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Capilano University president Bulcroft to retire

Capilano University president Kris Bulcroft has announced she will be stepping down in 2016.
Capilano University president Kris Bulcroft

Capilano University president Kris Bulcroft has announced she will be stepping down in 2016.

Bulcroft's five-year contract was scheduled to come to an end this summer, but at the request of the university's board of governors, she's agreed to stay on for one more year.

By hanging on until 2016, Bulcroft will be able to help implement the recently approved strategic plan. The plan is meant to guide the school through some challenges ahead, including the third budget shortfall of more than a $1 million in three years. The next 18 months will also allow the board to kick off a search for a new president.

Bulcroft was teaching in Switzerland when Cap's last presidential search committee sourced her out. She opted to take the reins at Cap to be closer to her family on the West Coast, she said.

"I thought 'That would be an interesting job. Cap sounds like a place that really cares about students and is really focused on teaching, which of course, is my value set too."

The last years of Bulcroft's term have been turbulent ones as the university has dealt with diminishing operating grants from the province and budget shortfalls that have led to a swath of programs being cut from the school.

In 2014, the Capilano Faculty Association called for her resignation and a laid-off studio arts instructor made an effigy of Bulcroft that itself became a source of controversy.

But, Bulcroft said, the change and controversy at Cap is no different than any other post-secondary institution that has been forced to deal with changing demands and do so with less money.

As the school's leader, it was on her to take the heat, no different than in politics, she said.

"Whether it's fair or unfair, I don't know.

Change is what it is and I felt an obligation to lead us through that change. I don't deflect blame on others. I will take responsibility."

And Bulcroft said she will leave with far more positive things to reflect on than negative. Among her top achievements are the strategic plan and overseeing the creation of some new student-focused features on campus like the Bosa Centre for Film and Animation, the Aboriginal Gathering Space, and the Centre for International Experience.

"The students are really using the spaces. It's really changed, I think, the culture of the

campus turning us much more toward a destination campus for students," she said.

Shelley McDade, chairwoman of the board, said the board is grateful for Bulcroft's contributions - especially the strategic plan, which Bulcroft worked hard to ensure was crafted with the input of all stakeholders on and off campus.

"The last couple years have been a real struggle for post-secondary institutions around North America and there's new realities around funding, competition for students and, of course, students' needs are changing," she said. "We've worked really hard to get this plan put together to help us navigate these changes. And we're really grateful that Kris has agreed to extend her contract so she can lead the implementation of this work."

Cap will strike a presidential search committee, made up of students, faculty, administration and non-teaching staff. The university will hire a search firm and likely start seeking candidates by June.

For the yet-to-benamed incoming president, Bulcroft has this piece of advice.

"Have a thick skin," she said. "And a good sense of humour helps too."