Mary Bluechardt is a member of Universities Canada’s board of directors and the president of Mount Saint Vincent University.
What advice would you offer women pursuing leadership positions in their fields?
First and foremost, I would encourage them to be true to themselves. Determine your boundaries, your potential, and, most critically, your self-worth. Then let no barrier stop you from achieving your goals. Be a mentor and seek a mentor. There is perhaps no greater gift we can give one another than our time and talent. Harness the power of mentorship to transform your experience and career, and perhaps set a career in motion for another. Finally, embrace life-long learning! The benefits of a continual pursuit of knowledge and new experience are infinite.
How do you define success?
Honestly, I don’t feel as though I have ever been governed by the conventional trappings/understanding of success, rather, my focus has always been on pursuing those endeavors for which I had a strong passion. While passion can be an overutilized word, when it is coupled with an insatiable desire to make a difference – it becomes incredibly significant. That is the way in which I would characterize my life – both from a career, and a personal standpoint. This combination has afforded me the great privilege of making a difference – in the lives of students who seek education as the means to a life beyond their imaginings and to Special Olympians who live their lives with no self-imposed limitations, requiring only the opportunity to demonstrate their contributions and abilities to reach their greatest potential.
If you could start your career again, what is one thing you would do differently?
Equity, diversity and inclusion were not prominent in the conversations we were having when I began my career in academia; and this is perhaps the singular most important change that I would make.
What is the most enriching part about being a leader in higher education?
People’s varying backgrounds and abilities. I find myself ever curious, and sincerely so, to explore and immerse myself in our diverse university community of faculty, staff and students – and to watch as this expanse of experience, in all of its forms, comes together to form a powerful collective that is Mount Saint Vincent University.
What are the keys to advancing equity, diversity and inclusion in higher education?
Engaging the campus community in a conversation about what equity, diversity and inclusion mean to them – and actively listening to that conversation. This must be an ongoing process – and it very clearly takes all of us. Based on diverse input, supporting policies and procedures can be put in place, but the conversation can’t stop there. A culture of inclusion and respect has to be continually fostered, and is key to a university’s broader success.