Humber Today had a chance to sit down with President Vaughan recently to ask a series of 20 questions covering a wide variety of topics – from what attracted her to Humber College to the three things she wouldn’t want to live without.
Here’s what she had to say.
HT: What does it mean to you to be the first woman president and CEO of Humber College?
AMV: Well, first of all, it's very humbling. It's also, I hope, a good example for other women who want to progress in this field to see that they can get there. I'm conscious that I may be viewed as a role model and am aware of the responsibility that comes with it. I'm thrilled to have this opportunity, and I'm thrilled to join the Humber College community.
HT: What was your first personal item you displayed in your new office?
AMV: Family pictures. My husband and I have one daughter and we have this tradition where we take family selfies. The family pictures show how important my family is to me.
HT: What attracted you to Humber College?
AMV: What’s there not to be attracted to with Humber? The college’s reputation as a polytechnic leader extends beyond the GTA and province as Humber is known nationally and internationally. The opportunity to be at Humber was exciting and it feels amazing to join the team. The people you meet at Humber are excited and engaged – they really like being here and they are doing wonderful, creative, and innovative things – and that doesn't go unnoticed when you're outside of Humber.
HT: If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, who would it be?
AMV: If it was someone who's deceased it would be my father. My father passed away 25 years ago, and I would love the opportunity to have a conversation with him about where my life has gone. If it’s someone alive then it would be Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand. I'm really inspired by her. I think she's a wonderful leader.
HT: Who is your greatest influence or most trusted advisor?
AMV: My mother. She was a school principal and teacher and while she was teaching, she continued her own learning and advancement of credentials. I grew up in a household where it was quite common to see my mother preparing her schoolwork as a teacher and then studying for her own learning. She is both my greatest influence and my most trusted advisor.
HT: What are some important issues and trends in post-secondary education that will be critical in the coming years?
AMV: I think it’s what a post-pandemic world looks like that’s going to be critical. The pandemic had so many layers to it – the impact it had on all of us as individuals, how it has changed student needs and expectations, how it affected the economy and how it led to changing social structures. I think the societal changes, climate change and other disruptions that are happening are going to have a fundamental impact on the post-secondary sector. I think we're going to have to be very conscious of the macro environment in which we operate and how we respond to that. At the same time, it will also have internal implications such as how we approach teaching and learning and what the future of work looks like. The final thing that I believe is very important is advancing equity, diversity, and inclusion – I’d like to think that in society we really value EDI more than we ever have before. I am proud of the work Humber has accomplished in Indigenous understanding. There is more work to do but there is a solid foundation.
HT: What do you like to do in your spare time?
AMV: I love gardening and I like being outdoors. I'm also active in the sport of figure skating – I have been throughout my life. But gardening is definitely my thing.
HT: Why is lifelong learning important to you?
AMV: I've had the opportunity to really benefit from lifelong learning. I completed a second undergraduate degree as well as my master’s degree while working full-time. I later completed a doctoral degree also while working full-time. Having the opportunity for lifelong learning has benefited me and I'm a real believer in championing and creating those environments where lifelong learning can happen. I understand how hard it is to balance work, life and learning.
HT: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
AMV: The poet Ralph Waldo Emerson is important to me. He has a quote, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail,” and that has been core to my thinking as an individual and as a leader. In some ways, that’s indicative of how I'm the first woman to become president of Humber – I'm a bit rebellious in the sense that I like to go a different route and I like to create my own path along the way. There’s also his poem on success I find inspiring that talks about leaving the world a better place whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition. It looks at how success can happen in a multitude of ways.
HT: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what would be the one book and album you would want with you?
AMV: It has to be ABBA Gold for the album. I'd like the book to be one on how to escape being on a deserted island.
HT: What attracted you to post-secondary education as a career and what about it has made you remain in the sector for more than three decades?
AMV: It's the students. I got involved in student activities when I was an undergrad student at Memorial University. I was elected as a counselor. Then I became vice -president of the student union and then president of the student union. That was coupled with the experience I had with the president at the university of the time, Dr. Leslie Harris. He was an amazing individual, always accessible to me, always listening and always having time for me. I was pretty rebellious, and he embraced and encouraged it. I try to pay that forward. In my career, I have deliberately made sure that I am not too far away from students because the decisions institutions make ultimately impact all the people within the organization and sometimes we can lose sight of the impact on students. I've never wavered on my desire and commitment to be connected to students.
HT: What are three things you wouldn’t want to live without?
AMV: Chocolate, music and family. Chocolate is my weakness while music is a huge part of my life and so is my family.
HT: What's the very first job you had?
AMV: I worked in a long-term-care home. I was 16 and I worked as a dietary aide where I had responsibility for a floor of residents.
HT: Is there anything interesting or surprising that you didn't know about Humber College that you’ve learned since accepting the job?
AMV: Definitely the college’s work in international development. I recently was part of an announcement about a $4-million Humber-led project to assist STEM education for adolescent girls in Kenya and Ethiopia. I’m such a proponent of higher education’s role in wider society and our responsibility to lend our expertise to capacity building around the world. It enriches our own knowledge and experience so greatly as well. I think the focus on adolescent girls really struck home with me about girls and their access to education. I didn't know about the project before and I'm delighted about it.
HT: What's your favourite Movie, TV show, Play, Sports team, Athlete, Season and Place to visit?
Movie: Star Wars – Star Wars continues to be a big thing in our family.
TV show: The news – I’m a news junkie.
Play: Come From Away – I was working at Memorial University during 9/11 and the unit I was leading had some responsibility with the stranded passengers in St. John's.
Sports team: Toronto Blue Jays – I’ve been a Jays fan since high school.
Athlete: Figure skater Kaetlyn Osmond – she's an inspiring young woman.
Season: I'm a summer person for sure – I like it when I can put my sandals on and not have to wear my closed toe shoes for months.
Place to visit: Greece – my husband and I honeymooned there. I love it. I love the history, philosophy, islands and architecture. The landscape is just so beautiful.
HT: What historical event, invention or person has influenced you?
AMV: There’s French theorist Pierre Bourdieu who has this whole notion of social, cultural, and economic capital and how that relates to educational attainment. I have read much of his work because I really do believe that educational attainment is influenced by one’s social, cultural, and economic capital. His work is something that I have kept close to me as I see the need for opportunity within that whole landscape of educational attainment.
HT: Which actor would you want to play you in a biographical movie about your life?
AMV: Meryl Streep because you have to be multifaceted to play my life. You need to be to be partly a comedian and also partly serious. And she was Donna in Mamma Mia after all.
HT: What’s the most important thing you do as part of your daily routine?
AMV: It would have to be mapping out my day when I get up in the morning. I'm reading and looking at my schedule for the day and I like to visually map out where I need to be and what I need to do as it’s a big part of getting myself ready for the day.
HT: If you could learn one new skill, what would it be?
AMV: I'd like to learn how to play the piano. I played the guitar when I was young, but I'd like to know how to play the piano.
HT: What's your advice for students today?
AMV: I always say life comes with twists and turns and to take advantage by leaning into those curves because you don't know where they will take you – it could be to a better place than you ever imagined. That's what makes life interesting. This is relevant to the post-secondary experience because it’s an experience of self-discovery in many ways and it's about taking advantage of the curves, the opportunities, the things that can lead you somewhere unexpected and even better than where you thought you would be.