New SFU president Dr. Joy Johnson discusses her identity, remote learning concerns, and equity priorities

President Johnson speaks to her vision for SFU as she begins her term

PHOTO: SFU Communications & Marketing / Flickr

Written by: Serena Bains, Staff Writer

Dr. Joy Johnson began her term as president and vice-chancellor of SFU on September 1, succeeding Andrew Petter who held the position since 2010.

President Johnson stated that she felt honoured to be named SFU’s 10th President and said in an interview with The Peak, “The role is one [where] the responsibility [ . . . ]  is to provide strategic leadership for the university and to make sure that we deliver on our mission to provide excellent education and great research.”

She explained how her identity as a woman and a member of the LGBTQ2+ community shapes the lens through which she views equity, diversity, and inclusion. 

“I am also proud to say that I’m part of the queer community [ . . . ] I think that shapes my perspective as well in relation to equity, diversity, and inclusion [ . . . ] I certainly also recognize that other people face greater barriers and that I’m fairly privileged as a white settler here in Canada [ . . . ] I really feel passionate that we have work to do related to equity, diversity, and inclusion at SFU and certainly have indicated that it will be a priority moving forward.”

Additionally, President Johnson described how the pandemic has affected students’ experience at SFU and the health and safety of everyone at SFU, stating: “The pandemic has demonstrated the inequity that we’re facing in an extraordinary way [and has shone] a light on a number of areas where we really need to do further work as a society.

“I really [want] to focus on [ . . . ]  the student experience. How do we make [remote learning] a vibrant experience, an important experience, a learning experience for our students and [ . . . ] [ensure] our students, our faculty, and our staff are safe.” Johnson added, “I’m very concerned about [ . . . ] the mental health and the stress and strain that everyone is under at the present time and I recognize we need to pay attention to that.”

President Johnson elaborated on her previous statement to how SFU is a “reflection of society.” 

“All of our institutions need to have a light shone upon them in relation to systemic racism and I am hoping to bring in anti-racism training into the university for all of our executive leads, for leadership, and also for everybody at SFU [ . . . ] The first step is education and consciousness raising around the issue [ . . . ] By making sure we’re educated and that we understand what the issues are,” she concluded.

Having previously served as vice-president, President Johnson stated that she is, “purpose-fit” for this heavy time. She believes her background and approach fits well with the needs of the SFU community.