The territorial government has revealed the identity of its new senior manager charged with creating a new polytechnic university for the NWT.
Though the process of appointing someone to lead that process was slightly delayed, on Friday the territory said Dr Thomas Weegar had been chosen for the job.
“Dr Weegar’s role will be to lead the development and implement a made-in-the-north vision for post-secondary education in the NWT through the transformation of Aurora College into a polytechnic university,” read a territorial government statement.
Weegar will also act as the president of Aurora College as the transformation process begins.
The territory has long maintained the post is a temporary one – it will disappear once “this transformative project has been completed” – but there is no fixed timeline for how long that project will take.
Weegar arrives from Sir Sanford Fleming College in Ontario, said the territorial government, where – as a vice-president of the college – he held oversight of academic programming.
He was previously the president of Cumberland College in Saskatchewan, a regional college covering several communities in the province’s north-east.
“He brings over 20 years’ experience at the executive level in post-secondary education to his new position with a focus on transformational leadership, strategic planning, Indigenization and reconciliation,” the territorial government said in a statement.
Weegar’s full job title is Associate Deputy Minister of Postsecondary Education Renewal. He will be expected to oversee the vision for how Aurora College will become a polytechnic university, how that university will operate, and – importantly – where it will operate. The location and form of the university’s campuses, which remains to be determined, is already a cause for concern in Yellowknife, Inuvik, and Fort Smith.
Weegar arrives with much expected of his appointment, education minister Caroline Cochrane having previously declared: “We are looking for the best.”
In June last year, Cochrane told Cabin Radio: “We are looking for the right person – not to do all the work but to guide the ship, give direction, follow through, and make sure things are done properly.
“I’m sure somebody really qualified will step forward because this could actually make a name for them as well, if they came into the Northwest Territories and made it a destination polytechnic university. That’s incredible for anyone’s resumé.”
In prepared remarks on Friday, Cochrane said Weegar’s “background in Indigenous education is especially relevant and important here in the North.”