Weeks looks at taking research to new heights
Dr. Daniel J. Weeks knows he’s inherited a very good situation as the new vice-president (research) for the University of Lethbridge. He also understands that, as far as the University has progressed as a research institution, only the surface has been scratched.
“The University has established a world-renowned reputation in specific areas such as neuroscience, epigenetics and water research and I’m committed to trying to reach out to all parts of the University with respect to research,” says Weeks. “We have yet to really showcase our people in health sciences, the arts, social sciences and the humanities and their time is now and it’s my job to do that.”
Weeks comes to the U of L after more than a decade at Simon Fraser University, where he was professor and Chair of the Department of Psychology, and operator of the Psychomotor Behaviour Laboratory located on the Burnaby campus. He looks at the U of L as an incredible opportunity.
“Part of the lure for me has to do with the fact that my own strengths, with a background in psychology, kinesiology and to some degree neuroscience, seem to match up well with the current strengths here,” he says.
“What sold me completely on this place is when I came for an interview and met the senior administration team. They are fantastic and truly operate with a team mentality. My impression is they aren’t so much worried about their own individual accomplishments as they are concerned about the University of Lethbridge doing well, and that told me I could get something accomplished here.”
His successes at Simon Fraser, where he guided a research portfolio that grew 10-fold during his tenure, mirror the groundbreaking growth that his predecessor, Dr. Dennis Fitzpatrick, achieved at the U of L. Now, Weeks will strive to build on that foundation.
“These are big shoes to fill, Dennis has done a phenomenal job,” Weeks says. “I think he did what was so necessary at the time, carving out niche areas of strength, for which Lethbridge now is both a national and international player.
“We’re at a point in our development where there’s enough expertise distributed across campus that I don’t need to get out in front of these initiatives, rather I need to facilitate the fantastic people who have been hired.”
While post-secondary education across the country struggles with the reality of difficult economic times, Weeks says the U of L is uniquely prepared for such challenges and will not pull back to protect its assets. Furthermore, well-designed growth is sustainable through any economic difficulty.
“Lethbridge has been very mindful and very careful in its growth, and it has been solid growth,” says Weeks. “The economy is tough, but I think we’re going to come out the other side of this a better institution.”
He likes where the University is in its development, still young and small enough to react quickly to changing circumstance but on the verge of something much broader.
“I think we’re right on an interesting tipping point. We probably grew and got to the place we are by being more of a nimble, handshake kind of place. We’re at the point now where we need the kinds of policies and practices that allow us to move into that larger university role, because we’re right there,” Weeks says.
“There’s a balance between trying to stay small but thinking big.”
GET THE FACTS
• A native of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., he earned his undergraduate degree at Windsor University, a master’s at McMaster University, his PhD from Auburn University and did his post-doctoral work at Purdue University.
• An avid sailor, Weeks owns a sailboat that he takes out on the waters of the Georgia Strait. He just welcomed his dog, a sheltie, to Alberta after friends were able to bring her out from the west coast.
• New to the workings of post-secondary education in Alberta, he says he’s amazed at the interaction between the provincial government and the U of L. “There is a great interplay between government and higher education. Everything here is an Alberta strategy, whereas in other jurisdictions it’s more a university strategy. Here, it’s how does the University’s priorities fit into where the province wants to go?”