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Emily Carr University of Art + Design board of directors appoints Trish Kelly as president

Trish Kelly
Trish Kelly was serving as interim president of Emily Carr University of Art + Design prior to receiving the job on a permanent basis.

A 99-year-old Vancouver institution of higher learning has a new leader. Following a global search, the board of Emily Carr University of Art + Design has announced that Trish Kelly is its 10th president.

Kelly served as interim president since last year. Prior to that, she was vice president academic + provost. She has also been associate dean of graduate studies.

“I am deeply honoured to step into the role of president,” Kelly said in a news release. “As Canada’s leading art and design institution, Emily Carr University’s continued success requires us to be resilient, agile, and creative in the face of unprecedented economic, social, environmental, and technological changes. We are at an exciting and vital moment, and I relish the opportunity to be part of the institution’s history as we build on shared accomplishments together.”

Kelly has a PhD from UBC, a master’s degree from Tufts University, and a bachelor of fine arts from Rhode Island School of Design. According to the news release, her research has focused on “minimal art and abstraction, art and politics, alternative art networks, and time and duration in new media production”.

The last president, Gillian Siddall, became president of Lakehead University on July 1, 2023.

Kelly will lead university on its centenary

Emily Carr University was founded in 1925 as the Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts. In 1933, it became the Vancouver School of Art. It adopted the name of iconic Vancouver Island painter Emily Carr in 1978. Eleven years later, the B.C. government conferred degree-granting status to Emily Carr College of Art and Design. In 2008, it became a university.

One of its most influential presidents was Ronald Burnett, who spent 22 years in the top job until his retirement in 2018. One of his greatest legacies was leading the move from Granville Island to the Great Northern Way campus near False Creek Flats.

“During the long campaign to build a new home for Emily Carr, Ron maintained a clear vision of what an innovative, purpose-built institution should be, and how it should serve the community now and in the future,” former board chair Kim Peacock said at the end of Burnett’s term. “His commitment to this ideal led to our extraordinary space, the first of its kind in Canada, that supports our students and faculty to thrive and create.”

Emily Carr University isn’t the only postsecondary institution that has been on the hunt for a new president. Capilano University president Paul Dangerfield announced earlier this year that 2024-25 will be his final academic year in his current position.

Currently, not one public university based in Metro Vancouver or the Fraser Valley has an Indigenous person or a person of colour as president, according to their biographies. Vancouver Island University president Deborah Saucier is a member of the Métis Nation of Alberta.

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Charlie Smith

Charlie Smith

Pancouver editor Charlie Smith has worked as a Vancouver journalist in print, radio, and television for more than three decades.

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We would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. With this acknowledgement, we thank the Indigenous peoples who still live on and care for this land.