Kathleen Nichol receives national award for advancement of women at BU

Two women hold plaques while standing with a man
Kathleen Nichol, centre, of Brandon University is joined by fellow Sarah Shorten Award recipient Chantal Dion of Carleton University and Canadian Association of University Teachers President Peter McInnis at the CAUT Council Meeting in Ottawa. (Photo by Lauren Gattie, CAUT)

A recently retired faculty member has been presented with a national award recognizing her efforts in promoting equity at Brandon University (BU).

Kathleen Nichol, who retired from her role as an Instructional Associate in 2022 after more than 40 years at BU, was the recipient of the Sarah Shorten Award at the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) Council Meeting on Friday in Ottawa. The Sarah Shorten Award recognizes outstanding achievements in the promotion of the advancement of women in Canadian universities and colleges. Nichol joined the Status of Women Review Committee (SWRC) at BU in the early 1990s, serving as its first chair, from 1994 until 2017.

While she was flattered to be recognized, Nichol said that it was the work itself that was most meaningful.

“I am very, very proud of the SWRC and the effective, good work they have done, and are doing today,” Nichol said. “Hearing faculty members’ concerns and being with a group of people who were creative in trying to address these concerns was so rewarding.”

In particular, Nichol points to SWRC research that investigated why women were lagging behind men in tenure and promotion when they were just as capable and productive. This led to the development of promotion and tenure workshops open to all faculty, helping them to understand the guidelines laid out in the collective agreement so that all members could apply when they were qualified. The SWRC has also been instrumental in the development of training for faculty in teaching methods, developing proposals for research grants, addressing the work climate at BU and examining the collective agreement for issues that put women at a disadvantage.

“Kathleen’s work is an inspiration for current SWRC members,” said SWRC Chair Gretta Sayers.

“Her practical and effective approach of ‘What do you need? Let’s do it!’ informs the many ways that SWRC continues to support women faculty at BU.”

Nichol is also a graduate of BU, having earned a Bachelor of Science (Math and Physics) in 1973, followed by Bachelor of Education degrees in 1975 (Secondary Math and Science) and 1992 (Guidance and Counselling). She began teaching as a part-time lab instructor in 1976 and was hired full-time in 1978. She taught 090 Math, Physics and Chemistry in the Faculty of Science from 1978 until her retirement and has also taught in the Program for Education of Native Teachers.

“Kathleen was an early advocate for women in faculty. She recognized systemic disadvantages that women faced and worked tirelessly to address them,” said SWRC member Cheryl Fleming. “We all owe Kathleen and the early members of SWRC a great debt, and we are proud to continue their work toward equality.”

While at BU, Nichol has been the recipient of numerous honours, including a YWCA Brandon Woman of Distinction award in 2015 as well as the Order of Felix Rufus, the BU Alumni Association Excellence in Teaching Award and the Gold Medal for the Bachelor of Education program while a student.

Nichol’s love for teaching and science have also led her to participate in many outreach programs that have introduced younger students to BU. She has visited schools in Brandon and Forrest to make fun presentations to elementary school students, has helped the Chemistry department welcome elementary and high school students to participate in experiments and has volunteered to prepare local students for the national Math Kangaroo contest.

“Any opportunity to teach, at the university level or though outreach, I loved. That is why I did this for my career,” Nichol said. “Seeing students “get it” and seeing the grins on their faces made it a ball, all the time!”


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