Western University VP Research joins Brock Nov. 1
Lesley Rigg, a highly accomplished academic leader, research scientist and professor, is Brock’s next President and Vice-Chancellor.
Rigg assumes her new role Nov. 1 following an international search for the next University President. A highly skilled forest ecologist and biogeographer, she currently serves as Vice-President (Research) and Professor of Geography at Western University in London, Ont.
“Dr. Rigg brings more than 25 years of academic and research leadership experience to Brock, having served in Canada and in the United States as a vice-president, dean, scientist and professor,” says Mark Arthur, Chair of the Brock University Board of Trustees. “Lesley’s many accomplishments in labs and in the field, in classrooms and across campuses, are matched by her inspiring and well-demonstrated commitment to inclusivity and diversity. It is an optimistic approach that puts students, faculty and staff first. We are truly fortunate to welcome her to our community.”
Rigg says it is a “distinct privilege to be invited to join Brock at this pivotal time in its history.”
“We are emerging from the challenges of the pandemic and the work of the University is essential as our community recovers and seizes new opportunities. I have long admired Brock’s impressive students, our outstanding faculty and researchers and our wonderful staff, who together make up a university striving to be welcoming, diverse and inclusive,” she says. “Over the years, I have been excited to watch as Brock evolved and advanced to become a leading student-centred comprehensive university. As I arrive in Niagara, I am fortunate to be joining such an accomplished and welcoming community. I have a deep-seated optimism for the future of Brock.”
At Western, Rigg leads the research enterprise of one of Canada’s foremost research-intensive universities. She is responsible for both the strategic vision and daily operation of Western Research and is the lead internal and external advocate for research, creativity and innovation on campus. During her time in London, she led the creation of a new strategic plan for Western Research, with a vision to stimulate research, scholarship and creative activity.
Prior to arriving at Western, she served as Dean of the Faculty of Science and Professor, Biological Sciences at the University of Calgary, where she led one of the largest Faculties on campus spanning six departments and five multidisciplinary programs.
Her experience also includes significant leadership at Northern Illinois University. There, she served as Vice-President for Research and Innovation Partnerships and other roles including Associate Dean Research and Graduate Affairs in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Rigg’s lived experience informs her understanding of the significant impacts a university can have on its community and on its students. She was the child of a single mother and is the first in her family to go to university.
“I have experienced first-hand the transformative impacts education has on a student and on a family,” she says. “Brock’s emphasis and proven track record ensuring the health, well-being and success of students is foundational to our future. Together, we must ensure there is just, equitable and fair access to all areas of our campus, and we must openly demonstrate that this is an inclusive and welcoming university where everyone has the same opportunity to benefit and to contribute.”
Rigg says she was encouraged by Brock’s recent undertakings to recruit more Indigenous and Black scholars.
“I am particularly focused on partnering with our Indigenous communities to further the gains Brock has made in truth and reconciliation and in creating a more welcoming campus for equity-deserving students, staff and faculty,” she says.
As an accomplished scientist and research administrator, Rigg prioritizes supporting researchers, scholars and students working across campus to innovate, create and spark breakthrough discoveries.
“As a comprehensive university, Brock’s commitment to our researchers and research activities is of utmost importance,” she says. “Brock has enjoyed considerable successes in creating an environment where breakthrough discoveries and impactful scholarship thrive. I am looking forward to working with our entire community to continue this upward trajectory and to catalyze future growth.”
Rigg earned her bachelor’s degree in geography and environmental studies from York University in Toronto, her master’s degree in geography from the University of Colorado and her PhD in geography and environmental studies at Australia’s University of Melbourne. Her teaching career began as a lecturer at Melbourne in 1997.
She is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society of Canada, an executive committee member of the Ontario Council on University Research (OCUR) and the recipient of many honours, including the Alberta SHEInnovator Award and the Women of Inspiration, Vision Builder Award for Western Canada. Rigg’s partner is David Goldblum, an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and Environment at Western University.
Throughout her career, engaging with communities has been a hallmark of Rigg’s leadership. She says Brock’s multi-layered relationships and connections with the communities it serves are a key reason she’s eager to begin her term at the University.
“Brock’s origin story begins with a group of dedicated women in the community advocating for a new university. That was nearly 60 years ago and the voices and actions of the Allanburg Women’s Institute ring clear today,” she says. “Brock is closely interwoven with Niagara and communities beyond. We serve our neighbours in so many impactful ways, while being the beneficiary of the rich and diverse communities that are part of our campuses. Deepening these ties and building new relationships will be key as we move forward.”
Brock’s President and Vice-Chancellor provides leadership to the community to collaboratively develop and achieve the University’s goals. She ensures that the University pursues its vision and delivers on its mission, while demonstrating a commitment to Brock’s values. The role is responsible for inclusive leadership and effective bi-cameral governance. The President oversees the implementation of the educational policy and general administration of Brock and ensures a culture of academic freedom, research excellence and institutional autonomy. The President advocates for the University’s interests with government and other key stakeholders and works with the community to enhance Brock’s reputation. She is responsible for ensuring Brock’s fundraising and advancement activities are robust and that alumni are engaged in the life of the University.
The Brock University Board of Trustees approved the appointment following a recommendation from the Advisory Committee on the Presidency and after consulting with the University Senate. The search began in June 2021 after former President Gervan Fearon left to become the President of George Brown College. Since that time, Provost Lynn Wells has served as Interim President.
“On behalf of our entire community, I want to thank Interim President and Provost Lynn Wells for her superb leadership over the past year. It has been an incredibly complex and challenging time for all universities and for our students and staff,” Arthur says. “Dr. Wells has led with integrity, compassion and a keen focus ensuring Brock emerges from this pandemic stronger than ever. We are deeply grateful for her commitment to Brock and to our students, faculty and staff.”
Incoming President Rigg will be spending time on campus this fall as she prepares to begin her role in November.
“I am so looking forward to meeting with our community of students, faculty and staff and getting to better know our campus,” she says. “The coming academic year promises to be an exciting one with a near-record incoming class, a full return to campus and a complete resumption of our teaching, learning, research and student activities. I cannot wait to get started!”