Since it was established in 1986, St. Mary’s has evolved from a college to a university college and finally a university in 2014, becoming Calgary’s only liberal arts and sciences Catholic university. St. Mary’s University offers students a unique experience, combining challenging academic study with a commitment to ethics, social justice and respect for diverse opinions and beliefs to produce well-rounded graduates. To deliver on this mandate, the school needs someone remarkable sitting at the president and vice-chancellor’s desk to lead St. Mary’s into its next phase of growth, and they found just that in Dr. Sinda Vanderpool.
Dr. Vanderpool brings academic leadership and experience as well as a passion for the Catholic intellectual tradition to the position. After completing her undergraduate degree in French literature at Davidson College, a small liberal arts school in North Carolina, Dr. Vanderpool knew she wasn’t finished with academia. She went on to earn her PhD from the prestigious Princeton University in 2005 where she studied 16th Century French poetry as experienced through the lens of female identity. These studies also ignited a fascination with Catholicism, prompting her to become Roman Catholic.
Her studies and love for learning led her to Baylor University, a large faith-based university in Texas where she worked for 18 years, starting as a professor and then joining the administration and finally filling the role of associate vice-provost for enrollment management. Dr. Vanderpool’s hard work helped increase enrollment while also focusing on removing barriers to entry for students in underrepresented demographics. She is committed to doing the same in her new post at St. Mary’s University.
“I have become very interested in being student-centred in the work that I do with a particular emphasis on students who might be coming from some backgrounds that are less represented in higher education – we’re talking first-generation college students who don’t necessarily have the same social capital that other students might have or underrepresented minorities,” Dr. Vanderpool says. “I’ve really leaned in and been working on creating the most welcoming environment for all students in my recent years and that was something that I saw St. Mary’s has been doing and is really wanting to do more.”
That was only one of the elements that attracted Dr. Vanderpool to the job opening and ultimately saw her heading north to join the St. Mary’s University team. As she did at Baylor, Dr. Vanderpool is looking forward to not only attracting students but to attracting the right students and ensuring they are successful once they are there through supports as well as financial aid. StMU’s mission to develop the whole person, mind, body and spirit, was appealing to Dr. Vanderpool and really drew her to the position.
“When I learned about the position at St. Mary’s, with its Catholic intellectual tradition combined with the liberal arts and a real desire to act on our knowledge and faith to make an impact on the world, those were the things that spoke to me,” she says.
That approach is unique in higher learning and Dr. Vanderpool plans to use that approach to expand the school and its offerings as she hits the ground running this summer. She is eager to grow the school in both size and breadth, with a vision to expand the number of degree programs on offer and grow the student population to double its current enrollment of 1,025 full- and part-time students. There would also be an increase of faculty and staff to support that growth as well as additional facilities to house more classrooms and offices on the south-Calgary campus.
“I see great things on the road ahead at St. Mary’s,” she says.
Dr. Vanderpool was an excellent choice to lead the school down this road, and she is honoured to build on the accomplishments and initiatives introduced by the three previous presidents. She is also the first woman to hold this position, bringing a different perspective and approach to the job.
“I’ve been mentored by other women who have been the first in their positions. I think there are assets that women bring to leadership – deep listening, thinking in terms of building relationships fundamentally as a way of getting things done – so I’m very honoured to have that role and I know that there will be many women who follow me in the future,” she says.
Besides the exciting challenges at StMU, Dr. Vanderpool and her husband, Terry, and 13-year-old daughter Kalin are thrilled to become part of the Calgary community and to take advantage of the outdoor recreational opportunities in the mountains. And the faculty and students at St. Mary’s University are excited to have such an accomplished visionary at the helm of their school.
14500 Bannister Road SE
Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2X 1Z4
Phone: (403) 531-9130
Fax: (403) 531-9136