Veronica Thompson appointed Royal Roads VP Academic and Provost

September 18, 2020
By: 
Lisa Weighton

Royal Roads University’s Board of Governors is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Veronica Thompson as the university’s new vice-president academic and provost, effective Jan. 1, 2021.

Thompson follows Dr. Stephen Grundy in the role, who served as VPA and provost for nine years and stepped down to return to teaching in April 2020. Dr. William Holmes, dean of the Faculty of Management, has since served as interim in the role.

Thompson has served in a variety of academic and administrative positions at the University of Calgary, Mount Royal College, Red Deer College and Athabasca University. She is the current dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (FHSS) and associate professor of English at Athabasca University, where she has also held the role of chair of the Centre for Language and Literature. 

“I’m thrilled to welcome Dr. Thompson as our new vice-president academic and provost,” says Royal Roads President Philip Steenkamp. “Her wealth of academic leadership experience and demonstrated commitment to diversity, collaboration and inclusion makes her a natural fit for Royal Roads as we move into our next 25 years and embrace our new Vision.”

With a background in postcolonial literature, Thompson’s research explores power, injustice, identity and belonging.

Having studied diverse topics from maternity and imperialism, to postcolonial South African literature, to literary representations of terrorism, all through a postcolonial lens, Thompson says she’s drawn to understanding stories—both in terms of who holds the pen and who is central to the narrative.

Interrogating power

“We must constantly interrogate power—who is in the centre, whose voices are being heard, and who is marginalized,” she says.

Her interest in this subject has been at the core of her academic work but was reinforced by Anita Rau Badami’s 2007 novel, Can you hear the nightbird call?, which ends in the 1985 explosion on board Air India Flight 182. Everyone was killed. Most of them were Canadians.

It was the first time Thompson learned the details of Canada’s worst terrorist attack in history and she was struck by how unknown the event was.

“It was in ways erased from narratives of Canadian history. In the responses to the event, there was a whole exclusion of people who had long histories in Canada,” she says, adding that this demonstrates the ongoing legacies of colonization. 

“My scholarship unpacks that to find space for the inclusion of all voices,” she says.

It’s a thread she’s tied into her work over the last nine years as FHSS dean at Athabasca University as well.

Collaborative leadership

In the last nine years, Thompson has mobilized an increasingly diverse complement of faculty at Athabasca, with more than 80 per cent of new positions in FHSS being filled by those with diverse or intersectional identities.

“It’s important to me to ensure there’s a diversity of voices at the table and in the conversation,” she says.

Collaboration has always been a distinguishing characteristic of Thompson’s leadership style.

“No one person can have all the answers,” she says noting the importance of wide representation on planning and decision-making.

Shared values

It’s a value key to Royal Roads and its leadership as well—one of the many ways Thompson and her work at Athabasca University align.

“The two institutions share a commitment to online blended teaching and learning and the transformative nature of education for non-traditional learners who are able to have access in this kind of delivery model,” she says.

“Royal Roads’ core values of creativity and caring and courage are very inspiring values. I feel they align with many of us personally, but they’re also what this world needs to address the challenges we face into the future,” she says, referencing the university’s new Vision launched in celebration of its 25th anniversary.

“I’m very excited about the direction that Royal Roads has already set for the next 25 years and the contributions I can make to that.”