Campus Life

Dr. Digvir Jayas installed as seventh University of Lethbridge President & Vice-Chancellor

Dr. Digvir Jayas was installed as President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lethbridge on October 13, 2023, opening a new era for southern Alberta’s university.

Jayas becomes the seventh president in ULethbridge’s 56-year history, and the installation ceremony was replete with all the pomp befitting such a significant occasion. The ceremony, presided over by Platform Marshal Dr. Sheila McManus, bear close resemblance to a convocation ceremony, complete with a full procession led by Chief Marshal Dr. Michelle Hogue (MEd '04) carrying the University Mace.

Dr. Digvir Jayas, right, shakes hands with Board of Governors Chair Dean Gallimore after officially being installed as President & Vice-Chancellor. Chancellor Terry Whitehead looks on in the background.

Master of Science student Jemma Todoschuk opened the formal celebration with the reading of the invocation and was followed by the singing of the U of L Honour song by Dr. Leroy Little Bear (BA ’72, DASc ’04), Vice-Provost Iniskim Indigenous Relations. Representatives of government followed, with each of the federal, provincial and municipal arms offering greetings. Jayas was then welcomed by Dean Gallimore (BMgt ’84), Chair of the Board of Governors, Chancellor Terry Whitehead (BA ’94) and Alumni Association President Deirdre McKenna (BA ’94).

Post-secondary institutions across Canada also had a strong presence in the ceremony, including Lethbridge College President Brad Donaldson bringing greetings on behalf of colleges, and former ULethbridge professor and senior administrator, Dr. Lesley Brown, now President of Yukon University, who brought greetings on behalf of Canada’s universities.

Of the ceremony’s many highlights, a headdress transfer ceremony stood out as a seminal moment. Jayas, whose Blackfoot name Ikkayiinnii means “fast buffalo”, was captured by war veteran JR Fox in an intricate and personal ceremony that concluded with Elder Francis First Charger transferring the headdress first worn by President Emeritus Dr. Bill Cade (LLD ’12) to Jayas. Also involving Jayas’s family, the ceremony featured drumming and dancing in what was a visual and sensory feast for those in attendance.

Elder Francis First Charger adorns Dr. Digvir Jayas with a headdress following an elaborate transfer ceremony.

In his presidential address, Jayas paid tribute to the foundational builders of ULethbridge and the liberal education focus that has been a hallmark of the student experience since its inception in 1967. He also noted the University’s commitment to a student-centred approach and the deep ties it has throughout the community, as evidenced by the many groups represented in the audience.

Jayas spoke to excellence and the collective achievements of ULethbridge researchers who have transformed the institution into one of the country’s leading research universities and the faculty, staff, students, alumni, donors and community supporters who have all played a role in that growth.

He then turned his eye to the future and a new strategic plan that will be crafted collaboratively.

“Building on our existing and emerging strengths, our strategic plan will move our university — and all of southern Alberta — forward, together,” he said. “Whether you work or study on campus, are an alumnus or a member of our external community, we encourage you to be involved in this process. Your insights are critical to developing a plan that will ensure our university and our region will succeed in the future.”

He concluded by reiterating his support for the liberal education ideals that have shaped ULethbridge over the years and challenged the audience to think about how those ideals translate to the next generation of learners.

Dr. Digvir Jayas with his wife Manju and their three sons (from left) Ravi, Rajat and Rahul.

“I promise you that I will always support and promote the value of a liberal education. As a university, we need to look at what it means to obtain a liberal education experience,” he said. “How do we incorporate content such as internationalization, work-integrated learning, Indigenous knowledge and perspectives, and broad interdisciplinary exposure as part of a liberal education, so that our students feel confident, have valuable critical thinking skills, can work effectively in teams, and feel empowered to tackle the difficult problems facing society?

He then cast his eyes to the future and a collaborative approach he sees as setting the University up for its next great era of success.

“Our focus at ULethbridge is to transform the lives of our students and we can all contribute to that based on our abilities and roles. We bring different perspectives to decision making — and these diverse perspectives result in better decisions for all,” said Jayas. “Our university has accomplished so much over its first 56 years, and the social, cultural and economic well-being of southern Alberta is closely linked to that success. To continue to achieve, it will take all of us working together to realize our shared vision — and I can’t wait to begin.”