Algonquin College president Cheryl Jensen announced Tuesday she will step down when her five-year term expires at the end of this year.
The longtime college executive and Algonquin’s first female president told OBJ she hopes her legacy of promoting entrepreneurship and strong collaboration with Ottawa businesses will carry on with her successor.
“I believe the college … is a huge economic driver for the city,” Jensen said. “I’ve spent a lot of my time and will continue to do so until I’m finished here, working with business, making sure that partnerships are strong.”
Jensen’s tenure at Algonquin has been marked by a strong focus on instilling entrepreneurial principles into programs offered by the college. During her term she oversaw a number of operations dedicated to that goal, the most recent one being the construction of the DARE District learning centre.
“Entrepreneurship doesn’t mean that you necessarily have to start your own company,” she said. “It means that even if you work at a large organization, you have that entrepreneurial spirit – that what you do every day is important to everyone else who works for the company.”
"I believe the college ... is a huge economic driver for the city."
One point of pride from Jensen’s work with the college is the recent establishment of the Education City initiative, a partnership in principle among Ottawa’s four main post-secondary institutions: the University of Ottawa, Carleton University, La Cité collégiale and Algonquin.
“We are in the early days,” said Jensen, “but it should start accelerating in the next months and years into something we can be very proud of as a city, drawing more people here.”
The initiative’s primary goal is making co-op placement opportunities for students more flexible and rewarding, and in effect making Ottawa a more attractive landscape for companies looking for skilled employees.
To that end, Algonquin’s planned switch to a three-semester academic year will “absolutely help co-op programs,” Jensen said.
“It opens up a flexibility for how we structure program delivery and gives employers opportunities to hire students for co-op in all three terms – fall, winter and summer – which is something we haven’t done in the past.”
Jensen said the best way to ensure the initiative bears fruit is for the next person who fills her position to remain committed to it.
“Leadership of big initiatives like Education City starts at the top,” said Jensen. “I am proud to say all four school presidents are totally committed. That’s something I certainly hope the board will consider when they’re looking for my successor.”
Jensen earned a bachelor of science degree in chemistry at McMaster University before beginning her teaching career at Hamilton’s Mohawk College in 1983. After earning a master’s degree in education from Brock University, she served in various senior administrative roles at Mohawk before becoming president of Algonquin in 2014.
As for what’s next on the horizon after she steps down, Jensen said she’s not sure yet, adding whatever it is, it won’t be “full-time.” In the near future, she said, she is looking forward to vacationing and spending time with her grandchildren.
“I’ll be watching Algonquin from afar for sure,” she said.