The incoming president of Red Deer College, Joel Ward, is used to taking on big challenges.
Ward is leaving his job as president and CEO of Assiniboine Community College in Brandon, Man., to replace retiring RDC president Ron Woodward on Sept. 1.
His most recent duties in Brandon involved developing a 10-year plan for a $150-million campus relocation for the Assiniboine facility, which included adapting some of the finest heritage buildings in Manitoba for college use.
As the new RDC president, Ward will also oversee a rapidly evolving and expanding campus.
Working for dynamic Red Deer College “is the perfect fit for the kind of leader and president that I am,” said Ward, who is in his 50s and describes himself as “a very open communicator,” who likes to collaborate with stakeholders on projects.
He sees a lot of similarities between Assiniboine Community College and Red Deer College: both are located in communities that serve a much wider rural area, and both offer education at offsite locations.
Red Deer College has a Confluence Campus in Rocky Mountain House and is looking at other opportunities to increase access for rural students.
As to whether this means opening more satellite campuses, Ward said he plans to consult with the college board and administrators to determine the best way Red Deer College can “not only support Red Deer, but the entire region, and make sure all areas are services and made relevant for learners.”
Red Deer College is halfway through the ambitious Building Communities Through Learning campus expansion. The first phase wrapped up with the completed centres for technology, innovation in manufacturing, corporate training and visual arts. But millions more dollars are needed to construct two large new complexes — the Centres for Health Education and Centre for Sport and Wellness in Phase 2.
Ward said he also looks forward to “moving forward” on this massive project, which will involve looking for government grants and other forms of funding.
But he sees his first challenge as getting to know the college community so he can take over from Woodward, who was an “extraordinary” president.
He’s already getting familiar with the Red Deer community by meeting Red Deer’s two MLAs and Mayor Morris Flewwelling. Ward and his Calgary-born wife, Lise, also toured the city this week and were impressed with everything Red Deer has to offer. “Do we like it? Are you kidding? We love it,” said Ward.
He and his wife, who have five grown children between them, including three in Calgary and two in Ontario, are excited about relocating to Red Deer this summer.
Herb Der, chair of the college board of governors, believes Ward will be a great fit with Red Deer College. “Joel brings with him extensive experience in college and community leadership, teaching, learning and program development.
“He is passionate about the important role that a college plays within the community and is looking forward to making an impact in ours. We are thrilled to welcome him to Red Deer.”
The college students’ association also stated it’s excited about working with Ward.
Before spending six years in Brandon, Ward was associate dean of the School of Business at Sheridan College on Oakville, Ont., where he worked for a decade and taught business students.
He started out as an entrepreneur, running a computer business and deli-style restaurants.