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Something unintended: One experience of science and vocation.

I am not aware of a single person (though perhaps there are some) who went to graduate school intending to become a university administrator--department head, dean, director, vice-president or president--yet clearly a good number of those who first become faculty members do eventually move into administration.


I moved toward administrative roles apparently serendipitously after studying computer science. In my first few years as a faculty member, I became a member of a Senate committee at Queen's University that was charged with assessing institutional needs and making a recommendation to the Senate and the administration about the acquisition of a new computing system. This was several decades ago, at a time when shared mainframes (most frequently uniprocessors) still dominated computing environments. The machines that were chosen were invariably compromises among competing interests on campus. The work involved was interesting, exciting, long and hard, so that all involved for the duration of this project developed a mutual respect.

As a result of this work, when the then director of computing decided to leave the university, he stopped me on the street and told me that he would be recommending me for the role! This certainly came as a surprise as I was a junior member of faculty and had no such thing in mind. But as I grew to see how interesting that role could be at that point in the evolution of academic computing, I eagerly responded and was successful in getting the position.

Since then I have also served as head of my academic department at Queen's, as an associate to vice-principals (at Queen's, vice-presidents elsewhere), as vice-president (administration) and president at Regina, as COO of a software company, and latterly as president at the University of Manitoba. Along the way, I have been privileged to have board positions in a number of university sector organizations, in community organizations, and in business and public sector boards.

At one point some years ago, I asked a colleague to take on an administrative role. After thinking about it, he told me that his career had been formed not by the things he had applied to do (many of which he did not get), but by the things that he had been asked to do. They turned out to be very fulfilling, so he agreed to do what I was asking. That is largely true of my own career as well--it has not at any stage really been something that I had planned, but the choices have been responsive to circumstances.

The beautiful story of Abraham sending a servant to find a wife for his son Isaac from among his distant relations is found in the biblical book of Genesis. When the servant meets Rebekah by a well he says, in the words of the King James Bible, "Blessed be the LORD God of my master


David T. Barnard earned a PhD in computer science at the University of Toronto, as well as a Diploma in Christian Studies from Regent College of the University of British Columbia, and a LLM from York University. His vocation has spanned from professor of computing and information science at Queen's University to, currently, president of the University of Manitoba.

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Title Annotation:Communication
Author:Barnard, David T.
Publication:Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Dec 1, 2016
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