Community is key for new George Brown College President Dr. Gervan Fearon
Dr. Gervan Fearon became known as the people’s president and a community builder throughout his career as a leader in post-secondary education. It is a nickname and phrase that he is proud of, and he hopes it follows him to his new role as President of George Brown College.
Fearon greatly enjoys striking up casual chats with students and employees — informal connections that impact the sense of community and belonging he aims to cultivate and nurture at the college.
“I think part of being a people's president is connecting with students and employees and recognizing that together we collectively represent the college and the excellent programming and opportunities we provide," he said. "Our students, employees, alumni and partners all have a voice as to the future of the college."
"When we all feel engaged, connected and included, there is a broader base for every member of the community to contribute. This can lead to incredible outcomes, essential to fulfilling George Brown’s mandate,” added Fearon. “Our mandate is clear – we offer comprehensive career-oriented, post-secondary education and training to assist individuals in finding and keeping employment; to meet the needs of employers and the changing work environment; and to support the economic and social development of local and diverse communities. This mandate comes directly out of the Ontario Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology Act and it informs and is reflected in what the college does every day. It’s what motivates me to support and contribute through my service as President of George Brown College.”
Connecting and identifying with students
Fearon kicked off his first official day at George Brown with physically distanced meetings with members of the college community, including a roundtable with students from a wide range of backgrounds, experiences and areas of study. He says he can relate to the jitters new students may be feeling as the first day of the fall semester approaches.
“I get it,” he said. “As I am starting, I have an appreciation for students who are starting for the first time at the college. We’re all in this together. My focus is on their success, and on respecting that the support they receive from faculty and employees is so important to their overall experience, success and future.”
He urges students to consider “how much you’ll learn from interacting with other students when you share your perspectives and experiences,” and to “recognize the college is a learning community and you have an opportunity to contribute to the outcomes and the vitality of that community.”
Demonstrating examples of possibility
Fearon said he’s excited to lead George Brown because the college plays a vital role in advancing education, career development and talent building across the Greater Toronto Area — benefitting communities across the region, as well as local industry.
“We are contributing to the future of our students, growth of the economy, vitality of communities, and prosperity of all Ontarians. It is a great honour that I share with everyone associated with the college,” he said. “George Brown demonstrates to students and others what is possible and what post-secondary education can deliver to society.”
Before he became president of George Brown, Fearon was president and vice-chancellor at Brock and Brandon universities. And while he has a long record of accomplishment in the post-secondary field, he also brings a broad range of other experiences to his role at the college.
“People might not know that I’ve worked on a farm, in a factory, and in a restaurant. I’ve also been a part-time instructor at a college and university. I’ve been a president, and worked in government and in industry,” he said. “These experiences have helped me understand a range of perspectives. They also demonstrate to me that everyone at the college can bring their wide range of talents to the table to help George Brown achieve its goals, contributing to our students, local businesses and employers, communities and partners.”
A lifelong learner
Another thing people might not know about Fearon is that he plays the saxophone (alto and tenor).
“I try to practice as much as I can and I am humbled every time I listen to others,” he said.
Fearon first picked up the instrument about a decade ago, and the effort to master it exemplifies the qualities he admires most about post-secondary education.
“It’s an example of continuous and lifelong learning, always challenging oneself, and of finding a passion and attempting to actualize it,” he said. “And it's an example of having the humility to recognize you have a far way to go. But the constant effort is also rewarding and can be an inspiration to you and others. It is what inspires me about post-secondary education and George Brown College – we are constantly trying to enhance how we serve students and support their success.”