For Laurelle LeVert, Associate Vice-President of the University of New Brunswick, Saint John, it all comes back to service. “My priority,” she says, “is to keep that engine running – to keep students thriving and learning, to support the faculty so they can do the teaching.”
On any given day, you can find Laurelle greeting her colleagues, meeting with students and managing the many different services at UNC. Laurelle oversees student services, recruitment and the university’s experiential education program. That’s a lot to juggle. But talking with Laurelle, one gets the impression that she is a natural administrator and someone who is able to step in and facilitate important conversations. However, she didn’t always see herself in this role.
“In my mind, I started a half dozen careers and made so many detours,” she says. “The most important thing is to have your dreams and have your passions, be open to being detoured the whole way – you’re not going to end up where you think you’re going. It’s certainly frightening but be open to it.”
No matter what job she has had, Laurelle has always found herself working with people who are just as passionate as her. “The work I’ve always done is this wonderful mix of people and processes,” Laurelle says. She now works with diverse groups, solving problems, trying to improve university processes. “Everyone has a slightly different view of how things should work. I relish the messiness of working in that complex nexus.”
That “complex nexus” can often bring about disagreement and debate. To help her, Laurelle studied to become a facilitator through Fierce Conversations, a global leadership development and training company. Her favourite module – confrontation.
“We are so bad at confrontation,” she laughs. But she has learned to see challenging conversations as a gift. “It’s not two people facing each other. The idea of a confrontation is standing side by side with someone, facing an issue, always with the objective of preserving and enriching the relationship.”
It is something she teaches others at UNB and tries to practice herself. But with her typical humility she says she still has much to learn.
And learning is important to Laurelle, as a student, a teacher and administrator. She thinks back to her first year at King’s.
“I think the Foundation Year Progamme (FYP) rewrote my DNA. I was a kid from a small city in Cape Breton, and FYP absolutely blew my mind … You read widely: philosophy, history, literature – that’s how we learn about people and ourselves. The real blessing of the liberal arts and humanities is accessing every single world view that’s out there.”
Laurelle continues to prioritize education for herself. She recently had a “mid-life non-crisis” and completed a Master’s of Library and Information Services at Dalhousie.
With that as a background and a career developing her administrative chops Laurelle is well suited to her hectic job. A good day for Laurelle goes like this: “I hit the ground running and I am flat out all day. That might be running from meeting to meeting, finishing a report, engaging in conversation, mentoring my staff, laughing a lot.”
And then at night, when she goes home, it is quiet. No TV, rarely the radio. It’s how Laurelle re-energizes. It’s a little like the medieval monks she studied for her PhD.
Updated: Aug. 2020