Report of Search Committee



In March 2011, Peter MacKinnon, the 8th president of the University of Saskatchewan, announced to the Board of Governors his intention to step down on June 30, 2012, following 13 years as president.  The Board of Governors struck a presidential search committee in accordance with the newly-approved Search and Review Procedures for Senior Administrators. This was the first search undertaken under the new procedures.



  In accordance with the Procedures, the committee was established with membership as follows:
  • Nancy Hopkins (chair), Board of Governors member

  • Michel Desautels, General Academic Assembly member

  • David Hill, Deans’ Council member

  • Scott Hitchings, USSU member

  • Susan Milburn, Board of Governors member

  • Vera Pezer, University Senate member

  • Ingrid Pickering, General Academic Assembly member

  • Peter Stoicheff, Deans’ Council member

  • David Sutherland, Board of Governors member

  • Keith Walker, General Academic Assembly member

  • Winona Wheeler, General Academic Assembly member

  • Xue Yao, GSA member

  • Lea Pennock, University Secretary (non-voting confidential secretary to the committee)

All members of the search committee participated fully in the process.


The committee’s mandate is perhaps best expressed by the “Message from the Chair” that was posted on the web site for the search:

“The University of Saskatchewan has enjoyed tremendous progress under the leadership of our current president, Peter MacKinnon. While we are saddened by his upcoming departure in June 2012, we are also excited by the opportunity to continue to build on the momentum President MacKinnon has created.

The search committee, comprising members of the board, senate, deans, faculty and students, understands the importance of finding an outstanding candidate to recommend to the Board of Governors to fill the role of president. As a university, our progress is matched only by our desire always to do more – our integrated plan and the renewed strategic directions reflect the lofty but realistic ambitions we have for ourselves.

The University of Saskatchewan, building on more than 100 years of history, finds our success among our people. We look forward to working together through this process, and to another presidential term that will continue to propel us toward our goal of becoming an engaged university, and one of the most distinguished universities in Canada and the world. “


 By May 19, the committee had been fully populated, and a search consultant, Janet Wright of Janet Wright and Associates, had been retained to assist with the search.  Dr. Wright has an outstanding reputation as the preeminent search consultant for university presidents in Canada, and was the consultant who assisted with the appointment of Peter MacKinnon in 1999. 

With the goal of having the new president take office July 1, 2012, the committee outlined a search timeline encompassing four broad phases: search preparation and consultation (May, June); candidate recruitment and debriefing (summer to early fall); evaluation of candidates (mid to late fall) and decision, report to the board and recommendation (late 2011 to early 2012).

The committee then embarked on an extensive consultation and communication process, including the following:

  • A Call for Nominations and Submissions was sent out on June 9 to all faculty, staff and students as well as to members of governing bodies and to stakeholders across the province.  Over 50 submissions were received and considered by the committee.

  • A Presidential Search Fact Sheet was created and distributed on the web site and at consultations.

  • Town Halls were scheduled on campus (June 9, with approximately 60 in attendance), at the Saskatoon Public Library (June 13, with 10 individuals in attendance), and in Regina (June 15, with 6 in attendance).  Several members of the search committee as well as the search consultant attended each town hall.  Participants were invited to consider the following questions:

o   What in your view are the main issues and challenges that will be facing the university over the term of the next president – that is, over the next 5-10 years?

o   Given that context, what are the qualifications, experience, and vision that you believe the presidential search committee should be seeking in our next president?

o   Should the presidential search committee be seeking candidates outside the academy, and if so, from which sectors?

  • The search committee met with deans council on June 21.

  • A facilitated session was held with members of the Board of Governors on June 23.

  • Individual meetings with each of the vice-presidents were held on June 9 and June 24.

  • Former UBC President Martha Piper and Peter MacKinnon each met with the committee to describe the role of president in a medical-doctoral university.

  • A Presidential Search web site was created and populated with a message from the chair, information about the search process, the committee and consultant, and information for prospective candidates.  The web site went live in July.

  • Four updates were sent out by email and posted on the Presidential Search web site on July 14, August 19, October 20, and November 28.

  • The committee met 7 times (not including town halls and interviews with stakeholders, advisors and candidates):  on May 25, June 24, September 1, October 11, October 31, November 27 and December 7.


Interviews and decision

  The committee determined at its June 24 meeting, following review of the practice for presidential searches at other Canadian universities and in consultation with the search consultant, that it would conduct a confidential search.   Over 30 highly qualified individuals applied, were nominated, or were identified by the search consultant.  Interviews, at which all members of the search committee were present, were held in late November.

  The search committee voted unanimously to recommend the appointment of Dr. Ilene Busch-Vishniac, whose biography follows, as the 9th president of the University of Saskatchewan for a five-year term beginning July 1, 2012.


Ilene Busch-Vishniac Biography

                 Ilene Busch-Vishniac has been the Provost and Vice-President, Academic at McMaster University since 2007, where she is also a Professor of Mechanical Engineering.  As Provost, she has been instrumental in technology systems renewal, the development of a new budget model, improving the student experience, faculty renewal, strategic enrolment planning, advancing the scholarship of teaching and learning on campus, and modeling a highly successful and collaborative college-university partnership.  Dr. Busch-Vishniac has also worked to enhance diversity initiatives at McMaster, particularly focusing on ties to First Nations communities nearby.  

               Dr. Busch-Vishniac received her undergraduate degrees in physics and mathematics from the University of Rochester, and Master of Science and PhD degrees in mechanical engineering from MIT.  She worked as a postdoctoral fellow in the Acoustics Research Department of Bell Laboratories immediately following completion of her PhD.  In 1981, Dr. Busch-Vishniac joined the faculty of The University of Texas at Austin as an Assistant Professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department.  She remained there until 1998, rising through the ranks and holding an endowed chair as well as serving as the associate chair of the department.  She then joined Johns Hopkins University as the Dean of the Whiting School of Engineering, where she remained until joining McMaster University in 2007.

                 Dr. Busch-Vishniac’s research work focuses on aspects of acoustics and on diversity issues as they relate to engineering education.  She is best known for her work to control noise in hospitals and for her efforts to revise engineering curricula to suit a more diverse population.  She has authored over 60 technical articles, a monograph, and a number of popular papers.  She also holds nine US patents on electromechanical sensors.  She has served as the lead supervisor for 18 PhD students, 34 MS students, and a host of undergraduate students engaged in research projects.  

               Dr. Busch-Vishniac has received many teaching and research awards, including the Curtis McGraw Research Award of the American Society for Engineering Education, the Silver Medal in Engineering Acoustics of the Acoustical Society of America, the Achievement Award of the Society of Women Engineers.  She has also served in a variety of leadership roles, including President of the Acoustical Society of America and Chair of the Ontario Council of Academic Vice-Presidents.

                 Dr. Busch-Vishniac is married to Ethan Vishniac, a renowned astrophysicist and the Editor-in-Chief of the Astrophysical Journal.  Together they have two children: Cady, aged 26 and Miriam, aged 23.