Thursday, July 5, 2007

Stephen Owen appointed VP External and Community Relations of UBC

So, I'm still in a little bit of an awe at this, hopefully some of you sages can provide insight and calm my nerves. Stephen Owen's website confirms that "Stephen Owen, Member of Parliament for Vancouver Quadra, announced today that he will be resigning his seat effective July 27, 2007 to join the University of British Columbia as Vice President, External and Community Relations." (link)

While I would like to think that propriety calls for our university administrators to remain at arms' length with federal/provincial political parties, this recent development compounds to paint the following picture:
- Stephen Toope is a founder and former chair of the Pierre Trudeau Foundation. While "non-partisan", it's Pierre Trudeau, Mr. Liberal posterchild from the glory days and perhaps a major reason why some individuals still support the party.
- Stephen Owen quits his Liberal MP post to join the UBC administration.

Is it just me, or is our University too close for comfort in arms with the Liberals? We have a conservative federal government, making my point that perhaps we, as a public autonomous institution, should remain appropriately outside of the realm of blatant partylines. I expect Matthew Naylor to post with vigorous defense.

Full media release from the UBC Website behind the jump:

Media Release | Jul. 5, 2007

Stephen Owen Appointed Vice President, External and Community Relations

The University of British Columbia Board of Governors today approved the appointment of Stephen Owen as Vice President, External and Community Relations.

Owen, a UBC alumnus who is the Member of Parliament for Vancouver Quadra, the Vancouver constituency that includes UBC, will resign his seat July 27 before assuming his new UBC position August 15.

“Stephen Owen brings to UBC uniquely broad insight and experience developed through a distinguished career of public service that has been a hallmark of integrity,” said UBC President Stephen Toope. “His decision to join our university underscores the paramount importance we place on effective relations with our communities as UBC, already one of the world’s 40 best universities, prepares to enter its second century of service to British Columbia, Canada and beyond.”

The position description for Owen’s responsibilities states: “The External and Community Relations Portfolio is responsible for guiding and enhancing engagement with government at all levels -- municipal, provincial, national and international. It develops community relationships with civil society, neighbourhood associations and social movements; enhances cultural aspects of university life related to staff, faculty and students studying, living and working together; and builds a sense of belonging to form a vibrant and cohesive community.”

“I am thrilled to return to my alma mater as a member of Prof. Toope’s executive team,” Owen said. “UBC’s strategic plan, Trek 2010, lays out an ambitious plan for the university to become one of the world’s very best. I am thankful for the opportunity to lead the communication effort around the truly compelling story of teaching and research excellence that UBC has created in the last 100 years.”

UBC units Owen will oversee include: Ceremonies and Events, Community Affairs, Government Relations, the Learning Exchange, Public Affairs, University Counsel (legal office), and university operations at UBC Robson Square.

Owen, 58, was born in Vancouver. He and his wife, Diane, a UBC alumna and a UBC online instructor in intercultural communication, have two sons. Owen received his Law degree from UBC in 1972, his Master of Law from the University of London and his MBA from the University of Geneva.

Owen’s career has taken him from legal advocacy work in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, through a variety of high-profile senior provincial positions such as Ombudsman and Deputy Attorney General, and forward to the national and international stages.

Following election as MP for Quadra in 2000, he served as Secretary of State for Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Minister of Public Works and Government Services, and Minister of Western Economic Development. From 1997-2000, he was David Lam Professor of Law at the University of Victoria, and he has consulted internationally on a variety of human rights issues.

A complete CV is available at:

Owen succeeds Dennis Pavlich, who resigned in June to take on the presidency of the Great Northern Way Campus, a consortium of BCIT, Simon Fraser University, the Emily Carr Institute of Art + Design and UBC. The new institution has a focus on arts and culture, urban sustainability and digital media.