By Linda Scales
When Lucie Thibault accepted her new position as dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, she was also making a decision to return home. In the 1980s, she had studied physical education here and later taught for five years in what is now the School of Human Kinetics, just a few kilometres from where she grew up in Vanier.
“It’s good,” she says about her decision. “The University was appealing to me because it recognizes its place in higher education in Canada,” adding that it accepts responsibility for ensuring resources are allocated to both research and teaching.
Thibault, who worked at Brock University for 16 years (the last two and a half as interim vice-dean) before her July 1 start as dean, has been teaching organizational theory; ethics in sport; globalization of sport; and governance, policy and social issues in sport for about three decades.
The path to academia
“When I started my undergraduate degree I didn’t think I wanted to be a phys ed teacher,” says Thibault, speaking about her career path. “Swimming and lifeguarding were my foray into sports.”
An internship at Swimming Canada in fourth year helped influence her decision to pursue graduate studies, which she completed at the University of Alberta.
The university work environment attracted her, too, because of the easy marriage between research and teaching, and the ready cluster of physically active people interested in sport policy. “It was a perfect fit,” she says, jokingly. “In kinesiology, I can teach in my running shoes and that was the closest thing to being a student.”
Thibault arrived at the faculty to a “goldmine” of a team in five schools, including interdisciplinary health, nursing, nutrition sciences, rehabilitation sciences, and human kinetics. She believes her role is to ensure the faculty is a place where research grows not only in terms of funding and publications, but in terms of its impact on health promotion among the population. She also believes teaching is central to the faculty and should be student centred.
“If our students are satisfied, then we’ve got satisfied alumni.” She points out that the latter may be in a position one day to help current students as well as supervise future students in need of placements and supervisors. “To me it’s like a circle,” she says.
But into this satisfying mix Thibault has given herself the added challenge of bringing her faculty together. “Our faculty is located in multiple sites — at Roger Guindon Hall on the Smyth Road campus, on the Lees campus and also on the main campus,” says Thibault about the current structure, which creates big communication challenges. “I’m convinced we could have faculty members in nursing and human kinetics cross by each other on a sidewalk, and not know they’re in the same faculty!” Enhancing communication and collaboration are important to the fabric of the faculty.
With her return to uOttawa, Thibault wants to make a “contribution to the leadership of this faculty.” She has clearly begun.