Lesley Beagrie, associate dean of professional and global programs in the Faculty of Health, has been elected to the executive committee of the Senior Women Academic Administrators of Canada (SWAAC) for a three-year term.
A national organization, SWAAC was founded in 1987 to provide a forum and a collective voice for women in senior administrative ranks in Canadian universities, colleges and technical institutes. But as one of three executives representing this province, and the only one representing an Ontario university, Beagrie is also excited at the prospect of helping people at SWAAC understand what York University has to offer.
Beagrie first joined SWAAC when she became director of York’s School of Nursing for a four-year stint beginning in 2004. “At that time, I found myself at a loss. We’re not hired as professors for our academic administrative expertise,” she says. Joining SWAAC allowed her to plug into a network of women in similar positions, and to gain the tools and skills, such as budgeting and managing people, that she needed to be successful as an academic administrator.
What she found was that “a lot of people had the same issues as I had about academic administration”, says Beagrie, who started the nursing program at Trent University from scratch before joining York. “We need to build our leadership skills, and we want to know how to be a change agent, a visionary in a leadership role.”
Mentoring was a big part of that initial learning curve and something that Beagrie feels is important across the board, whether the person is a new faculty member or a recently appointed academic administrator. She says having someone mentor her was extremely valuable and she looks forward to mentoring others. “To me, it’s a really important thing to give back.”
Mentoring is one of the ways SWAAC drives its prime purpose of promoting female leadership in academia, along with developing and enhancing leadership skills, recognizing exceptional leaders, and networking and communicating.
Beagrie encourages all new women administrators at York to join SWAAC, especially for the networking.
What many people don’t realize, and so don’t always go for the administrative position, is that is can be incredibly rewarding, says Beagrie. As an executive member of SWAAC, Beagrie says she can play a role in enhancing and supporting policy around women academic administrators.