Wednesday, August 06, 2014 by: Darren Taylor
As a relatively smaller community, Sault Ste. Marie has produced an extraordinary number of exceptionally successful people in many fields of human endeavour.
Dr. Daniel Weeks (pictured) is yet another example of this.
Weeks, 57, was chosen in late July to be the new president of the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC), the main campus of which is situated in Prince George, BC.
Weeks, a Bawating Collegiate graduate who regularly visits his parents and friends in the Sault, told SooToday.com Wednesday he also keeps in touch with Dave Marshall, a former Bawating teacher.
Marshall, like Weeks, went on to be a postsecondary school president, beginning with Nipissing University in North Bay, then Mount Royal University in Alberta.
“I think it really speaks to the opportunities the Sault provides to develop leadership qualities in postsecondary education, industry, sports…the Sault has been one of the great contributors to Canada and I’m really proud and honoured that I’m a part of that,” Weeks said.
Weeks left Sault Ste. Marie after high school and moved to Toronto with aspirations of being a musician, as a jazz drummer/student in Humber College’s music program.
He returned to the Sault for a while before leaving the community again in the late 1970s to study psychology at the University of Windsor.
“I thought of being a music teacher but then I thought of all those honking instruments,” he laughed, deciding to branch off into psychology.
After completing his undergraduate degree in psychology at the University of Windsor, Weeks continued his education at McMaster University in Hamilton, where he completed his Masters in Kinesiology, then went off to Alabama’s Auburn University to complete his PhD in Experimental Psychology, covering a wide range of psychological study areas, including psychology as it pertains to human conditions such as Down Syndrome.
He later did post-doctorate work at Purdue University in Indiana.
His first teaching position was at Thunder Bay’s Lakehead University in the early 1990s.
From there, Weeks went to Simon Fraser University in BC, where he taught for 16 years and served as Chair of the Department of Psychology and the Graduate Program Chair of the School of Kinesiology.
Most recently, Weeks has been the Vice-President of Research at the University of Lethbridge, Alberta for the past five years.
“I’ve had a productive career as a scientist and teacher, and along the way I found I had a bit of a talent for running things, being the chair of the psychology department at Simon Fraser, then one day I got a call from a search firm asking me if I would be interested in being a vice-president at a university in Alberta, and I thought ‘yeah that would be an interesting challenge,’” Weeks said.
“Then the same thing happened again when a search company called me up and asked me if I would be interested in taking over as president at UNBC.”
Weeks was chosen to be UNBC’s president from a field of 40 candidates in late July.
“There was an excellent pool of candidates,” Weeks said.
“It’s really about ‘fit.’”
“It’s the right place for you at the right time, and I really appreciate the search committee see in me the qualities they need moving forward,” Weeks said.
Weeks said Prince George has its similarities with the Sault.
“For a lot of folks, a move to northern BC would seem a bit daunting, but when you get there it’s a small town, a working town, a landscape not unlike the geography around Sault Ste. Marie, so for me the move is not nearly as overwhelming as it could be for someone who hasn’t lived in that type of environment.”
UNBC has about 4,000 students.
“It’s very quaint and several hundred of the students are graduate students and it’s a place where you can really interact with them,” Weeks said.
“In Canada right now one of the driving factors for student success is really about the student experience, the extent to where the student feels the campus is a really welcoming place for them.”
“It’s more than just about the training and education they get in the classrooms and the laboratories, it’s helping them become good citizens and contributing to the Canadian landscape,” Weeks said.
Weeks said postsecondary education right across Canada is faced with the same issues regarding government funding, which he describes as a challenge.
Weeks said trends that currently exist in postsecondary education which excite him are the numbers of older students coming back to school after working or travelling, along with an increasing number of opportunities for aboriginal Canadians to get involved at the postsecondary level.
Weeks said he and his wife Fay (born in the UK, raised in Victoria, BC) and their three dogs are looking forward to settling into Prince George as they move from Lethbridge.
Weeks will be serving a renewable five-year term.
September 1 will be his first official day on the job as president of UNBC.
Photo courtesy of UNBC