The trailblazer

The trailblazer

< Back to Articles | Topics: Member Profile | Contributors: Najah Dhuny (Program Coordinator - Co-op, Halifax Chamber) | Published: March 1, 2023

An inspiring journey with Dr. Joël Dickinson, President and Vice-Chancellor of Mount Saint Vincent University

International Women’s Day, hosted annually on March 8, highlights why it is crucial to continue to uplift and showcase the women who are leading the way — women who inspire future generations of female leaders to strive for greatness.

Dr. Joël Dickinson is a seasoned academic administrator known for her innovative and impactful ideas. With a PhD in Psychology, Dickinson has had a successful career in higher education, having served in various leadership positions throughout her career. Having been raised in the Maritimes, Dickinson is delighted to return to her roots by serving as the next President and Vice Chancellor of Mount Saint Vincent University (MSVU).

Dickinson is grateful for the welcome she has received in Halifax. “I would like to highlight how welcoming everyone has been,” she says. “Not just at the university — the support I’m getting there is unbelievable and kind — but also from fellow university presidents and organizations like the Chamber who have invited me to several events to learn more about the challenges we are facing here and the brilliant people who are navigating those challenges.”

Emphasizing women in leadership

MSVU's 150th anniversary is a major focus for Dickinson and the university this year. Dickinson is eager to “celebrate this milestone with the university community and beyond” and reflect on the rich history of women's education at MSVU. As a female-led university, MSVU is dedicated to the advancement of women and is proud of its feminist focus.

Dickinson is passionate about undergraduate education and is dedicated to providing students with access to quality education and impactful experiences. “MSVU’s commitment to the advancement of women still runs deep — a century and a half after we were founded on that basis,” says Dickinson. “Of course, today we are a university for all people of all genders, but that has not diluted our feminist focus — rather, it has given it even greater strength.”

Dickinson is also committed to supporting the growth and development of women and underrepresented communities in Halifax. She is nurturing existing partnerships with organizations that provide hands-on learning experiences for MSVU students and is eager to build new relationships to expand opportunities for everyone. Dickinson is also working to diversify MSVU's offerings to include shorter and more accessible learning opportunities, particularly for new Canadians.

Lessening barriers

As a leader, Dickinson prioritizes equity, diversity, accessibility, and inclusion (DEA&I) in the university and local community. “With its 13 First Nations communities, the history and present of African Nova Scotians, and the massive growth in newcomers, Nova Scotia is a unique place for DEA&I work,” she says. “The level of sophistication for those working in DEA&I is impressive, and they are making massive strides.”

While we should celebrate these strides, Dickinson cautions that there is still much work to do. “Given the diversity of people living here, we must be considerate and thoughtful about how to provide broad support where we can,” she says. “There are unique barriers that exist and the intersectionality of these identities can be difficult to predict and navigate.”

Dickinson believes that it is essential to spend time listening to those with lived experiences to better understand and address the unique barriers they face. “It is so important to spend time listening to those with lived experiences,” she says. “No one can tell us what is standing in their way better than those trying to navigate a world that rarely takes their uniqueness into consideration.”

Looking ahead

Dickinson sees a bright future for Halifax and is excited about the growth and diversity the city is experiencing. She is encouraged by the expanding cultural opportunities, the diversity of thought among employees and students, and the expanding food scene. Diversity in Halifax will bring strength and improvement in all areas. “With diversity comes strengths and improvements in everything we do,” she says.

In the meantime, Dickinson is focused on listening and leadership. “The goal of any new leader is to first listen, learn, and get to know the culture of a place,” she says. “My goal now is to start nurturing the seeds. We have amazing people here who have innovative and impactful ideas. I see my role as helping to clear barriers so those ideas can come to fruition.”

Learn more about Mount Saint Vincent University by visiting:

< Back to Articles | Topics: Member Profile

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