Beloved prof off to better things

By Sarelle Azuelos

One of Calgary’s finest professors and benefactors will be leaving for Kamloops. University of Calgary faculty of communication and culture dean Dr. Kathleen Scherf has been offered a position as president of Thompson Rivers University and will be starting in September. After over nine years as a dean at the U of C, Scherf finds the move bittersweet.

“It’s a strange mixture of thrill and sadness,” she said. “I have loved being here. Everything got even better when I started teaching COMS 201, that really put me back with 300 students, face to face, every fall. U of C students rule.”

Scherf has worked at many different universities in the past. She started at the University of British Columbia in 1988 and then spent a year at the University of New Brunswick as the arts dean. She feels her experience will help her with the new position and is grateful for the chance to learn more.

“This is an opportunity for me to acquire new skills,” she said. “It’s putting more arrows into my quiver.”

TRU Board of Governors chair Ron Olynyk is excited to see what Scherf will bring to the growing school.

“We wanted somebody that was energetic, we wanted somebody that had a background that was committed to the community,” said Olynyk. “We also wanted somebody that could communicate very well because of the size of our city, the university is very much a part of it.”

Olynyk explained the list of desired strengths was extensive. After several rounds of interviews and deliberations, a committee felt Scherf was the most qualified candidate. Scherf previously sat on the University Budget Committee, the University Planning Committee and boards for the Women’s Television Network and the Van Horne Institute. She will be TRU’s fifth president, replacing the retiring Dr. Roger Barnsley.

“We’re very, very pleased that she’s coming our way,” Olynyk said. “When we introduced her to the university and the city, I think that first impression was extremely positive.”

TRU has roughly 10,000 students enrolled in different programs including many international and distance learning degrees. Over 62 countries are represented by the international students that make up 10 per cent of the population. Olynyk described the school as a first choice for aboriginal students and those seeking student engagement.

Scherf is excited to further the international programs, especially in India–a country that has interested her for many years. However, Scherf would like to meet with faculty, students and members of the community before making any changes.

“I’m going into a totally new community, a totally new university as the president,” she said. “It’s not a place that’s in crisis. It’s very well organized and financially healthy, so I have time to go and listen and then analyze what we need to do to actualize their strategic plan and get to the next level.”

U of C provost and vice-president academic Dr. Alan Harrison said the university will be hiring an interim dean until someone can be found to fill Scherf’s position.

“Dr. Scherf has been an energetic and valued leader at the University of Calgary for many years,” he added. “She is extremely committed to students, and her passion for post-secondary education will serve her well in her new role as president.”

Scherf feels that she has accomplished what she came to the U of C to do, but would like to remain involved in the community.

“We’ve kind of come full circle,” she said. “This is my last convocation as dean of communication and it’s the convocation that [my son] walks at. It chokes me up a bit.”

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