Embracing a Bold New Future
Dr. Donna Rogers has assumed the position of Interim Principal of Brescia University College for a one-year term as of July 1, 2015. Since her arrival at Brescia on July 1, 2013, as Vice-Principal and Academic Dean, Dr. Rogers has quickly immersed herself in the community and has consistently demonstrated what it means to be a genuine and bold leader in today’s changing world.
Congratulations on assuming the position of Interim Principal of Brescia University College! Were you always interested in a role within a university? What career path led you to education? What inspired you to go down this path?
As a girl, I was interested in a variety of professions, such as a police officer, a teacher, a psychologist, a politician, a diplomat, and a translator. Between my M.A. and my Ph.D, I worked as a translator for three years at Shaver Poultry Breeding in Cambridge, Ontario. While there, I managed in the advertising and sales promotion department for a brief period, but mostly I translated documents: business correspondence, breeding manuals, disease control manuals, and technical articles about poultry breeding, genetics, and management.
After completing my Ph.D, I chose an academic career because I was eager to continue learning and I discovered as a grad student that I loved teaching! Over the years, I’ve been a Department Chair, Associate Dean, Dean, and now I’ll be an Interim Principal. Each of these steps has challenged me to learn more about the university, how it works, and how it’s governed. I still have a lot to learn, but am excited about the work to come!
What specifically attracted you to a school centered on women’s education? Why do you see an all-women’s education as being so important?
Brescia was a natural fit for me, as I have a deep belief in the power and diversity of women’s leadership, and I was drawn to the concept of promoting and nurturing that leadership from an academic level.
Prior to Brescia, I had worked at four other excellent universities throughout my career, and they all offered wonderful educational programs. Brescia has these too, but what makes us so special and unique is that we also recognize and activate women’s particular learning styles and offer a strongly student-centred experience. It’s a powerful combination!
Beyond the excellent academic programs and student-centred environment we offer, it’s hard to describe in words the spirit of Brescia and why I and so many others are drawn here: it’s in the air, in the experiences, in the institution, and in each other.
Brescia is experiencing exciting change and transition. What do you see on the horizon, and what are you hoping to accomplish over the next year?
Universities, by their nature, are in a constant state of change. They’re dynamic institutions: every year a new class begins, and every year a class of graduates moves out into the world beyond Brescia – with confidence and optimism. We create new programs to prepare students for the world of today and tomorrow – it’s natural!
For the coming year, we have some important work ahead of us to begin instituting many of the initiatives in Shaping Lives of Purpose. It’s exciting to see that we’ve already accomplished important elements, such as the Brescia Competencies. My main goals are to put more of those pieces in place, and to complete Brescia’s next strategic plan.
Brescia prides itself in creating and enhancing leadership within its community. How would you describe your leadership style?
My personal leadership style is centred on collaboration – working together as a team to create and achieve a common goal. My leadership style is by no way authoritarian; I do not like to stand in front of a group saying, “Here’s what we’re going to do.” For me, it has to start with the collaborative part: to listen, hear, understand, decide, and lead!
From your time as a student, do you remember your first day at university? What poster did you have on your dorm-room wall?
I did my Undergraduate at the University of Waterloo, majoring in Latin and Spanish. On my first day, I remember being incredibly nervous and feeling like I was in over my head. I felt that my fellow classmates could see right through me, and would think I was too inexperienced or unready for university. I find that in a new experience, like your first day of university, the hardest thing to do is to simply enter the situation or open a door. Once you open that door, as I learned in my first year, it’s usually okay!
When I think about Orientation Week, I know students have a great deal of apprehension when entering university, whether it is social or academic. But, what amazes me every year is that they take the chance to open the door and come to Brescia.
During my Undergraduate, I still lived at home, so I didn’t have the typical residence experience. However, on my room wall at home were classic ‘70’s music posters – but definitely not disco!
What is something people don’t know about you that is surprising?
Something about me that isn’t well-known is that I have been creating and tending bonsai trees for over 20 years. I find it fascinating to look at the tree as a blank slate and envision the way I want it to look, then to prune, shape, and train it patiently so that it achieves that form. It’s the resilient nature of the trees themselves that makes bonsai work so rewarding—the trees respond to the bonsai care with their own particular beauty.
What drives and inspires you every day?
As an educator, I would definitely say students are my prime inspiration. Every year we receive new, intelligent, and bold students who consistently surprise and inspire me. They are regularly doing things they are afraid of and taking chances to foster a great future for themselves! It’s hard to not be inspired by their bravery and spirit.
Secondly, Colleen Hanycz certainly inspired me with her leadership. In the two years I worked with her, she gave so much to me and the school. She worked tirelessly to elevate Brescia and make it the best school for women’s leadership!
Lastly, I feel as if I have an obligation to serve this wonderful community, and this responsibility drives me daily. I know there is work to be done here, and I am ready to roll up my sleeves and get to it! I never do anything the same as those before me, but I will build on the great work Colleen Hanycz accomplished and continue to work my hardest for the betterment of Brescia!