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UCN hears from two president candidates

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THE University College of the North community will hear presentations Monday from the two finalists for the vacant president's job.

The two candidates are current interim president Konrad Jonasson and Helen Allen, whom UCN officials confirmed is a former vice-president of education and student services from 2009-11 at Vancouver Community College.

Allen's Linked-In website profile says she was formerly a dean at Sheridan College in the Toronto area from 2006 to 2009, and before that was a dean for four years at Thompson River University in B.C. She has a master of social work from McGill University.

She left Vancouver Community College last year after two years on the job, VCC officials said, and she is now involved in the homebuilding industry. She could not be reached. UCN officials wouldn't release her resumé and couldn't say whether she's aboriginal -- a key question for a northern school serving a largely aboriginal population.

A member of Cross Lake First Nation, Jonasson has served as UCN vice-president of community-based services since 2002. Jonasson has been with the institution since 1989, when it was Keewatin Community College. He is originally from Wabowden and is based at the Thompson campus.

UCN has seen more than its share of turmoil. Its first president, Denise Henning, a native academic from Oklahoma, was let go early in 2011 after clashing with elders, some faculty members and the school's governing bodies over policies and direction.

UCN is struggling to find aboriginal faculty who understand the north and are committed to staying.

The first presidential search to succeed Henning chose a candidate who subsequently declined the offer.

Academic sources recently claimed there is internal turmoil and tension driving both non-aboriginals and non-northern aboriginal staff out of the fledgling institution based in The Pas and Thompson and a dozen scattered remote communities.

But UCN officials say the school will only succeed and serve the community if it develops teaching staff who come from the north and want to build their lives in the north.

"We've had (outside) individuals who, for whatever reason, couldn't align themselves with the mission and the mandate," Jonasson said in a recent interview. He acknowledged professors and senior administrators from other areas have left.

Allen will speak to the UCN community by teleconference from B.C. at 1:30 p.m. Monday, and Jonasson will speak at 3 p.m. from either the Thompson or The Pas campus. The process allows students, faculty and others to hear from them before the governing council selects the successful candidate.

The candidates have been told: "Given the 2010-2015 Strategic Plan 'Nikani Meskanaw: The Path That Leads Us,' please outline the course of action you would take over the next three years as the new president and vice-chancellor."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 23, 2012 A14

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