As Gisele Samson-Verreault takes over the reins of Carleton University’s Board of Governors, she brings with her a lifetime of experience in the public service and corporate arenas.
Re-elected to the board this summer, Samson-Verreault was assistant deputy minister of human resources at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade before she retired two years ago. She replaces outgoing chair Jacques Shore, whose 27-month term as chair ended June 30.
“It’s interesting to see how things work at the university,” notes Samson-Verreault, who worked in human resources all her life – 30 years in public service and five years in the private sector. “It’s a very different world than where I have worked. It’s like a second career for me.”
At Newbridge Networks (now Alcatel), part of Samson-Verreault’s responsibility was managing the institute of learning. At Foreign Affairs, she oversaw management, foreign language and diplomatic training. She has also served on the board of governors for La Cité collégiale.
“Learning,” she says, “is continuous and has always been a priority for me.”
At Carleton, Samson-Verreault appreciates the high calibre of learning the institution represents.
“Carleton strives for excellence in its teaching, in its research and in all its services to the students, starting from the day a student inquires about courses until the day he or she graduates.”
The university also takes advantage of its location in the nation’s capital, she notes.
“Carleton has found its niche in Ottawa,” says Samson-Verreault, who is pleased to see Carleton offering a new political management program. “As a former civil servant, I see this as a key program. The upcoming MBA program with a concentration in international business, geared towards government employees, is also a real need.
“Carleton engages with the local community and partners with other local learning institutions for the benefit of the Ottawa population. It is a university that really connects with the community.”
The Lead to Win (LTW) program, which mentors business startups and encourages entrepreneurs to launch and develop technology companies, is one such program that helps stimulate the local economy.
“The LTW program is another example of the university linking in to the community.”
Impressed with Carleton’s success in modifying its programs to stay up-to-date, Samson-Verreault points to the new inter-disciplinary Institute of African Studies, which brings together expertise on African history, politics, literature, film, media, law, economics, society and culture; the new master of infrastructure protection and international security program; and the innovative Pauline Jewett Institute of Women’s and Gender Studies, which offers practicum courses for students interested in specific areas of research.
As board chair, Samson-Verreault believes it is her role to support president Roseann Runte and her executive team in implementing the university’s strategic plan, Defining Dreams.
“I see part of my role very much as a facilitator and a supporter for the management team. I see the board opening doors, raising funds, linking with other universities.”
Acutely aware of the current economic climate, Samson-Verreault perceives the financial issues facing all post-secondary institutions in Ontario as one of the most important challenges for the board.
“There are new programs and new services for students the university wants to offer but there is always the affordability issue.”
A second priority concerns striving for excellence in teaching.
“How do we ensure we always give the best service? How do we use technology to our best advantage? What is our role in the globalization issue? How do we increase our students’ experience abroad in the most effective way?”
Personally, Samson-Verreault finds her new job as chair exciting and enriching.
“I am working with people from all walks of life. I’m excited and fascinated.”