In his new post, the Parksville, B.C.-based retired academic will draw on his decades of experience in post-secondary educational leadership – most recently as the founding president of Thompson Rivers University – to provide advice, information, support, facilitation and counsel to Yorkville’s new president, Dr. Julia Christensen Hughes.
“I see my role as being available to anybody in Yorkville’s B.C. leadership who could see advantage or things I could add value to,” Barnsley said, noting that the scope of his advisory role includes anything from government and ministry relations to governance and decision making, to academic planning and programming, to international recruiting partnerships and strategies, among others.
A distinguished psychologist whose research on Relative Age Effect is cited extensively in Malcolm Gladwell’s 2008 bestseller, Outliers, Barnsley received his Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Victoria (1965), before moving on to McGill University, where he earned both his Master of Arts in Psychology (1968) and Ph.D. in Psychology (1971).
From there, he went on to a 40-year career in educational leadership, living and working in seven provinces through the years – including roles at Memorial University of Newfoundland (Research Fellow, 1970-73); The University of Lethbridge in Alberta (Associate Professor, Chair Department of Psychology, and Acting Dean Division of Science, 1973-80); School District No. 51 in Lethbridge, Alberta (Associate Superintendent, 1980-87); Saint Mary’s University in Nova Scotia (Professor and Dean of Education, 1987-92); St. Thomas University in New Brunswick (Professor and Vice-President Academic, 1992-98); and Thompson Rivers University in B.C. (President and Vice-Chancellor, 1998-2010).
It was in recognition of that latter role overseeing the transformation of University College of the Cariboo into Thompson Rivers (TRU) that Barnsley was named a recipient of both the British Columbia Community Achievement Award in 2012, and the Order of British Columbia in 2014 for his “outstanding leadership.”
“With its Open Learning Division, international partnerships, innovative Aboriginal learning program, and its positive impact on the social and economic development of the Kamloops region, Thompson Rivers University under Dr. Barnsley’s leadership, has attracted students locally, from across Canada and from 85 countries worldwide,” the B.C. Achievement Foundation wrote of Barnsley’s achievements in overseeing the transformation of University College of the Cariboo into TRU.
“His tremendous contributions are based on his belief that education is fundamental to hope and progress – for students, parents, communities and nation.”
One particular area in which Barnsley is expected to lend his expertise is in Yorkville’s navigation of British Columbia’s post-secondary credit transfer system.
Having spent 12 years on the British Columbia Council on Admissions and Transfers – six of which as co-chair (2011-17) – Barnsley knows from experience just how “huge” and “fundamental” the system is in B.C. in comparison to Ontario.
To give some context, Barnsley cited the following stats:
– 55,000 students move between B.C. public post-secondary education institutions annually
– On average, each transfer student in B.C. transfers 48 credits or fully one-and-a-half years
– 400,000 credits are transferred annually in B.C.
– 45 per cent of all bachelor graduates have attended more than one post-secondary institution
– There are currently 240,000 course-to-course transfer agreements in place in B.C.
“We have a large number of community colleges here in B.C., and they all teach the first two years of academic transfer. So, a fundamental of British Columbia post-secondary education system is this transfer system,” he said, noting the importance of navigating that system successfully.
“When you offer programs in B.C., no matter what kind of post-secondary institution you are, you’re trying to find a way to take your mission and vision and incorporate into that kind of a transfer system.”
Reflecting back on his career in education, Barnsley said it was his commitment to creating accessibility that he’s most proud of.
Where that common thread became so clear to Barnsley, he said, was his seven years in K-12 education as an Associate Superintendent for School District No. 51 in Lethbridge, Alberta.
“During that time, we were one of the few demonstration projects in Canada that was creating accessibility by taking all children – regardless of challenges or disabilities – and into their regular neighbourhood schools,” he said, noting that that commitment to accessibility continued in his work at Saint Mary’s and St. Thomas universities, which both come from a tradition of Catholic accessibility.
His time at Thompson Rivers – which today enrolls 3,500 international students from more than 100 countries each semester – was likewise an experience in which he was able to “create opportunities for people, regardless of where they live.”
And that’s a tradition he’s looking forward to continuing in his new role at Yorkville.
“When you look at Yorkville University, from what I understand, we boast a large number of international students. And when they’re coming here, there’s so much hope behind that,” he said.
“So, when I look at my relationship to Yorkville, I see that same kind of passion for accessibility here, the same kind of vision here, so I feel really excited in that context.”