By Lawrence Belanger
Local Journalism Initiative
The Bishop’s University Board of Governors has appointed Dr. Sébastien Lebel-Grenier as its 19th Principal and Vice-Chancellor, succeeding retiring Principal Michael Goldbloom. On the day of the announcement, The Record spoke with the incoming principal over the phone to discuss his background and vision for the school.
“My main focus, at least for the initial period of my term,” said Lebel-Grenier, will be to meet all the students, faculty, staff, stakeholders, and other partners that make up Bishop’s and its community, to learn more about them, to learn more about “their Bishop’s.” and ask, “what do they think Bishop’s means for them?,” uncovering their aspirations for the university.
He envisions his early term to be about getting a real understanding of what he called the “true possibilities of this great university.”
His five-year term will start on July 1. Lebel-Grenier, a resident of Lennoxville since 1997, brings an academic background and community connections to the institution. He sat on the Sherbrooke Urbanism Committee, as well as currently being on the board of the Seminaire de Sherbrooke.
Nadia Martel, his wife, was a Bishop’s graduate herself, and sat on the Board of Governors. She is currently a member of the Board of the Bishop’s University Foundation.
“She’s remained a strong alumni for the university,” said Lebel-Grenier, but he was also curious about the university and wanted to set up links early on in his career at UdeS. “I became a member of the research ethics board here at Bishop’s and had the opportunity to meet a lot of the professors here and see what types of research projects would be carried out.”
He maintained those links throughout his time at Sherbrooke, often coming to Donald Lectures or speaking at classes.
By the end of his mandate, he hopes to raise the university’s regional and national profile, as well as improve its academic reputation.
“I would like Bishop’s to be better recognized for the excellence in teaching it provides to its students. It’s not just a place of incredible community,” explained Lebel-Grenier. “It’s also a place of incredible education. It’s a place that fosters critical thinking,” and he wants to nurture an institutional culture that “fosters a very open view on the world, through encouraging students to have a course of study that covers many different disciplines.”
Responding to concerns raised in the past about the school’s lack of diversity, “looking in from the outside,” said Lebel-Grenier, “my view is that Bishop’s has gone to great lengths to be more aware and responsive in that regard.” He praised various initiatives undertaken by the institution.
“For example, Kwigw8mna, that’s going to remain a strong priority for me. So I think that it’s already in a good space where it’s heading, these important discussions. It’s moving forward.”
Kwigw8mna is the name of a proposed indigenous students center, whose development has been stymied by rising costs and design difficulties.
He acknowledged there were many things he needed to better understand. “That’s why it’s going to be so important to meet all stakeholders at the university,” reasoned Lebel-Grenier.
“I think it’s a true concern,” Lebel-Grenier explained, “as it is right now and Bishop’s is, if you compare it to other universities, I think is ahead in this regard, and it’s in a good space to move ahead more,” he concluded.
Goldbloom, who has served as Principal and Vice-Chancellor since 2008, leaves Lebel-Grenier with “big shoes” to fill. In a press release, University officials thanked Goldbloom and welcomed Lebel-Grenier.
“I want to thank Michael Goldbloom for his outstanding leadership and dedication to Bishop’s University over the past 15 years”, commented Robert Hall, Chair of Bishop’s Board of Governors, in a statement about the new appointment. “The University was in a fragile state when Michael arrived and is in a position of strength today because of his wisdom and skill. I am confident that with Sébastien’s record of academic achievement, effective leadership and knowledge of Quebec’s society, he is ideally positioned to lead our institution forward.”
Professor Lebel-Grenier leaves his position as a professor at the law school of the Université de Sherbrooke, where he held many senior leadership positions, most notably as Dean.