BCcampus staff spotlight: Mary Burgess, Executive Director

The stage is set and the curtains are drawn, it’s finally opening day at the Festival of Learning! To help kick off the celebrations, we’d like to share a few things about what makes BCcampus shine, and what better person than our very own Executive Director, Mary Burgess.

This is the fifth installment in the staff highlight series, following in the footsteps of Denise Goudy, Director, BCcampus, the Professional Learning team, the Open Education team and the EdTech and Collaborative Services team.

Mary BurgessWe’re very pleased to have had the opportunity to sit down with Mary to ask her a few questions about BCcampus, the open movement, collaborative leadership and the future of teaching and learning in B.C. Find out what she had to say:

Joining BCcampus in a leadership position, what was one thing that surprised you?

I wouldn’t necessarily say it surprised me, but one of the big “aha” moments was when I realized how different it was to view B.C. post-secondary with a system lens rather than from within an institution. Despite the diversity of our system, we do share many challenges that we can solve better together, and I’m so glad to say we are actually doing that more and more, and in really meaningful ways. One example of this is The Health Educators of B.C., who have just established a standing subcommittee to adapt the Open Stax Anatomy and Physiology textbook as a made-in-B.C. edition that will meet the learning outcomes of all BCCAT member institutions. This committee will take ownership of the textbook and adapt it with Canadian and First Nations cultural sensitivity in mind and provide on-going quality assurance. Now that’s a system partnership that’s going to make a huge difference!

What do you see as opportunities for BCcampus moving forward?

I think there is a shift taking place in thinking about teaching and learning here in B.C. that we could really help advance if we focus our efforts in the right ways. Great educators are being recognized within their institutions and elsewhere, scholarly inquiry into teaching and learning is being supported, and open education is starting to really hit its stride. I could not feel luckier to be leading an organization with a mandate to get behind this stuff and push. The Festival of Learning is a great example of this. We see learning as a uniting force for so many of these collaborations and with the BCTLC, ETUG, the BCTLN and BCcampus all working together, we’re showcasing the best of scholarship, educational technology use, educational development and open education.

There has been a significant shift in mandate over the past two years, what has been the impact on BCcampus and the sector it serves?

We’ve narrowed our focus and while that has been painful at times, I believe it was worth it. We are being quite strategic about where we spend time, effort and our funding so that we can have the most impact in those areas which fit into our mandate. For the past 14 years, BCcampus has been pushing the limits and I’m so excited to see what we can do next!

What is one thing people wouldn’t know about you?

I love all cats. Not a surprise? I know. But I love cats. Send me all your cat videos… ok, maybe not all of them. 🙂

What does collaborative leadership mean to you?

It shares a lot of its key ideas with Servant Leadership, which interests me quite a lot. The idea is that the leaders are not there to advance their own agenda, rather their goal is the success of the group. At BCcampus, we have staff who are very skilled at bringing diverse groups of people to a consensus on important education-related decisions using collaborative leadership. I really like this approach because it is so respectful of everyone’s perspective and really helps create trusting communities where the best work happens.

What are the values for BCcampus and how do they align with your own personal values? To your own professional values?

I am so grateful I spent ten years working at Royal Roads University (RRU) because I was exposed to such great theory and practice around organizational, professional and personal values. At BCcampus our values are openness, sharing, access, accountability and quality. We’ve done quite a bit of work over the past six months on looking at the purpose and values of each part of our organization and it has been incredibly helpful, particularly when making decisions about which projects to work on and how to conduct ourselves in doing that work. I feel very lucky to work at an organization that enables me to do the work I personally think is very important.

If you could change one thing at BCcampus what would it be?

I wish we could have a gap in the space-time continuum that would enable the Vancouver and Victoria offices to be in the same place, but still in Vancouver and Victoria.

Attending the Festival of Learning? Join Mary Burgess’ in one or both of her sessions to find out more about BCcampus, open education, the BC Digital Learning Resources Network and more!