Ron Jackson may be the new chair of Carleton’s Board of Governors but he’s not new to the university.
Prior to moving into the chair’s seat, the Carleton alumnus served on the board for eight years in a number of capacities, including most recently as its vice-chair.
Jackson was originally recruited to the board by former board chair Allan Lumsden, who was also his colleague at Price/Waterhouse/Coopers.
“He knew I was an alumnus of Carleton and he knew I had some interest in getting involved in the community or with some not-for-profit organization,” recalls Jackson, a native of Perth who graduated in 1973 with a commerce degree from Carleton. “I felt it was good to give something back and to help out.”
From the beginning of his involvement with the board, Jackson says his background in finance and accounting made him a natural fit with the finance and audit committee.
And given the fact that Carleton – along with all Ontario universities – face significant financial-related issues in the coming couple of years, his vast experience is going to continue to come in handy.
“The issues have changed, partly, with the economy and the markets taking a downfall in 2008. It’s had a significant impact on pensions – so that would not have been an issue early on, pre-2008. Likewise, the government mandate and the provincial deficit – would not have had as much of an impact on universities as they do now,” says Jackson.
“My vision aligns closely with the president’s. The mission is to see if we can solve some of those problems over the next couple of years by working with the province and working closely with (Carleton’s) management.”
As chair he is, de facto, a member of all the committees of the Board of Governors – which involve in excess of 30 meetings a year, as well as attending functions – on campus and off. Jackson participates in the spring and fall convocations and if he cannot attend, the duty usually falls to his vice-chair, Tony Tattersfield.
The issues facing Carleton in the coming months and next few years are not unique to the university; they are challenges that most universities across the province are facing, Jackson says. And he knows because, as chair, he also sits on the Council of Chairs of Ontario Universities (CCOU) and hears the same concerns across the board.
Those issues include tuition and the tuition framework, Jackson says. The Ontario government’s tuition framework expires in April 2013 and it’s not yet known how the province wants to proceed on that front.
While Jackson says Carleton is in “very good order” financially, the university will continue, to grapple with pension deficiencies – a situation that is directly linked to the stock markets and interest rates.
And a third major issue is what is known as the provincial mandate agreement and the fact that all Ontario universities had to submit their multi-year plan outlining what sets them apart from other institutions.
“I think we’re in for a much more hands-on approach from the province than they have had in the past,” says Jackson. Whatever the province decides – it will “put a lot of pressure” on all universities – not only Carleton to respond,” says Jackson, an avid skier, golfer and fisherman.
“There are some significant challenges in the next one and two years.”
Recruiting and retention of students will continue to be an ongoing priority, he says.
“Being competitive as a university comes down to the programs that we deliver … you have to have the programs that students want. The other thing that’s happened at Carleton over the last few years is the modernization of programs that actually meet what the students want to do now,” Jackson says.
“Whatever we do has to be in the best interests of the students.”