Kuehne: “It’s been a great privilege.”

- Robie Liscomb

Seven years ago, when Valerie Kuehne became vice-president external relations, she had a set of goals for the division she was about to lead.

“I felt that the division needed to be integrated more fully into the core of the university’s academic mission,” she says. “I wanted to increase the alignment and productivity of the division in support of UVic’s strategic priorities, and I wanted to bring stability to the division—which had had been led by five people over the prior six years—and help foster a more positive working environment.”

Now, as she is about to hand over the reins of external relations to her successor as vice-president, Carmen Charette, at the end of the month, Kuehne can do so with a sense of progress and accomplishment.

“I’m very gratified by what the division has been able to accomplish and by how people have responded to my leadership,” says Kuehne. “Many of the things that I set out to do when I started we have accomplished or are well on our way to doing so.”

“Valerie provided excellent leadership to the external relations portfolio, building a strong team of professionals focused on supporting the university’s academic mission and enhancing the way we communicate both internally and externally,” says UVic President David Turpin. “We are very grateful for Valerie’s hard work and dedication to the university and to the Victoria community. Her outstanding talent for strategic thinking and remarkable energy and enthusiasm have benefited the University of Victoria greatly and will continue to do so in the coming years.”

The Division of External Relations comprises Alumni Relations, University Ceremonies and Events, UVic Communications Services, Community Relations, Corporate Relations, External Awards Facilitation, University Centre Farquhar Auditorium, Finnerty Gardens, Giving to UVic (Development), Government Relations, University Marketing, and University Art Collections.

Over her tenure, many of these units have developed closer working relationships with UVic’s academic units. “We now integrate our fundraising plans with our academic plans, and our communications strategies are faculty-based,” she says. “We have become more systematic and strategic about what we do and how we do it, increasing our productivity, setting and achieving targets in support of UVic’s institutional mission.”

One measure of this success is the doubling of fundraising receipts over this period to more than $20 million annually.

Kuehne has also been passionate in communicating the role of the division to audiences both internal and external.

“The division is part of many of the university’s most important decisions,” she explains. “We are at the table representing the broader community, our critical partners, and enhancing the university’s reputation. We are a vehicle for facilitating civic engagement in each of our portfolios. Every time we engage with the media, government, communities, corporate partners, donors and our alumni, we act as ambassadors for the university and provide them with a vehicle into the university.”

Now, Kuehne is about to take her career full-circle, returning to the teaching and research that she loves. Kuehne came to UVic 22 years ago as a faculty member in the School of Child and Youth Care. She served as director of the school and then as associate vice-president academic planning, playing a critical role in the establishment of the Island Medical Program at UVic, before becoming VP external.

“It’s been a great privilege for me to be able to serve in such a diversity of roles and all within the same institution. It has contributed to my own development richly and in ways I could not have anticipated,” she says. “I am grateful for the opportunities I’ve enjoyed at UVic and I’m grateful for the growth I’ve seen in others along the way. Because of this growth, we have flourished and so has the university. And now I can go back to where I started and my reason for coming to UVic in the first place, which is the students, the teaching, learning and sharing knowledge, and pursuing my research. That return to the start, so to speak, is a privilege, and I don’t know of any other institution where in a single career, you can do all of these wonderful things.”

But before that, she has some well-earned leave time to enjoy. “I plan to rejuvenate, which for me includes the arts and some outdoor adventures,” she says. “There’s a Brahms rhapsody waiting on my piano, a week-long art glass camp on the horizon, and a cruise to Antarctica with my family.”


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Keywords: leadership

People: Valerie Kuehne

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