Christian Detellier: 35 years of deep dedication

Posted on Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Christian Detellier

By Mike Foster

Christian Detellier’s term as vice-president academic and provost ended June 30.  Michel Laurier, dean of the Faculty of Education, will take over the role on an interim basis for the next two years.

Born in Charleroi, Belgium, Detellier was dean of the Faculty of Science from 1997 to 2006 and associate vice-president, research, from 2008 to 2012. He became acting VP academic and provost in January 2012 and was appointed to the position on a permanent basis in September 2012.

Reflecting upon his time as the highest ranking officer at uOttawa after the president, Detellier said what he remembers most is “a general atmosphere” of an increasing “momentum of success” over the past several years.

“I particularly appreciated working with my team of colleagues in the administrative committee and with my associate VP to keep up this momentum. I was surrounded by an exceptional group of people in the VP academic office,” Detellier said.

The VP academic and provost oversees the University’s 10 faculties and is in charge of setting academic direction, designing and evaluating programs, recruiting professors and developing student recruitment strategies, in partnership with the deans.

Detellier said that the key changes he has seen have been an increase in the overall averages of students admitted to the University and lower fees for students studying in French.

“We increased admission averages while keeping stable the number of students. We reinforced the quality control of our programs and evaluated their sustainability. We also made the campus more open to international students,” said Detellier.

Future projects such as the new Learning Centre, the reorganization of graduate studies and a new Student Information System in 2016 will add to the momentum, he added.

Detellier was also co-chair of the Standing Committee on Francophone Affairs and Official Languages and the person responsible for all sectors that play an important strategic role in the University’s special French-language mission.  When he first arrived from Belgium as a visiting professor 35 years ago, Detellier said he and his wife were impressed by the University’s bilingualism.

“We were immediately in admiration for this institution, where the languages and cultures existed so harmoniously. And I still admire it. We were coming from a country where bilingualism is the juxtaposition of two monolingualisms, where bicultural rhymes with separation, exclusion. It was refreshing to see how uOttawa was working. Of course, things can only improve, but I am convinced that our institution is a model of respect and tolerance for the rest of the world,” he said.

Detellier, whose academic background is in the field of physical, organic and materials chemistry, will return to the Faculty of Science to work with his research group. Detellier’s research focuses on the design, synthesis and application of new nanohybrid materials, mainly based on naturally-occurring clay minerals.

“I have research grants and contracts, including an NSERC Discovery grant, until July 2017, when I will retire. I look forward to helping my last two PhD students to graduate. I will also continue to collaborate with my industrial and academic partners, as well as the Erasmus Mundus consortium of five universities supervising the International Master in Advanced Clay Science. This includes teaching a graduate course and supervising the research of these students. I will also participate in the scientific life of my department, something which I could not do for a long time. I will be quite busy,” Detellier said.

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