Dr. Vianne Timmons: Defender Of Native Education

Dr. Vianne Timmons is the seventh President and Chancellor of the University of Regina. She took over in 2008. Dr. Timmons has dedicated her life to education. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1979 from Mount Allison University in New Brunswick. A year later, she received a Bachelor of Education in Special Education from Acadia University in Nova Scotia. She began her teaching career in Alberta and British Columbia and earned a Master of Education at Spokane University in Spokane, Washington. In 1993, Dr. Timmons received her PhD in Education Psychology from the University of Calgary.

Vianne Timmons

Vianne Timmons, President and Vice-Chancellor at University of Regina.

Over the years, her accomplishments have not gone unnoticed. She was named one of the “Ten Most Influential Women in Saskatchewan” and chosen as one of Canada’s “Top 100 Most Powerful Women” four years in a row (2008 to 2011). In 2009, Dr. Timmons was honoured with the Canada Post Literacy Award, and the following year she received the Canadian Association for Community Living’s National Inclusive Education Award. In 2012, the Canadian Association for Education Psychology gave her the Carole Crealock Award, and she received a Humanitarian Award from The Red Cross in 2013. In 2014, she received the Senior Women Academic Administration of Canada Recognition Award for her leadership in promoting and supporting diversity within Canadian Academic institutions.

Vianne Timmons has always stood up for Native education. “Historically, Canada’s Aboriginal people have been underserved in terms of post secondary education,” Dr. Timmons explains. “That’s a sad and undeniable fact, but something that I have been changing—albeit more slowly than it should since the 1970’s. Many things have contributed to enhanced participation rates across Canada: better access, better funding, better supports. And something I would argue has helped was the creation at the University of Regina in 1976 of the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College, now First Nations University. FNUniv has played a leading role at the University of Regina, and indeed across Canada, in promoting and delivering post-secondary education for Aboriginal people. And just as importantly, FNUniv and the ReginaU have worked together to educate non-Aboriginal students about indigenous art, history, and culture. This has made our campus a more inclusive and diverse place, and I think it has set an example for other institutions in Canada.”

As president of the University of Regina, she made changes which have resulted in increased Aboriginal student enrolment. “In 2009, my first full year as President of the University of Regina, we launched a strategic plan that focused on many areas, including community partnerships, stabilizing enrolment, internationalization, and Indigenization of our University. In subsequent years, we had a great deal of success in these areas. Our strong focus on student success has resulted in consistent growth in enrolment over the past five years, including increasing our Aboriginal student population by 50% and doubling the number of international students on campus over that time.”

In 2014, Dr. Timmons implemented the peyak aski kikawinaw (Cree for “we are one with Mother Earth) strategy. “Our new 2105-2020 strategic plan, entitled Peyak Aski Kikawinaw, came together as a collaborative plan that was developed through extensive community engagement and inclusiveness. At it’s core, the plan is designed to support our vision for the University of Regina as a national leader in developing educated contributors, career-ready learners, and global citizens, and in generating meaningful, high-impact scholarship. Within the plan, we have identified three strategic priorities: Student Success, Research Impact and Commitment to our Communities. These will be crucial to the University’s success over the net five years and beyond.”

Dr. Timmons maintains active and wide-ranging research programs, with particular emphasis on literacy, learning, and inclusive education. Some of her research initiatives include developing a Canadian Research Network on Disability and Inclusion Indicators, studying the factors that affect the retention of Aboriginal students in university, and developing family literacy programs for rural families, Aboriginal communities, and newcomers to Canada, as well as exploring the connections between inclusive education and children’s health.

Under her direction, the number of Aboriginal students attending the University of Regina is possibly the highest in the country. “The demographics of our province certainly play a role in this, because Saskatchewan has a high population of Aboriginal people compared to many other provinces. At the University of Regina itself, we’ve worked very hard to ensure that the right supports are in place to foster the success of our Aboriginal students. In recent years, we have dramatically increased the number and value of scholarships and bursaries for Aboriginal students, developed mentorship programs for first-generation Aboriginal university student success, and created an Aboriginal Advisory Circle as well as an Executive Lead (Indigenization) position to further Indigenize our campus for the benefit of all students. So I would say there are many factors that have contributed to the fact that Aboriginal Students now make up 11% of the University of Regina student population. But in my mind, these factors all come together in one thing: acknowledging, respecting, and celebrating the fact that the University of Regina is situated on Treaty 4 and Treaty 6 lands.”