Brock University Senate will begin the fall term under new leadership, with Dave Whitehead taking the helm as Senate Chair.
An associate professor of Industrial Relations for the Goodman School of Business, Whitehead has worked at the University for three decades and has held a role with Senate for the past five years.
He’s looking forward to continuing the work of predecessor Scott Henderson, who recently completed a two-year term as Chair of the University’s academic governing body.
“I’m expecting this coming year will be another exciting time of challenges and opportunity for the Brock Senate,” Whitehead said. While he acknowledged there remains “an incredible amount to learn” in his new role, he feels he will be assisted by his past experience as a “negotiator, mediator, arbitrator, teacher and trainer of conflict resolution.”
Whitehead has been resolving disputes professionally since 1979 and providing training in negotiating skills since 1982. He has had numerous appointments as a mediator and arbitrator in public- and private-sector union-management disputes, and served as the Brock University Faculty Association Chief Negotiator in 2010-11 and Grievance Officer from 2012-15.
In addition to his professional experience, Whitehead feels he will greatly benefit from the knowledge available through his support network, including Senate Vice-Chair Roberto Nickel, University Secretary Chabriol Colebatch, Past Chairs Susan Sydor and Henderson, and the strong leadership found on every Senate committee.
“I intend to be relying on them as required, as I go through this steep, steep learning curve,” he said. “It would be impossible to imagine how anyone could start into these roles without all that professional support.”
Whitehead plans to work proactively to continue themes started by past Senate leaders, focusing on making meetings more efficient and effective, making the structure of Senate committees optimal for getting work completed, effectively and regularly communicating to Senate and the Brock community, reviewing and improving the effectiveness of Senate’s structure and processes, and continuing to clarify and improve Senate’s role in Brock’s bicameral system of governance.
“I expect some surprising challenges, some we haven’t seen before,” Whitehead said of the coming year. “I’m ready to actively participate in the search for effective solutions as those challenges emerge.”
As he reflected on his time as Chair, Henderson felt it was an experience his successor will soon learn is quite rewarding.
The opportunity to work with dedicated colleagues from across the University has been invaluable, the associate professor of popular culture said.
“We are very lucky to have a group of people who are willing to go above and beyond in their service to the University,” Henderson said. “When we speak of transdisciplinarity, we often look to research, but we have one truly transdisciplinary body at Brock — and that is Senate.”
While it is often a challenge to bring together so many diverse views, Henderson said members of Senate are respectful in their differences of opinion, as they are all ultimately working for one common cause.
“This has been evident in the evolving relationship between Senate, the Board and the administration,” he said.
Working together on projects such as the writing of the Strategic Mandate agreement made it clear that “we all recognize the need to work collaboratively in response to Ministry directives and guidelines,” he said. “I came away with the sense that we all believe in Brock, and all have a shared sense of what our strengths are and what challenges we face.
“While opinions may differ on how we utilize these strengths and how we respond to these challenges, there is a shared respect and a willingness to listen across all three bodies that bodes well for Brock’s future success.”