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Ryerson University appoints Jennifer S. Simpson as provost and vice-president, academic

New provost to join Ryerson community in July
Category:From the President
January 29, 2021
Jennifer Simpson

Jennifer S. Simpson will join Ryerson as the new provost and vice-president, academic. Photo by Eric Bartlett.

I am very pleased to announce the appointment of Jennifer S. Simpson as Ryerson University’s next provost and vice-president, academic, effective July 1, 2021. Jennifer is currently the dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador, and a proven leader of collaborative and strategic change.

An experienced researcher, professor and academic leader, Jennifer brings a demonstrated commitment to equity and decolonization, multi-disciplinary collaboration, and publicly relevant teaching, research, and creative work. With over 20 years in academia and expertise in higher education, race and equity, critical theory and pedagogy, and communication, Jennifer is a collaborative, reflective leader, deeply invested in the role of universities in public life.

Jennifer comes to Ryerson University with a record of success in decanal and other significant leadership roles at university, faculty, and department levels. In her current role as dean, Jennifer leads the second largest faculty at Memorial University, with a budget of $35 million, 170 full-time faculty members, 75 administrative staff, 15 departments, and 10 non-departmental units.

Real-world questions

“I am excited to join President Lachemi, the excellent senior leadership team, and the rest of the Ryerson community,” said Jennifer. “In the context of issues, including BLM, Truth and Reconciliation, and public health challenges, I am particularly interested in how research, creative work, teaching, and community engagement might be rooted in real-world questions of equity, the public good and social concerns. I am eager to bring these questions to Ryerson, and excited about the possibilities for a university-wide conversation.”

In her time as dean, Jennifer has implemented consultative, evidence-informed, and transparent decision-making processes that prioritize academic vision and attend to fiscal realities. She has also supported systematic attention to equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) and Indigenization efforts at both the pan-university and faculty levels, as demonstrated by her role as Chair of the Deans’ Council Working Group on EDI.

Recognizing a need for a collective faculty identity, Jennifer led a six-month long consultation process to identify four faculty-wide themes related to teaching, research and creative work across all 15 departments, a move that garnered exceptional levels of support from internal and external stakeholders. She is also currently chair of the national deans’ initiative regarding the value of the humanities and social sciences.

Research on racism and colonialism

Jennifer is a passionate intellectual with deep successes in research and teaching. Her scholarship over the last two decades has substantively engaged with questions of theory and application and with questions of racism and colonialism in university environments. She has received $500,000 in research funding, and directed a national research project on racism and colonialism in Canada. She is also the author of two books addressing higher education, race, equity and the public good, as well as co-editor of a book addressing race and whiteness in university classrooms.

I look forward to Jennifer’s extensive knowledge of and passion for the role of universities in public life, her collaborative leadership approach and perspective, and her commitment to equity and diversity in her role as our new provost and vice-president, academic.

The role of the provost and vice-president, academic at Ryerson is second only to the president’s in scope. The provost is Ryerson’s chief academic officer, chief operating officer and the principal advisor to the president on all academic affairs, providing leadership in academic policy and programming, strategic planning and university budgeting. The provost’s team includes five vice-provosts, one assistant vice-president, and the deans, chief librarian and directors of Ryerson’s faculties, schools and academic support services and facilities.

Academic success

Prior to her decanal appointment at Memorial University, Jennifer served in progressive leadership roles during her 10 years at the University of Waterloo, and was recognized for her contributions to teaching and scholarship in the Department of Drama and Speech Communication with Outstanding Performance Awards in 2010 and 2014. Jennifer earned her PhD in interdisciplinary studies from Northwestern University, an MA in theology and ethics from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, and a bachelor of arts in political science and philosophy from California Lutheran University.

In addition to serving as provost, Jennifer will receive a tenured faculty appointment in the School of Professional Communication, Faculty of Communication and Design.

I would also like to express my sincere thanks to Saeed Zolfaghari, who has served as interim provost and vice-president, academic since June 2020. Saeed’s leadership and commitment to Ryerson has seen our community through a truly unprecedented time of change and uncertainty, as we have navigated through the COVID-19 pandemic. Saeed has provided consistent leadership of the portfolio as the university has put in place a broad network of procedures and supports to make sure that the important work of our university can continue and that our students, faculty and staff can continue to succeed. Thank you, Saeed, for your outstanding work and leadership.

Search committee

Members of the search committee for the provost and vice-president, academic are listed below and I want to thank each of them for their great contributions to this successful search:

  • Peter Danziger, Professor, Department of Mathematics, Faculty of Science
  • Michelle Dionne, Chair, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts
  • Linying Dong, Professor, School of Information Technology Management, Ted Rogers School of Management
  • Charles Falzon, Dean, Faculty of Communication and Design
  • Lynn Lavallée, Strategic Lead, Indigenous Resurgence, Faculty of Community Services and Professor, School of Social Work
  • Jen McMillen, Vice-Provost, Students
  • Andrew McWilliams, Chair, Department of Chemistry and Biology, Faculty of Science
  • Milad Moghaddas, Student, School of Business Management, Ted Rogers School of Management
  • Caroline O'Brien, Chair, School of Performance, Faculty of Communication and Design
  • Jane Schmidt, Liaison Librarian
  • Farrokh Sharifi, Professor, Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Science


Mohamed Lachemi
President and Vice-Chancellor

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