On Dec. 17, Brock announced the appointment of Wendy Cukier as its sixth president. Cukier is currently the Vice President of Research and Innovation at Ryerson University and will begin her term as Brock University’s president on Sept. 1.
“I’m looking forward to getting to know people and working with the stakeholders at Brock,” said Cukier. “It’s a huge opportunity – not only building on the work of the current president in the Niagara region, but extending those relations to the GTA, the rest of Canada and the international community.”
Cukier is the first Brock alumna to hold the role of president and she is also the first woman in the position. She graduated from Brock with an undergraduate degree in History and English and is proud of her connection to the Brock community.
“I’ve always said that my career success is grounded in my undergrad at Brock,” said Cukier. “It’s quite significant that I’m the first alumna president. It shows that Brock’s students can excel.”
Cukier has worked at Ryerson for the past 30 years as a professor, as the Associate Dean of the Business School and most recently as the Vice President of Research and Innovation. Her current role focuses on supporting faculty and students in research opportunities and helping to grow those opportunities with funding and partnerships. Cukier is also passionate about doing her own research in innovation, entrepreneurship, and social change.
“I’m interested in applied research,” said Cukier. “I enjoy doing research, working with students, and building relationships. The opportunities at university are amazing and it’s important to take advantage of those opportunities. Universities are engines to economic growth and social development.”
Cukier is also an active volunteer and an avid social justice activist. She is the co-founder of Lifeline Syria in Toronto and has led the creation of the Ryerson Lifeline Syria Challenge, which is now sponsoring 75 Syrian refugee families.
“When I became really interested in social innovation, I found that it was really similar to technological innovation. The principles that underpin technological innovational underpin social change and the characteristics of successful entrepreneurs are very similar to successful social activists,” said Cukier.
As Brock’s next president, Cukier will bring all of her successful experiences as well as her personal connection to the university to the role.
“I have an insider’s view as a Brock graduate but with an outsider’s perspective from working in the GTA,” said Cukier. “My passion for the institute and my roots in the Niagara community are very deep. I still keep in touch with some of my professors from over 30 years ago.”
These qualities were also deciding factors for the search committee for the new president.
“The selection committee chose to recommend Wendy Cukier as Brock’s next president, because her background, experience and personal characteristics most closely matched the criteria as established in the position profile, and within the large field of candidates with which we were presented, Wendy was clearly the top choice. She brings very relevant experience as VPR at Ryerson and comes with excellent references from a wide circle of colleagues. It is a “nice to have” that she is very familiar with the Niagara area, and is herself a Brock alumna. We look forward to Wendy arriving on campus and continuing to build Brock on the solid foundation that has been built over the past 10 and indeed 50 years,” said John Suk, Chair of the Board of Trustees and Vice President of the search committee, in a statement.
“I’ve been at Ryerson for 30 years now and finding an opportunity that fit my interests was a challenge. It had to be an opportunity where I could make a contribution,” said Cukier. “Being the Vice President of Research and Innovation at Ryerson has been challenging but rewarding and I hope that the role of President at Brock will be the same, and also fun.”
While Brock has changed much since Cukier graduated – at a time when the size of the university was 3,000 students – the principles of the university are still the same.
“The physical transformation of the university has been astonishing and the achievements in certain faculties have exploded,” said Cukier. “But even though the university has evolved, the core mission of developing its students has not changed.
Cukier joked that she will need to wear a t-shirt stating “New president: please help!” when she comes to Brock in the fall and needs to navigate around a much-changed campus with many new buildings. She is looking forward to returning to St. Catharines and working with students at Brock and the members of the greater Niagara community.
“You made a great choice coming to Brock,” Cukier said, addressing all Brock students. “It’s a great university and you have enormous opportunities. We will do everything we can to make sure that you have the foundation for success. Your success is our success.”