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Meet the 13 new governors of Aurora College

The Aurora College campus in Fort Smith. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio

Aurora College has announced the composition of its new board of governors, almost six years after the last board was dismissed.

Removal of the NWT college’s board in 2017 by the territorial government formed a prelude to a full review of its operations and, ultimately, the decision to transform it into a polytechnic university.

That transformation is set to be substantially complete by 2025. The newly reinstated board, with 13 new members joining existing president Glenda Vardy Dell, will form a third of an eventual three-part governance system.

Vardy Dell says the three-group – or tricameral – system, which features the board alongside an academic council and a council of Indigenous knowledge-holders, is “the first of its kind” in Canada due to its inclusion of a council “comprised of only Indigenous people from across the NWT.”



The board and two councils are designed to have separate, interlocking roles.

The governors will be responsible for the long-term vision of the college and, later, the university. The board will “play an intermediary role,” the GNWT has said in the past, between the education minister and the institution as the college moves away from direct government control to an arm’s-length model.

The academic council will look after programming at the college and then at the university. The Indigenous knowledge-holders’ council will “promote policies and operational decisions that foster the success of Indigenous students and staff.”

Those two councils remain unfilled. The academic council’s members are expected to be named by August this year, with the Indigenous knowledge-holders’ council members named by March 2024.



The guidelines for the board specify that there should be at least 14 members, including two members of staff, a student, five Indigenous NWT residents, the president and a range of others representing different skills and sectors.

A call for applicants went out in August last year.

The 13 people announced as governors on Monday are:

  • Kevin Antoniak, Fort Smith
  • Richard Boudreault, Montreal
  • Tom Colosimo, Hay River
  • Cayla Gillis, Fort Smith
  • Joe Handley, Yellowknife
  • Dave Hurley, Yellowknife
  • Stephanie Irlbacher-Fox, Yellowknife
  • Lucy Kuptana, Tuktoyaktuk
  • Rebecca Plotner, Yellowknife
  • Wanda Roberts, Yellowknife
  • Jack Rowe, Hay River
  • Lorraine Tordiff, Fort Smith
  • Xiaoyi Yan, Yellowknife

Though no biographies were provided, names on the list include former NWT premier Joe Handley, Tuktoyaktuk senior administrator Lucy Kuptana, and McGill University’s Richard Boudreault, inaugural chair of Polar Knowledge Canada and chair of the First Nations University of Canada.

Though no Inuvik residents were listed in Monday’s announcement – Inuvik being one of Aurora College’s three present main campuses – public governance specialist Stephanie Irlbacher-Fox, now in Yellowknife, was raised in Inuvik. Kuptana more broadly represents the Beaufort Delta region.

Denny Rodgers has served as the GNWT-appointed administrator of Aurora College in the absence of a board, fulfilling most of the same roles. Rodgers has now “completed his term,” a spokesperson for the college said by email after this article was first published, having earlier said the transition from Rodgers to the board was still under way.

Rodgers alluded to his departure in Monday’s news release. He was quoted as saying he had “enjoyed the challenges and opportunities the role of Aurora College administrator has offered.”

In the same news release, Vardy Dell said the board would help the college and subsequent university “become increasingly effective, efficient, sustainable and better positioned to demonstrate leadership in the delivery of relevant and meaningful education and research rooted in strong connections and northern land, tradition, community and people.”

The college’s spokesperson, updating an earlier statement, said late on Monday a chair of the board had been appointed but details of that appointment were not yet available.