Dr. George Iwama, the university president, would like to go back to being Dr. George Iwama, the researcher and professor.
He intends, at least in the foreseeable term, to continue doing so at UNBC where he has been the boss since 2009.
"I have no plan. The next vine is not in hand. It's not like I have another job to go to. But it is a privilege that a person in this position [university president] has tenure so I may be here in that capacity (as a professor)," he said Tuesday. I feel a strong calling to spend more time with family and to return to my other loves: science and research.
Dr. Iwamas contract runs through June 2014 and includes a provision for a one-year paid research leave, which is provided to academics who undertake administrative terms. This also ensures he will be available to UNBC officials as they hunt for ahis replacement.
The search could easily take up to a year, said UNBC board of governors chair John Turner.
"We would have preferred that George stay on," said Turner, "but we respect his decision and support his transition views. He has built a very strong team and the university community has really grown under his leadership."
The timing of the announcement was twofold.
Part one involves the unfolding of the typical university year, and how that fit with the terms of his contract. It was easier on the board to begin the search for a new president now, considering how long a process it can be and where the school cycle would be at the end of that process.
Part two was more of Iwama's view of Prince George history. The Canada Winter Games, the city's centennial, the university's 25th anniversary and many major industrial projects across the region are all set to go for 2015. The university plays many significant roles in all of these. Iwama felt it best for the community and UNBC if someone were in place as president in time to face those challenges from a position of strength.
Iwama did not promise to remain a resident in Prince George, as many past key leaders have once their terms were done. He did insist in going on the record, however, that of all the universities he has worked at (UBC, Acadian, the National Research Council and most recently as Dean of Science at Carleton), "the team I work with at UNBC is the best."
He and his wife Marilyn, an academic and author, have come to love the region with a passion, he said, and largely that happened because of contagious feelings of esteem northern residents have for their home territory.
"We get so much support from people in industry and people in everyday life, and they tell me 'I never went to university, but I know what you're doing there. I know what it means to the community and I'm willing to help you because we can't afford for you to fail.' There is such power in that."
Some of Iwama's accomplishments at UNBC include:
- UNBC's tie with Harvard University for a North America-wide university sustainability award;
- The campus bioenergy system;
- The accompanying designation as "Canada's Green University";
- A pilot program to initiate block-style teaching, which allows students to complete a course in a shorter, more intensive learning experience;
- UNBC gaining membership in Canadian Interuniversity Sport, the highest level of amateur athletics in the country;
- The most recent Macleans Magazine university rankings placing UNBC at its highest-ever placement: second amongst primarily undergraduate universities, and number one in its category for research funding;
- UNBC being named one of Canadas Greenest Employers two years in a row, and in 2012 was listed as one of B.C.s Top 100 Employers;
- Passing the threshold of 10,000 overall graduates.
I am still in awe of what has been created here and I feel privileged to have contributed to the development of this fantastic university, said Iwama. This is the best job I have ever had [but now] is a good time to pass the torch to a new leader.