On Aug. 14, Kim Brooks began her five-year term as the 13th president and vice-chancellor of Dalhousie University. Brooks has been a faculty member at Dal for 13 years, serving as a leader and inspiration to many staff and students.
The Board of Governors for the university announced Brooks as the next president on July 19, 2023. Brooks had been holding the role of acting provost and vice-president academic, to support the change of presidents.
Brooks was elected based on a presidential search committee headed by Cheryl Fraser, board chair. Representatives of the Senate, Board, administration and student body made up the committee.
Fraser told Dal News, “We were seeking a president with the energy, passion and commitment to capitalize on the tremendous opportunities ahead for our university.”
Candidates from across Canada were considered for the job of Dalhousie president and vice-chancellor. Fraser said it was Brooks’ outstanding qualifications and skills that set her apart.
“Anyone who has gotten to know Dr. Brooks (…) has been witness to her exceptional leadership that puts integrity and empathy first, with a steadfast commitment to inclusion and community,” Fraser said.
Brooks is the first woman and openly queer person to be permanently appointed as Dalhousie president. She admires the progress made throughout the decades to diversify the university but admits it surprises her that gender is still an issue to speak on.
“Here we are in 2023 and it is still important that we see more diverse role models and mentors in leadership roles around campus,” Brooks wrote in an email to The Dalhousie Gazette. “So while it feels encouraging, on one hand, it also highlights that we still have more work to do to create more inclusive campuses and societies as a whole.”
Over Brooks’ career at Dalhousie she had the distinction of being the dean of two faculties. She served as dean of the Schulich School of Law and transformed the school with the help of a large investment from Seymour Schulich. Alongside the School of Law, she served as the Purdy Crawford Chair in Business Law until she began as dean of the Faculty of Management in 2020.
Brooks believes in the power of collaboration and diversity, including colleagues within her schools, students and members of the greater community. She was a co-chair of the committee that wrote the 2015 Belong report, which made 15 broad recommendations and outlined more than 60 activities for the university to undertake in pursuit of a more diverse and inclusive campus.
“Having a sense of the experience of students (…) is the only way for us to make sure we keep the work of the University aligned with their shifting needs and interests.”
Putting students first
As dean of Law and Management, Brooks focused on bringing different perspectives, views and interests to the table. She especially loved getting to know the students in both the faculties she headed and her classes.
“They are dynamic, thoughtful, smart, funny and they care about the world,” said Brooks.
Brooks doesn’t think people can overestimate the challenges faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This feels like the first year we are able to return completely to spending time together in person, without COVID posing a significant distraction, and I’m excited to do that,” she wrote.
Brooks thinks getting to know students of all years is the best way to know how to evolve as a university.
“Students are the lifeblood of our campus,” Brooks said. “I’m keen to get to know our students better at athletics events, in dining halls, around our campuses, and in the couple of classes I still have the privilege to teach.”
Despite her long and successful career in academics, Brooks told The Dalhousie Gazette that this wasn’t always her aspiration.
“I dreamed of being a veterinarian who married a farmer. But then I realized that there is no world in which I could give a needle so I had to reimagine my future.”