here. We need to ensure we’re providing a fulfilling and transformative experience that goes beyond the classroom. It’s very important to me that we do everything we can to provide a vibrant campus life for students and community members on all of our campuses.
“We must also be very focused on student success. We have an obligation to do everything we can to make sure that the students we admit are provided the supports and guidance they need to succeed.”
While UFV has a provincial mandate to be a teaching-focused university, Evered also sees faculty and student research as important parts of the academic equation.
“We will be a teaching-focused, student-focused institution. But I’m also pleased and excited to see the research opportunities that are provided to our undergraduate students as a benefit of faculty being actively engaged in research,” he notes. “And, of course, our students want faculty who are up-to-date and at the forefront in their field of expertise — this will be an important part of building our reputation. I want to continue to integrate teaching and research in a way that benefits students directly.”
There’s a lot on the plate for UFV’s new president. He and his wife Maureen are also enjoying getting to know the Fraser Valley. Already they’ve been spotted at the Berry Beat Festival in Abbotsford, the Harrison Festival of the Arts, out and about in Mission, and at Minter Gardens in Chilliwack, and they’re looking forward to visiting all the communities that UFV serves.
“We want to express our appreciation for the very warm welcome we’ve received wherever we’ve gone,” he says. “We’ve received so many invitations that it’s hard to choose from them all.”
Dr. Evered came to UFV from Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC, where he served as provost and vice-president academic. He holds a BSc in biology from McMaster University and a PhD in physiology from the University of Western Ontario. Over the course of his 30+-year career, he has held research and academic appointments at Cambridge University, the University of Western Ontario, the Howard Florey Research Institute in Melbourne, and the University of Saskatchewan, where he was associate vice-president academic. He and his wife Maureen have three daughters and four grandchildren.