Whenever Shauneen Bruder sets foot on the University of Guelph campus, it is like coming home to the place where her love of learning first had free rein. It is a seminal place in the life of the U of G alumna, who has just been appointed chair of the University’s Board of Governors, the first woman to hold the position.
“U of G is such an important part of my life,” said Bruder, who graduated in 1980 with a BA before completing an MBA at Queen’s University. “To have this gift to come back and reengage as I have over the last few years with the Board of Governors has just been a joy.”
She said she is thrilled to be heading an exceptional U of G governance team and to help navigate her alma mater through changing times.
“I am delighted that Shauneen Bruder has agreed to serve as chair of the University’s Board of Governors,” said president Franco Vaccarino. “She brings to the role her impressive experience as a top banking executive and genuine enthusiasm for this University as an alumna.”
He said the new chair is well-known for her commitment to collaborative decision-making, a quality that defines U of G and makes it a leading post-secondary institution.
Bruder is executive vice-president of operations for the Royal Bank of Canada. She is a director of CN and Andrew Peller Ltd. and has served as chair of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian American Business Council. A recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, she has been inducted into the Women’s Executive Network Top 100 Most Powerful Women Hall of Fame.
“I am so honoured to be the first woman to hold this position, and at such a dynamic time in our history,” she said. “We have come a long way since I was a student in the 1970s and a young woman starting my career. But there is more work to be done to ensure that we fully embrace diversity and inclusion. This will continue to be an important focus of this Board of Governors.
“The skills and experiences I gained as a student at Guelph well prepared me for the opportunities and challenges I have faced throughout my career. In particular, teamwork, critical thinking skills and applied, collaborative learning through field trips built enduring confidence and capability.
“These are what I come back to – my ability to work in a team, to collaborate, to synthesize information, distill it down and make sense of it.”
Recalling her arrival at U of G, she said, “Like so many young people, I didn’t really have a clear idea of what I wanted to do. I knew I loved to learn. I was very fortunate to have come to Guelph, a university that really encouraged you to try a lot of different things – to engage with integrative learning and the exploration of different topics.”
An added and enduring bonus was meeting her husband, Michael Bruder, at U of G when she was 18, she said.
Bruder grew up in Ancaster, Ont., as the eldest of five children, all of whom attended university. Both of her parents were education professionals.
“Our family put great emphasis on learning and challenging yourself to be the best you could be, on improving and growing. That’s how I was raised. The opportunity as a student to really explore some of the big questions, to do research and to acquire a discerning ability and really test facts, is just so important.”
Bruder said one of the University’s strengths is an integrative and collaborative approach to learning across the entire campus.
“These are things that I think are huge differentiators that prepare people for a future that is going to demand these kinds of skills. The world needs people who are multidisciplinary, who can think broadly in an integrative way.”
She said her Board role will focus on supporting and advancing the University’s mission, nurturing a learning environment and fostering health and wellness throughout the academy.
“I think universities are a fantastic place to thoroughly develop the whole person and a discerning, questioning curiosity about the big questions. For me, that intellectual curiosity has made a huge difference in my life.”
Referring to the value of openness, curiosity and the desire to learn, she said, “I have been a lifelong learner and have been a student my whole life. In many ways, I feel like I just left as an undergraduate yesterday.”