Congratulations to professor Ian Wilson, the newly appointed Director of the Chester Ronning Centre. See the official announcement from Dean Allen Berger, posted below.
Dear friends and supporters of the Chester Ronning Centre,
Many of you gave generously of your time in the recent search process for the next Director of the Ronning Centre, and the search committee benefited from the thoughtful feedback on the candidates that a substantial subset of you provided. Thank you for caring so much.
I am pleased to announce that after extensive deliberation the search committee came to the unanimous decision to offer the Director position to Dr. Ian Wilson. We were excited by Ian’s credentials and the ideas he has for the future of the Ronning Centre, particularly with regard to strategies for advancing important conversations about religion and public life that are inclusive of the academy and the larger community and that cross lines of religious, cultural, and political difference.
Yet at the same time this was not an easy decision. The four finalists were extraordinary, each in their own way. And each received expressions of support from community stakeholders, Augustana students, and faculty and staff members. I am proud of the search committee (which, in addition to me, included Vice Dean Kim Misfeldt, Chair of Social Sciences Geoff Dipple, Chair of Fine Arts and Humanities Alex Carpenter, and Camrose community member Agnes Hoveland) for their careful reading of all this input and the in-depth discussion they had, trying to balance and weigh the input we received with what we learned during confidential interviews. Throughout the process they were guided by the specific selection criteria outlined in the job posting.
Here are a few highlights from the feedback we received regarding Ian:
Ian, who came into the Interim Associate Director role without time to prepare, earned kudos from many of you for for the fabulous job he has done this year. Based on input from colleagues and students, it’s clear Ian is also a highly talented teacher and scholar. One student wrote: “His careful attention to students and clear desire to guide each individual through descriptive feedback on assignments and individual meetings have motivated me to challenge myself and produce my proudest work.” Going beyond campus, a professional reference stated: “Dr. Wilson is at the beginning of his career, but he has the potential to become one of the most prominent researchers of his generation in his field…. There is no doubt in my mind that he will build a strong academic reputation for the Centre and over time put it on the world map and that he will be able to bring scholars from all over the world to visit, talk, contribute to and eventually serve as ambassadors for the Centre.” One Advisory Committee member wrote: “I think Ian exhibits all of the ideal qualities of a leader for the Centre. He is exceptionally organized and effective as a communicator, and in these early stages, he demonstrates incredible vision about all of the things the Centre could become, based on its existing foundation.”
Ian will have many opportunities to talk with all of you and to listen to your hopes and priorities for the Ronning Centre. For now, I would like to share a few highlights from what members of the search committee concluded:
*While Ian’s own research program is complementary to the Ronning Centre’s mission, it will not drive that mission. He sees the Director’s role less as a presenter/performer and more, like an orchestra conductor, organizing and facilitating complementary contributions by others. He has many ideas about potential programming and an excellent network of contacts. And he has expressed interest in engaging stakeholders in conversations about “what can the Centre do for you?”
*Ian has already begun to increase student and faculty involvement with the Centre, but he cogently explained how this can be done without sacrificing, indeed while building, community engagement.
* Although Ian is not as senior as some of the other candidates, we are hiring for the long term and feel he is the right person to help the Centre grow under a coherent, long-term plan. Ian’s work in beginning to reconstitute the Centre’s Advisory Committee is an excellent start.
*Ian has already helped lead the Ronning Centre into collaborative work with the Aboriginal Students’ Office at Augustana and he has many ideas about how the Centre might integrate topics related to reconciliation, Aboriginal spirituality, indigenous-settler relations, etc. into the Centre’s programming.
*Ian has many exciting and creative ideas regarding the possible expansion of the Centre’s International Fellows Program.
I hope you will join me in congratulating Ian. The Augustana Dean’s Office will soon host a reception/conversation opportunity where attendees can begin to informally discuss their hopes and aspirations for the Ronning Centre. Please look for an announcement.
Allen H. Berger | Dean and Executive Officer | University of Alberta Augustana Campus