Provost Matthew Evans is starting his term tackling old challenges and putting Queen’s strategic plan into action.
Appointed as the provost and vice-principal (academic) for a five-year term effective Aug. 1, Evans is focused on raising Queen’s teaching and learning profile while balancing the budget.
“My job as provost, as far as I’m concerned, is to support the University’s strategic initiatives,” Evans said in an interview with The Journal. “It’s kind of my job to translate that strategic, high-level stuff into what actually happens on the ground.”
To achieve the goals outlined in Queen’s strategic plan, Evans wants to attract top academic talent, and raise Queen’s international reputation.
“We need to become as well-known as possible. I think it’s a particular issue for Queen’s, oddly, almost because of our name. There are a lot of Queen’s things out there. We have to work out a way of making sure that when people think of Queen’s, they think of us,” Evans said.
Coming to Queen’s after serving as provost at United Arab Emirates University, Evans has experience in university leadership. He served as the dean of science at the University of Hong Kong and was the Head of the School of Biology and Chemical Sciences at Queen Mary University of London.
“It’s not like they’re all the same, but they overlap in terms of the fact that you’re interacting with faculty and students to try and produce the best kind of outcomes for both,” Evans said. “I enjoy doing that, I enjoy working with academics and students, that’s what makes the University work.”
Having met Principal Patrick Deane previously, Evans felt a move to Queen’s was the natural next step. During his five-year term, Evans hopes to see Queen’s improve its standing in the U15, while further diversifying the university community, and focusing on sustainability.
Evans highlighted Queen’s commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as demonstrating the impact the University can have. The University is developing a certificate program focused on the SDGs which Evans said may be up for approval next week.
“I have a personal commitment to environmental and social sustainability. That has guided a lot of the things I’ve been through in my life, my own research is in this area on climate change impacts,” Evan said.
An ecologist, Evans began his academic career studying bird populations in Kenya. In more recent times, his research pivoted to focus on climate change.
“As human beings we simply have to ensure that the environment, the planet on which we live, is passed on to future generations in a state that we’d be proud,” Evans said.
While he’s dreaming big, Evans was transparent about the challenges posed by Queen’s operating budget deficit. Under his portfolio, Evans is charged with managing the University’s operating budget. He said it will be hard work to balance the books over the next couple years.
“It will mean looking at the whole university and the whole way we do different things. We might have to change some of the way we do that,” Evans said.
Evans hears and understand the concerns of staff and graduate students struggling under the University’s tightened purse strings.
“There’s going to be some difficult decisions to make around that, and what the right levels are, what the right numbers of students are, and in the end, where the money comes from,” Evans said.
During his two months on the job, Evans has been encouraged by events held on campus. He reflected on the unveiling of the plinth honouring Black medical students, touched by the focus
on moving forward.
On Sept. 26, Evans attended Queen’s Scholars Reception, celebrating student scholarship recipients.
“There are a lot of very engaged and high achieving students. […] That was great. A lot of energy there, and a lot of very positive things happening,” Evans said.
Having lived around the world over the past decade, Evans is settling into Queen’s and Kingston.
“I’ve been happy that I’ve come here. Queen’s has been very welcoming. One thing I would say is that this is a place where people reach out and try and make you feel welcome.”
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