New dean's goal is perpetual learning

October 20, 2005, vol. 34, no. 4
By Susan Jamieson-McLarnon



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John LaBrie has taken a somewhat convoluted route to his new post as dean of continuing studies at Simon Fraser University. And he says he's enjoyed pretty well every minute of it.

Born in the U.S. to a New Brunswick francophone father and French-speaking U.S. mother, he attributes his fluency in French to his father who insisted their conversations be in French.

“My French immersion was a familial one,” he says. “If it had not been for my father refusing to speak English to me I would have, I think, lost all of my francophone roots.”

The last of nine children and the first one in his family to attend university, LaBrie's first degree at the University of Maine was in bicultural studies and was followed 10 years, and several jobs, later by another bachelor of arts degree in French. He recalls, “as a young student the francophone issue was front and centre for me and it still is extremely important. I am sensitive to issues of ethnic minority rights within larger cultures, primarily because of my presence as a francophone in an anglophone world.”

LaBrie uses a pipeline analogy to describe his academic progress. “I was one of the leaky drips out of the pipeline. I didn't naturally go from high school to college to graduate school to doctoral work. I kept falling out of the system but the system was organic enough to accept me back in, usually through a continuing education program.”

He completed a master of science degree in administration management at Vermont's St. Michael's College in six years. His doctorate in higher education management at the University of Pennsylvania took two years.

“I got speed up as I went through the education pipeline.”

Looking to the future he sees SFU continuing studies as an academic enterprise valued by the entire institution. “We have a substantial platform to build on so we can put our energy into other areas that I think are pretty exciting. I want to have learning happening in a whole variety of communities and at different levels of society. We tend to forget that it's not just continuing education - it's perpetual learning.

“It's an aggressive agenda but I have a terrific staff. We're going to play to our strengths and that's where we are headed.”

LaBrie joined SFU at the beginning of the fall semester from Brown University in Rhode Island where he was director of program development for summer and continuing studies.

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