SAIT's new VP, Academic is a people person
Brad Donaldson began at SAIT on March 12.
SAIT's new Vice President, Academic Brad Donaldson enters his role at SAIT with fresh perspectives and deep respect for the people who make it all happen.
Donaldson says 20 years in industry provided the foundation for the man he is today, but his experience in post-secondary has taught him the importance of people.
"The post-secondary system is very people oriented," says Donaldson. "My engineering and manufacturing background was more around process and structure, which is very important. "What I came to appreciate as I moved into the post-secondary world, is the role the person plays in the environment — in the system creating the organization itself."
Since Donaldson left his role at SAIT as Dean of Manufacturing and Automation to take over as the Vice President Academic at Red Deer College in 2011, many things have changed at SAIT, the most obvious being the completion of the Trades and Technology Complex.
To Donaldson, the new landscape of SAIT provides a wow factor, and a tremendous first impression, but the real significance of SAIT's now-signature look is defined by what's inside. "It is a physical transformation, yes, but when you get into the buildings you see what they can do to transform the learning environment," says Donaldson. "We have a lot of great buildings and facilities and equipment and tools, but it's really how people integrate with those things — how they integrate with one another, and how they stitch that all together to create a learning system."
In his new role, Donaldson will shape the academic experience for all SAIT students. He sees education as an integral part of life, and is passionate about the way learning — both formal and experiential — has the potential to become a powerful state of mind rather than just an action.
"When you start out, you can see down the road but you can't see to the sides," he says. "As you learn more, your perspectives broaden and there's a shift in your understanding of what is and what is possible. You gain a more accurate view of the road ahead."
Even as Donaldson completes the final steps towards a Doctor of Education in Post-Secondary Leadership, he sees hours spent in the classroom and pouring over assignments as only a portion of the puzzle.
"I place enormous value on formal education - yes, of course. But it's also learning through what you're doing," he says. "It's about all the experiences you have, and what you do with them."
On the future
Donaldson says his first order of business as the Vice President, Academic will be to understand. In the four years he's been away, many changes have come to SAIT and to Donaldson himself.
"The SAIT that I left is not the SAIT that is today, and the me coming back is different as well," he says. "I need to gain an understanding of the direction, the current state, and truly the goals and aspirations of all the people who are going to carry us forward."
For now, Donaldson is filled with questions rather than answers — he is focused on how to build on the successes SAIT has already won.
"How can we keep providing the highest level of competency and outcomes for our learners?" he asks. "How do we further help our faculty and staff to support the learning that goes on here?"
As he looks for ways to define and prepare for the ever-evolving future of post-secondary education, Donaldson has no doubt that SAIT graduates will continue to come out ahead.
"A SAIT education is one step in the journey to becoming a successful, contributing individual to yourself, to your family, to your community."