Dr. James Mandigo has come a long way to take up the role of Provost and VP Academic at the University of the Fraser Valley, but in many ways he’s already feeling at home.
“UFV is a great fit with my own values around the role of a university in a community,” he notes.
UFV’s new vision and mission align with the approach he has taken in his own career as a professor of physical education and kinesiology, interim dean, and Vice Provost at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario.
“I come from a very community-driven university and have worked in partnership with universities internationally on community-focused projects that positively impact society — youth violence intervention programs through sport and education in El Salvador, for example — so the fact that UFV is committed to community engagement really resonates with me.”
UFV’s mission statement — engaging learners, transforming lives, building community — matches his own approach to university leadership.
“I share a similar vision of what a university should be: student-centred, engaging in meaningful scholarly activities, community driven, and collaborating with our stakeholders.”
“I have experienced and seen firsthand that when universities are actively engaged, they have the potential to positively impact the social and economic development of communities.”
“UFV is on an exciting path committed to helping the Fraser Valley develop. I am impressed with the wide range of opportunities that students from all disciplines have to be engaged in the community.”
During his first few months, Mandigo will be focusing on meeting as many UFV people and community stakeholders as he can, getting to know and consulting with academic leaders, and absorbing the culture of UFV during his “listen and learn” phase.
But he also has a major leadership task for his first year in the job: guiding the creation of a new strategic plan for UFV based on the new mission and vision developed last year.
“There will be a lot of consultation with faculty, staff, students and the broader community as we determine how to take the mission and values we have defined and apply them in a plan.”
UFV’s new vision statement takes an ambitious and aspirational tone by noting that UFV “will be known” as a gathering place for learners, leaders, and seekers. When asked what UFV is known for now, based from his vantage point as an academic leader recently arrived from Ontario, Mandigo lists a number of strengths that have garnered national attention for the university.
“UFV is known for being serious about being student-centred. It’s not just lip service. We have top quality teaching here with professors who are innovative and creative in their pedagogy and approach.
“From a research and scholarly activity perspective, we are known for our faculty and students being involved in very applied research that has an immediate societal impact.
“We are also known for our interdisciplinary approach to programming. We have diverse Faculties here — from Applied Tech to Arts— and a willingness to work together on some very innovative projects and programs that tackle real world issues. I’ve witnessed some envy from other universities where the divisions are more entrenched.”
“Because of the applied and interdisciplinary approach taken by UFV, we prepare students to be very successful as they make the transition to full-time careers.”
As for challenges faced by the university, Mandigo cites the usual one of making the most of limited resources and finding innovative ways to grow, but he also has a challenge for all members of the UFV community.
“I notice a bit of shyness in the culture here. We need to encourage more confidence about our success and to be more vocal about our accomplishments, which are many. I guess I’m encouraging everyone to up the swagger factor a bit and encourage celebrating our successes and letting the community know about them more, because there is a lot to celebrate!”
On a personal level, Mandigo is getting to know the Fraser Valley and preparing to welcome his family (wife Karen Natho and three children aged 17, 14, and 9), out from Ontario in the spring.
“We are a very active family and enjoy exploring new places together so we are looking forward to being active and contributing members of our new community.”
The Provost and Academic VP is ultimately responsible for setting overall academic priorities in teaching and learning, research and scholarship, and the quality of the university’s educational programming. The Provost also oversees the recruitment and retention of outstanding and diverse faculty and staff.
To read more about James Mandigo’s professional background, see our initial appointment announcement here.
UFV’s new vision and mission:
UFV will be known as a gathering place for learners, leaders and seekers. We will pursue diverse pathways of scholarship, leading to community connection, reconciliation, and prosperity, locally and beyond.
Engaging learners, transforming lives, building community.