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Dean of The Chang School to resign in April 2024

By Lillie Coussée

The Dean of The Chang School of Continuing Education, Gary Hepburn, is resigning after four years at Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU). His last day will be April 2. 

Hepburn joined The Chang School as its dean in January 2020 and his decision to leave was due to another opportunity at the Fredericton campus of Yorkville University, he said in an interview with The Eyeopener

“It was difficult to leave after four years, but life comes up on you sometimes,” he said. “There are opportunities and then various personal reasons why [taking them] make sense.”

Linda Koechli is serving as acting dean to aid in the transition between Hepburn and the soon-to-be-appointed interim dean. Koechli told The Eye she will be in the acting dean role until April 2.

She worked closely with Hepburn and said he has brought various kinds of innovation to The Chang School. 

According to Koechli, some significant implementations Hepburn achieved include beginning new certificate courses for post-graduate students, launching two certificate programs for international students and creating Curv Microcredentials—short competency-based assessments. 

“I think [Hepburn] has been very transformative [for] the school,” she said. 

Hepburn also said that before the COVID-19 pandemic, The Chang School was facilitating about 40 per cent of classes online. In March 2020, all classes were moved online. With Hepburn leading the faculty, he said they made a effortless transition to all online courses and were able to facilitate students’ and staff’s needs. 

“We’re quite proud of [the switch to online learning],” Hepburn said. “It’s something that I certainly had a leadership role in, but the entire Chang School worked very hard and did an excellent job.” 

Maha Naqi, a Chang School alumni, was enrolled in multiple courses when the pandemic began. She said the shift to online learning was “fairly smooth.” 

“[My professor] was good at adapting to online [learning], he posted lectures which we were able to view [and] he [was] really responsive via email.”

Naqi graduated from The Chang School with a certificate in mental health and addictions. She said her professors supported her throughout the transition to online learning while accommodating her full-time job and other obligations outside of school. 

Naqi is currently a student at TMU, completing a bachelor’s degree in social work. After studying at various institutions across Ontario, she said The Chang School was one of the “best learning experiences” she’s had. 

“I think The Chang School has done a really great job of figuring out how to accommodate the unique needs of mature learners and I feel privileged that I [get] to call myself a Chang School alumna,” she said. 

Julie Gordon is a student-athlete at The Chang School. As a player on TMU’s women’s volleyball team, Gordon says the online courses enable her to complete her studies on her own time and work around other commitments. 

“The fact that I’m also working full time, [the online courses] allow me some flexibility and then also obviously playing [volleyball] as well,” she said. “I have quite a busy schedule.”  

Hepburn has worked and developed online learning since the early 2000s at many institutions across Canada and the Caribbean. Throughout the pandemic, Hepburn served on TMU’s Keep Teaching Taskforce, a committee that supported faculty and contract lecturers to virtualize their classrooms as many staff did not have prior knowledge of online learning, he said. 

Koechli said that under Hepburn’s direction, The Chang School also created the Foundations of Remote Teaching, which provided training for instructors and professors on how to teach online.

“That was very successful. It was taken by a large number of our instructors and professors and I think [it] was also really important to support them in that whole transition time of the pandemic,” she said. 

In an emailed response to The Eye, TMU president Mohamed Lachemi called Hepburn a “committed leader” at the university and noted that the institution will miss his “strategic guidance and expertise in responsive education.”

A new dean of The Chang School will be appointed by a committee, keeping with TMU’s policy for the Appointment of Academic Administrators, Hepburn said. He added that the Provost and Vice-President, Academic, Roberta Iannacito-Provenzano, will lead the search in finding a new dean. 

Hepburn said he has many good memories from his time at The Chang School and hopes it continues its commitment to adult learners. 

“Though I’ll be in a different place, I’ll be kind of watching to see how it goes…I think it’s well set up and I’m hoping The Chang School will be very successful in the future,” he said.

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