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Algoma U Welcomes Post-Secondary Leader To New Nyaagaaniid Role

Mary Wabano – McKay brings extensive experience to senior executive team

(SAULT STE. MARIE, ON – October 21, 2020): Algoma University is pleased to announce that following an extensive executive search process, Mary Wabano-McKay has been selected to fill the Vice-President role of Nyaagaaniid – Student Success and Anishinaabe Initiatives. The position title of this newly created role, Nyaagaaniid, comes from the verb niigaanii (Ojibwe) meaning ‘to lead’.  

Reporting to the President and Vice-Chancellor of Algoma University, the Nyaagaaniid – Student Success and Anishinaabe Initiatives sits as one of the Vice-Presidents on the University’s Senior Executive Team. Wabano-McKay will focus her leadership efforts on four key areas: student success, cultivating cross-cultural learning and teaching, the truth and legacy of the Shingwauk site and enhancing relationships and partnerships with the community. She will help to lead reconciliation and decolonization efforts and will fully oversee, as part of her responsibilities, the University’s Student Success and Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) strategies for the entire university.

“This is an exciting time for Algoma University as we continue to advance the University’s leadership and commitments to truth and reconciliation, and our Special Mission to cultivate cross-cultural learning,” stated Asima Vezina, President and Vice-Chancellor of Algoma University. “Mary will be a tremendous asset to the University as we move forward with an aggressive set of goals and aspirations. Through this extensive national search, Mary has demonstrated she has the breadth of leadership skills and experience to lead this very comprehensive portfolio for the University forward.” 

Wabano-McKay, who will commence her new role on January 11, 2021, brings over 20 years of academic leadership experience. Wabano-McKay holds a Master’s degree in Social Work from Carleton University and an Honours Bachelor of Social Work from Laurentian University. She leaves her current role as Director Academic Leadership and Business Development at Canadore College in North Bay where she successfully led engagement with Indigenous peoples, communities and Nations; championing the educational aspirations of Indigenous communities and supporting student success and wellness services for learners and their families.

“I am excited to join the progressive team at Algoma University, a team with a strong forward vision for Anishinaabe leadership in higher education. I strongly believe that education is a vehicle in which to move us, as Indigenous people, toward positive lasting change in our communities and nations, to improve life outcomes for current and future generations. This includes building on the strengths of our languages, cultures, ways of knowing and embracing the best of western education”, says Wabano-McKay. 

Wabano-MacKay is well-known for her ability to motivate institutional change, creating institutional policies, practices and standards that address the full continuum of educational experiences of Indigenous learners within post-secondary environments. She continues to foster welcoming and safe learning spaces that celebrate the rich languages, histories and educational practices of Indigenous nations and demonstrates leadership with respect to Indigenous research, support services and academic programming. In collaboration with the Indigenous council, she provided institutional strategic leadership in support of academic programming as well as curriculum design and evaluation and brought to life the Village – a holistic Indigenous state of the art learning and research centre. Beyond her strong focus in Indigenous education, her experience spans mental health, administration and the health sector. Under Wabano-McKay’s leadership, the First Peoples’ Centre at Canadore College was awarded Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan) Gold in the Indigenous Education Excellence earlier this year. 

Mary currently serves as a member of the Actua Board, a national charity aimed at engaging youth in STEM experiences. She continues to serve on the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s Guiding Circle in the review of the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) First Nations program. She is a Master Trainer for the Mental Health Commission of Canada in the Mental Health First Aid First Nations course, and a facilitator for this and the MHFA for Those Who Interact with Youth courses. She serves on the provincial Indigenous Thought Leaders Council with the Ontario Colleges Quality Assurance Service (OCQAS) to provide ongoing communications with OCQAS and Indigenous educators in Ontario’s college sector. She continues to be an advocate for Indigenous peoples speaking nationally and regionally on reconciliation and Indigenous advancement.  

“On behalf of the Anishinaabe Peoples’ Council, I welcome Mary, the first vice-president of Anishinaabe descent at Algoma University, to our community. I want to commend the University for creating this significant new position, for coordinating the thorough search, and for ensuring the full engagement of the Anishinaabe community in this process. Mary’s tremendous leadership experience will undoubtedly have a positive impact on the important work underway to support both the academic success of our students and the University’s Special Mission,” affirms Thomas Kakapshe, Chair of the Anishinaabe Peoples’ Council and a member of the Nyaagaaniid Selection Committee. 

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