Debra Pozega Osburn (photo by David Stobbe)

A lifetime of learning

Education can change lives. That’s something Debra Pozega Osburn has seen firsthand.

By Kris Foster

“I can tell hundreds of stories about people whose lives were changed by access to education,” said Pozega Osburn, who started her role as vice-president, university relations Oct. 1. “I saw how education changed the course of my family’s history.”

Pozega Osburn’s parents grew up in a small mining town in the upper peninsula of Michigan. Her father joined the Marine Corps shortly after graduating from high school, fought in the Korean War and then, when his service concluded, took advantage of the G.I. Bill that supported soldiers who wanted to pursue post-secondary education. Her mother also pursued post-secondary education, starting at a community college and then, some years later, finishing at a university.

Both parents became public school teachers and “spent their careers encouraging people to learn and grow,” said Pozega Osburn, who earned a bachelor’s degree in jour- nalism and a master’s and PhD in American studies from Michigan State University.

“My father and mother were the first members of our family to have access to university education,” Pozega Osburn said. “But if they had not had that access to university education, frankly, I would probably be in a very different place because I understood university as being something that was accessible.”

After a 13-year career telling stories as a journalist, a career that included stints as a reporter and editor with The Lansing State Journal as well as covering sports for USA Today, Pozega Osburn looked to her family’s story to find her own career passion.

“You do get to a point in your career when you understand that you do have a passion for something,” she said. “When I started thinking about a career change, I was very motivated to be in the post-secondary sector because I so believed in, and still do believe in, the difference it makes in people’s lives.”

She has followed that passion ever since, pursuing opportunities from Michigan State University to the University of Alberta (U of A) to her current role at the
U of S where she will
oversee a portfolio that
includes sharing stories
about all the great things
happening at the U of S
and building strong relationships with alumni,
donors and other key university stakeholders.

“When you do what I do in the post-secondary sector, you build awareness and you build understanding with people that this is their university, they can come here, be here and be a part of this place,” said Pozega Osburn.

And it’s a place Pozega Osburn is excited to be a part of, too, she explained. “Things are happening here. The University of Saskatchewan is on the move; I see here a certain kind of ambition for the university to change and grow—and I don’t mean necessarily to grow in size, but to grow in its scope and impact and so forth. I really see that at the University of Saskatchewan.” Pozega Osburn, who most recently served as vice-president university relations at the U of A, a position she held for the past six years, will lead the University Relations team—a team responsible for Alumni and Community Relations, Development and Fundraising, and Marketing and Communications—working to ensure that the U of S has the reputation, relationships and resources necessary to achieve its goals.

A key part of that for Pozega Osburn, perhaps what was most attractive for her, is the university’s commitment to engaging with communities near and far in meaningful ways.

“I see a really firm commitment to communities, particularly the commitment to Indigenous communities. I would argue that this is a key part of the U of S story,” said Pozega Osburn.

“Understanding the genuine story of the U of S is job one for me,” said Pozega Osburn. “I don’t come in and invent that story; I work with the community and my colleagues in University Relations to discover it and build our reputation around that (story). When we do that, and we will do it, it will be really powerful.”