2019 Award for Excellence in Leadership: Vicki Kelly

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Since joining SFU’s Faculty of Education in 2007, Associate Professor, Vicki Kelly has embodied what it means to be an incredible leader, particularly when it comes to Indigenization in a post-secondary setting.

The impact of Kelly’s leadership efforts are felt at the individual, faculty, and institutional levels within SFU, but are also felt within the communities with which SFU engages.

Whether Kelly is supporting graduate students as a supervisor, advisor, or mentor, the impressions she leaves these students with is profound.

“It is only in hindsight that I am truly coming to understand the depth of Dr. Kelly’s teachings in that first course, and in my subsequent work with her. She has, quite literally, changed my life. Leadership is more than actions; it is a way of living. Dr. Kelly embodies authentic leadership and in so doing, inspires others to do the same,” shares doctoral student, Karen Alvarez.

Kelly’s influence at the individual level has also caught the attention of the Faculty administration.

“She is a major source of support to graduate students, who seek her counsel, wisdom and ‘being’. She gently helps faculty members navigate difficult emotional terrain, and encourages a genuine attitude of ‘Walk This Path With Us.’ And, she can always be counted on to bring perspective and respect to gatherings, whether they are formal welcomes (for example, to all incoming PDP students) or informal meetings within the Faculty,” shares Faculty of Education, Dean, Kris Magnusson.

Within the Faculty, Kelly has been at the heart of reconciliation and indigeneity. She was the inspiration and core lead for a co-created Graduate Diploma program for teachers, Indigenous Education: Education for Reconciliation, hosted jointly by the Skwxwu7mesh Uxwumixw (Squamish) and sahlwata7+ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations, the North Vancouver School District, and the Faculty. This is the first program in BC to involve reciprocal relations and collaboration between local First Nations, a school district, and a university founded on Indigenous knowledges and pedagogies.

Kelly was a key member of committees involved in the creation of three Faculty structures: the Office of Indigenous Education (with a full-time Director); the creation of a co-governance body, the Indigenous Education and Reconciliation Council; and, the creation of a new administrative role, Associate Dean, Indigenous Education and Reconciliation.

At the institutional and community levels, Kelly co-developed and collaboratively led the fall 2016 SFU President’s Dream Colloquium on Returning to the Teachings: Justice, Identity and Belonging, which was also in partnership with the Skwxwu7mesh Uxwumixw (Squamish),  sahlwata7+ (Tsleil-Waututh), xʷəәθkwəәy̓əәm  (Musqueam) and q̓ic̓əәy̓ (Katzie) Nations. This interdisciplinary course with public lectures was presented predominantly through the pedagogy of ceremony which had profound effect on all those that participated. It brought to life what it means to work together in responding to the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, further rippling outward into the individual, faculty and institutional levels as these teachings, knowledges, and practices continue to evolve as foundations of indigeneity.

“She exemplified humility, grace, and perseverance through her willingness to learn from and with the various host Nations and their ceremonial protocols often in the moment of ceremony while on stage. This is not to suggest a tremendous amount of work and learning did not happen prior to the Colloquium, but rather to recognize Dr. Kelly showed her students, her colleagues, and the general public insight into a rare form of leadership—the capacity to lead by example whilst in the process of learning herself,” shares doctoral student, Kelly Robinson.

Magnusson sums up Kelly’s leadership style when he states, “There are some who are leaders by virtue of position, and others who lead by virtue of character and vision; Dr. Kelly is surely one of our best examples of the latter.”