New Selkirk College VPs Committed to Student-First Philosophy

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The two new additions to the Selkirk College leadership team have a wealth of post-secondary and life experience that will help enhance opportunities for both students and staff.

Selkirk College’s leadership team has welcomed two new vice presidents who are both relishing the opportunity to help guide the region’s post-secondary into the future.

Vice President of College Services Kerry Clarke and Vice President of Students & Advancement John Kincaid arrived to Selkirk College in November. The new additions help lead two-thirds of all departments at the college.

New Selkirk College vice presidents Kerry Clarke (left) and John Kincaid (right) arrived to their posts in November. The new additions to the college’s leadership team will help guide the direction of post-secondary in the region.

“We’re very fortunate to have these two knowledgeable and passionate leaders join our team,” says Selkirk College President Angus Graeme. “Both Kerry and John come from solid backgrounds in post-secondary and will be able to use their skills to make the experience for learners and the ultimate outcomes that much more successful.

As they settle into their new roles and start to assess the task ahead, both men share the same philosophy on post-secondary at the college level.

“Students are at the core of what we do and we want to maintain that through every decision we make,” says Kincaid, who arrived to Selkirk College from the University of Regina where he was Director of Enrolment Services. “We always have to ask the question: how does it impact the student and the student experience? That’s been my philosophy since starting my career in post-secondary and that will continue to be my philosophy moving forward.”

Kincaid’s new colleague echoes the sentiment.

“We need to continue to be completely student-first and student-focused, it’s our core reason for being here,” says Clarke, who joined Selkirk College after a successful stint at Northwest Community College in Terrace where he was the Director of Facilities & Ancillary Services.

A Unique Pathway to Post-Secondary Leadership

Clarke was born-and-raised on the Isle of Wight in England. He was a police officer in London prior to emigrating to Canada at the age of 27, a decision he made thanks to an Expo ‘86 postcard on his fridge sent to him by a friend who visited British Columbia during the World’s Fair. Prior to shifting into a post-secondary career, Clarke was the coroner on Northern Vancouver Island.

“It’s not a typical progression, but one thing I have learned as both a police officer and coroner is how to really communicate with people,” Clarke says. “Often you have to deliver bad news and you have to do it in a professional way, so I find that it’s very comfortable for me to have challenging conversations with students or staff.”

Through his connections in the coroner’s service, a colleague told him about an opening as Director of Food Services at Northwest Community College. Looking for a new adventure, Clarke applied and packed his bags for northern British Columbia in 2010. A post-secondary slightly smaller than Selkirk College, his abilities were soon recognized and more areas of responsibility were added to his portfolio.

“Post-secondary is an amazing sector to work in,” says Clarke, who also successfully completed a Master of Business Administration as part of his lifelong learning quest. “You really get a sense of seeing students progress. My office at Northwest was in the cafeteria building, so you see culinary students coming in not really knowing what end of the knife to hold and then they leave nine months later where they are on their way to becoming talented chefs. It’s amazing to see the transformation and that they have an exciting career ahead of them.”

His new role at Selkirk College will provide leadership in departments that include Finance & Ancillary Services, Human Resources, Facilities & Maintenance, and IT. Though his portfolio is focused on more behind-the-scenes work, Clarke makes a habit of talking to as many students as possible to ensure the college is serving their needs properly.

“It’s amazing what you can learn from a student when you sit down and have a bowl of soup in the cafeteria,” says the 57-year-old. “They might not be ready to provide the input unless you actually sit down with them in a casual setting and ask them questions. Even though you are not working with students day-in and day-out, you are a huge part of what makes this college work. You need to understand why the job is important.”

Connecting Learners to Opportunity

Born and raised in Toronto, Kincaid moved west after high school to attend the University of Lethbridge in 1996. Originally focused on becoming a teacher, he decided instead to pursue a degree in Kinesiology. After graduating, his wife stayed on to finish her Master’s degree and Kincaid took a job in the fitness centre.

When a friend told him about an opening with the university’s recruitment team, Kincaid jumped at the chance to make presentations to other young people about the merits of a post-secondary education. 

“I was the first person in my family and extended family to go to university,” Kincaid says. “It provided me with a pretty solid foundation and because of that, promoting the value of education stays with me. If I can help a person realize the importance of a post-secondary education, it feels very fulfilling.”

After spending 14 years in Southern Alberta, Kincaid and his young family made the move east to Saskatchewan where he spent four years as the Director of Enrolment Services at the University of Regina.

Kincaid’s new role at Selkirk College sees him taking charge of several departments including Student Development, Athletics & Recreation, Accessibility Services, Co-Op Education & Employment Services, Aboriginal Services, Healthy Campus, Admissions, Financial Aid, Student Records, Library Services, Communications & Advancement, and Institutional Research.

“In the role that I have now, you really get to impact the student experience and student life from a broad perspective,” says the 41-year-old. “It’s a unique and exciting opportunity.”

Coming from a primarily university governance structure, Kincaid is looking forward to working in an environment that is more agile when it comes to decision making. Though there are differences between university and college level learning, Kincaid says the most important element remains the same.

“The students are a little different because what they are looking for at the end is different,” he says. “But in the end, whether it is a university or a college, students want to better themselves and as long as we are here to support them to succeed then we are doing our job.”

Helping Move the College into the Future

Both Clarke and Kincaid arrive to Selkirk College during an exciting time in its history. As the college moves into its next 50 years, there are many active projects in play that will enhance post-secondary in the region. From the Silver King Campus refresh to an increased focus on Healthy Campus initiatives to an ambitious upgrade to the college’s computer support systems and processes, both vice-presidents start with a full plate.

“We are at a very critical juncture in our history,” says Graeme. “The current big picture projects will bring much needed advancements in how we are able to provide the best learning environment possible for students in all our programs. Both John and Kerry will be counted on for their leadership in many areas, roles I’m confident they will flourish in.”

Clarke is replacing outgoing vice president Gary Leier who spent eight years at the college and Kincaid is filling the shoes of Cathy Mercer who worked at the college for 37 years.

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