‘Coming full circle in the journey of life’ for Karen Ragoonaden
New dean’s appointment a return for alumna
For the Faculty of Education’s new dean, Karen Ragoonaden (MA/’93), the appointment this summer was “coming full circle in the journey of life.”
Her family immigrated to Canada in 1974, landing in Winnipeg where Ragoonaden earned a master’s degree from the University of Manitoba, and a bachelor of arts and a certificate in education from l’Université de Saint-Boniface. A global citizen, born in the UK and having lived in Mauritius and Ireland, Ragoonaden quickly felt welcome in Winnipeg’s rich culture of language, spirituality, and celebrations, such as Folklorama, the Folk Festival.
Manitoba’s ‘robust arts culture’
“In terms of music, theater, dance, cinema … I was drawn back to the really robust arts culture that exists in Manitoba,” Ragoonaden said.
Ragoonaden returns to U of M, having held several leadership roles at the University of British Columbia (UBC), including as professor and director, Centre for Mindful Engagement; director, Professional Development Programs and the Summer Institute in Education (Okanagan campus); co-chair of UBC’s Faculty of Education Indigenous Education Council and faculty senior advisor to UBC’s president.
Her professional work has focused on anti-racist, social justice and decolonization practices.
‘Education has a big role to play in truth and reconciliation’
“I have experienced the impact of strong leadership, supportive mentorship and community-based engagement that has supported voices are not often heard in academia,” she said.
In her first act as dean, Ragoonaden appointed three associate deans, Dr. Martha Koch (Undergraduate & Partnerships), Dr. Melanie Janzen (Graduate and Research) and Dr. Frank Deer, the faculty’s first Associate Dean of Indigenous Education.
“Education has a big role to play in truth and reconciliation,” Ragoonaden said. “And paving the way to a place where we all come to a shared understanding of the impact of colonial structures, and of co-constructing pathways in which we come to a better understanding of our different ways of living and being.”
Promote equity, diversity, inclusion, reconciliation and decolonization
As dean, Ragoonaden intends to cultivate initiatives that enhance support, promote equity, diversity, inclusion, reconciliation and decolonization practices in research, teaching and service.
Moving forward, Ragoonaden plans to consult with alumni and education communities in Winnipeg, and across Manitoba to gather views and priorities of stakeholders.
She also plans to consult with the Indigenous communities, reaching out to elders and knowledge keepers, “by leaving the campus, connecting with the land that we live on and the people we relate to.”
“I am very interested in particular in supporting initiatives to increase the faculty’s Indigenous commitment and engagement in terms of recruitment, retention, teaching, curriculum and service,” she said, adding that she plans to partner with the university’s Vice-President Indigenous, Dr. Catherine Cooke, and Frank Deer, the faculty’s associate dean of Indigenous Education.
Ragoonaden also plans to support early career faculty with promotion and tenure, and also to create pathways for mid-career faculty, supporting research and exploring leadership potential.
Regarding health and wellness, Ragoonaden wants to cultivate a faculty culture where respectful dialog and contribute to a welcoming and engaging environment.
The faculty’s new dean is also focused on community engagement, working on respectful, reciprocal, relevant and responsible connections with the communities outside the university.
“Really sharing and celebrating community successes, and also sharing the successes of faculty, staff and students,” Ragoonaden said.