Paul Mazerolle’s new job as the University of New Brunswick’s next president and vice-chancellor is a return to his roots.
The expat New Brunswicker grew up in Nashwaaksis and attended Fredericton High School. He graduated from UNB with a bachelor of arts in 1989.
After his undergraduate degree, he studied in the U.S. before moving to Australia to work in academia.
“It feels terrific to come back after three decades and to make a contribution, and so it’s a real privilege and opportunity I’m very much looking forward to,” Mazerolle said in an interview during a visit to campus on March 14.
Following his sociology degree at UNB, Mazerolle went on to complete his master’s degree in criminal justice at Northeastern University in 1990 and his doctorate in criminology at the University of Maryland College Park in 1995.
He currently serves as pro vice-chancellor of arts, education and law and is the director of the violence research and prevention program at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia. He has held this role since 2009, which includes overseeing more than 400 faculty, 13,000 students, the Queensland College of Art, the Griffith Film School, the Queensland Conservatorium of Music and seven research centres.
After years abroad, he’s looking forward to returning to his home province. But Mazerolle said getting re-accustomed to New Brunswick winters may take some time.
“I know that I’ll have to go purchase a whole new wardrobe,” he said.
Mazerolle said he wants UNB to be a university that continues to make contributions to local, national and international communities. His vision includes a commitment to equity, inclusion and engagement, both internally and externally.
In his current role, Mazerolle said he has developed experience in matters of reconciliation with Aboriginal communities in Australia and has led community efforts for employment expansion opportunities.
He said he will work to balance the importance of accessibility and student financial challenges along with the recognition that universities are “expense enterprises” that have an impact on people’s futures.
Mazerolle said he wants to ensure people understand the university’s value as an “investment vehicle” worth supporting for its role in community renewal, economic growth, innovation and addressing social issues.
“Universities are in my view in the business of changing the world, and UNB has done that for 235 years and I want to make sure it continues to do that going forward,” he said.
Arts and humanities programs often see the most cuts or are not considered as important as science, technology and engineering. Mazerolle, who has an arts background, said he isn’t sure at this point if there is a problem at UNB of undervaluing that area of study.
He said changing professions due to technological advancements have evolved the field of post-secondary education.
“What’s crucial is not just being on top of that wave and those changes, but also knowing the value of humanities-based education and arts-based education,” Mazerolle said.
“Those are the kinds of the skills that will weather some of the changes with artificial intelligence. It’s not that arts-based and humanities-based education won’t matter, they’ll actually be more important going forward.”
The search process for the next UNB president began over a year ago. UNB’s joint nominating committee, tasked with hiring the new president, determined Mazerolle as its finalist to recommend to the Board of Governors. His appointment was announced on Jan. 28.
The process sparked some criticism when the joint nominating committee decided to hold closed sessions with the candidates and selected community members in order to respect their privacy. Historically, UNB has held open town halls where any student or faculty member could pose questions to candidates.
When asked about his approach to addressing tension between faculty and administration, Mazerolle said he is committed to having all voices at the table, hearing what the issues are and trying to develop collaborative solutions.
“My own view is the university benefits when we all try to pull together, and work in the same direction,” he said.
Mazerolle has spent the last week visiting the Saint John and Fredericton campuses, holding town halls and meet and greets with the UNB community. His first day of work will be July 1, after current president and vice-chancellor Eddy Campbell steps down at the end of June after a decade in the position.