Dr. Chelsea Willness (PhD) begins her three-year term on January 1, 2020. (Photo: Submitted)

New university secretary and chief governance officer

The University of Saskatchewan (USask) has appointed Dr. Chelsea Willness (PhD) its next university secretary and chief governance officer for a three-year term beginning January 1, 2020.

Willness, currently associate dean, research and academic, and professor of organizational behaviour at the Edwards School of Business, previously served as acting chair of University Council (Nov. 2017 to Dec. 2018), as well as a member of council.

“Governance makes a place run, and having this opportunity to contribute to achieving our important societal goals really excites me,” said Willness, who earned her BA (Honours) in psychology at USask, and her MSc and PhD in industrial-organizational psychology from the University of Calgary. “I truly have a passion for matters of governance and process—that is reflected in my work both in practice and in academics.”

An active researcher with work published in top international journals, Willness’ research expertise covers areas including social and environmental responsibility, non-profit governance, student engagement and experiential learning, community partnerships and stakeholder engagement, as well as attracting, selecting and retaining talent.

“I am really passionate about our university and so grateful to be considered for this role,” said Willness, whose new role acts as a link between leadership and governing bodies at USask. “I find this work fascinating, and I respect its importance—I look forward to working with so many wonderful people toward achieving our strategic directions and mission.”

Matching her outstanding research record is Willness’ reputation as an accomplished teacher. Willness is the recipient of USask’s highest honour for teaching, the Master Teacher Award (2017), a USSU Teaching Excellence Award (2016), USask’s Award for Distinction in Community-Engaged Teaching and Scholarship (2014), the Provost’s College Award for Outstanding Teaching (2014), and the Innovation in Teaching Award from the Academy of Management (2012).

Among her teaching accomplishments, Willness created and implemented an experiential course that pairs business students with non-profit boards and community mentors for an eight-month governance practicum. Willness has a keen interest in governance and leadership development toward capacity building and organizational sustainability, and she is actively involved in governance initiatives in the not-for-profit sector.

“I am extremely proud to have Chelsea join the senior leadership team at USask,” said Peter Stoicheff, USask president and vice-chancellor. “Chelsea brings an outstanding mix of experience and knowledge related to policy and governance, as well as a very deep understanding of the post-secondary education landscape in Canada—all of which will contribute to USask being the university the world needs.”

Willness steps in for outgoing university secretary Dr. Beth Bilson (PhD), who has served in the role since February 2017.

“It was my honour to work alongside Beth for the last few years,” said Stoicheff. “I am very appreciative of the strong foundation Beth has created during her time in this role and look forward to how Chelsea builds from this.”

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