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Photo of Vice-President (Indigenous) Dr. Catherine Cook. Photo by Thomas Fricke.

Dr. Catherine Cook is retirng and UM is now searching for a new Vice-President (Indigenous). // Photo: Thomas Fricke.

Search for a Vice-President (Indigenous): A message from President Michael Benarroch

May 5, 2023 — 

The following is a message from Dr. Michael Benarroch, President and Vice-Chancellor:

Dr. Catherine Cook has served the University of Manitoba as its inaugural Vice-President (Indigenous) since January 1, 2020 and in 2022, agreed to a one-year extension of her term. At that time, she signaled her intention to step down from this role and retire from the University at the conclusion of her term extension. Dr. Cook will conclude her time as Vice-President (Indigenous) later in 2023, in conjunction with the end of the search for the next Vice-President (Indigenous).

Dr. Cook’s contributions as Vice-President (Indigenous) have been exceptional and far-reaching. She conceptualized a portfolio that offers both strategic leadership of and support to the University’s overall Indigenous engagement and achievement, Reconciliation and anti-racism efforts, including to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. She successfully led a university-wide process to implement the recommendations of the Indigenous Senior Leadership Report, directly engaging over 60 members of the university community through six project teams to implement 31 priorities or commitments. Further, under her leadership, UM successfully advocated for an $85M federal investment in a permanent home for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation; developed a Reconciliation Action Plan for the University; secured a $16.1M gift from the Mastercard Foundation for EleV programs that support Indigenous student success in a range of innovative ways, designed in partnership with Indigenous communities, governments and organizations; pursued a consultative approach to assessing how UM supports the declaration of Indigenous identity; and co-chaired the Anti-Racism Task Force. These accomplishments are among Dr. Cook’s many significant contributions as Vice-President (Indigenous) and do not include her many notable contributions in her earlier roles as Vice-Dean (Indigenous) in the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, and as associate professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences. Taken together, Dr. Cook’s contributions are generational in impact, and have been pivotal in pursuing the University of Manitoba’s commitment to advance Reconciliation at all levels – in governance, leadership, and practice, and to be national leaders in this journey. 

With the end of Dr. Cook’s term nearing, the process to search for a new Vice-President (Indigenous) has begun. I have invited members of our internal and external communities to advise me on candidates for the role and on the position more generally. Joining me on the committee are:

From the Board of Governors:

  • Diane Roussin, Project Director, The Winnipeg Boldness Project

From Community:

  • Barbara Bruce, President, All My Relations Inc. (‌withdrew from committee May 15, 2023)
  • Marti Ford, Consultant, Indigenous Education
  • Ovide Mercredi, Strategic Advisor, Modern Clan

From the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation:

  • Stephanie Scott, Executive Director

From Senate:

  • Melanie Morris, Associate Professor, Department of Surgery and Department of Pediatrics and Child Health, Max Rady College of Medicine
  • Jeremy Patzer, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology and Criminology, Faculty of Arts

From Bannatyne Campus:

  • Melanie MacKinnon, Head, Ongomiizwin Institute of Health and Healing

From Senior Leadership:

  • Naomi Andrew, Vice-President (Administration) and Co-Chair, Anti-Racism Task Force

From Deans and Directors:

  • Michael Yellow Bird, Dean, Faculty of Social Work

From Provost’s Council:

  • Lisa O-Hara, Vice-Provost (Libraries) and University Librarian
  • Tracey Peter, Vice-Provost (Academic Affairs)

From the Vice-President (Indigenous) Portfolio:

  • Ruth Shead, Director, Engagement, Communications and EleV Partnership

From Students:

  • Ishkode Catcheway, UMSU Indigenous Representative


I have engaged Leaders International, led by Laurie Sterritt, Managing Partner, to support this search. 

As part of its work, the Committee is seeking the views of our community on the ideal profile and candidate for a Vice-President (Indigenous) and would appreciate your input. Please click here to complete a brief questionnaire. Your confidential input is being requested by May 14.

I would like to thank you for your time and input into this important leadership appointment.

Thank you. Miigwetch.


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