Brescia University College president Dr. Lauretta Frederking. (Photo courtesy Brescia University College)

Brescia president knows students matter

  • March 4, 2023

Like father, like daughter.

Dr. Lauretta Frederking credits listening to her father David Conklin’s lectures as a professor at the University of Western Ontario (now Western University) — he specialized in business, economics and public policy — for sparking her interest in becoming an educator. And she credits her mother, Marilyn, for instilling within her an unquenchable thirst to always be learning. 

Her instinct to become a teacher has translated into a rewarding career. The president of Brescia University College, a Catholic women’s liberal arts learning institution located at Western in London, Ont., said each day over the past 20 months in this role has been a gift. 

“I think it is an extraordinary privilege to be in the position of president as I am inspired every day, whether by the leadership team around me and by the faculty in the classroom who are engaging in cutting-edge research,” said Frederking. “As president, I think I have the opportunity to build on their projects or think about how to add value and synergy between teams, that is very exciting.

“And it is wonderful to work with the next generation to provide them with the tools so they can solve the thorniest problems in society.”

Innovation is a word Frederking uttered multiple times during her conversation with The Catholic Register. It appears to be a hallmark of her career. While teaching at the University of Portland, she shepherded a new faculty-orientation program and promoted community initiatives that championed diversity and inclusion.

This track record carried over to her work with Brescia starting in 2018 when she joined the institution as vice-principal and academic dean. She founded a Dean’s Speaker Series, launched a Master of Engineering in Food Processing program and hosted a four-part podcast series featuring conversations with community leaders to speak about pressing topics like education, food security, domestic violence and employment.

Her accomplishments have earned her recognition as one of the recipients of YMCA of Southwestern Ontario’s Women of Excellence awards for 2023 in the arts, culture, education and training category.

“It was a wonderful surprise,” said Frederking. “I like the bright light shining on Brescia, and this honour does that very beautifully. I think one of the needs that has been made resoundingly clear during my time as president is that we have a responsibility to serve our broader community. Brescia is trying to make the world a better place, and the YMCA award is a poignant statement that our work has value.”

Frederking said the Ursuline Sisters of Chatham, Ont., the religious sisters who formed the college in 1919, instilled the principle of being innovative to both increase access to education and be dynamic servants to the local community. Apparently, the boosted limelight on Brescia is paying dividends with enrolment. The school’s communication department stated there has been a 27-per-cent bump in registration numbers for the next academic year. 

The long-time instructor admits that she wasn’t a born natural in the classroom during her early teaching days. 

“I was incredibly nervous in any classroom environment. My voice would shake and my body would tremble.”

Her father stepped in to give her the blunt advice she needed to hear. 

“My father very powerfully said, ‘get over yourself. This isn’t about you. This is about opening the minds of the students in front of you.’ I do actually think those words were like a light switch,” she said. “Still, to this day, whenever I get nervous, I remember how it is about something much bigger than me.”

Frederking stokes the “curiosity of learning” by not being “a teacher of factoids and memorizing certain elements or concepts.”

“I influence students to be lit up by the curiosity of the world and its problems. I step back from discussions that are emotional and take them through intellectual puzzles to introduce them to a diversity of perspectives. When someone challenges you, it’s exciting. It is an interesting opportunity to see the world anew.”

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