Inspiring the Leaders of Tomorrow
February 5, 2021
Assistant Professor of Teaching
School of Engineering
Okanagan (Kelowna, BC)
PhD, Interdisciplinary Studies (English and Cultural Studies), UBC Okanagan
Master of Arts, English Literature, UBC Okanagan
Bachelor of Arts, Philosophy, McGill University
Lake Country, BC
“Our world is changing, and facilitating respectful, ethical conduct will help foster creative and critical thinking in our engineering students, and make our world a better place.”
THE WHISTLE BLOWS, AND THE LEAD OFFICIAL SIGNALS the point to the serving team. A large crowd has packed UBC Okanagan’s Hangar gymnasium to watch a Canada West women’s volleyball match. The lead official, Dr. Jannik Eikenaar, is one of the most seasoned in British Columbia, but this isn’t his full-time gig; by day, Dr. Eikenaar teaches technical communication at UBCO’s School of Engineering.
Passionate about positive leadership and its impact on society, the assistant professor of teaching was recently appointed a Marshall Bauder Professor in Experiential Learning and Leadership by UBC’s Faculty of Applied Science (APSC).
The Bauder Professor develops and implements novel ideas to provide superior experiential learning opportunities for students, especially in the area of leadership. For Dr. Eikenaar, the role includes developing a program in positive leadership focused on principles of equity, diversity and inclusion that will prepare APSC students for their professional careers.
“Whether it’s on the volleyball court, in the boardroom or by generally contributing to society, it’s important that future leaders build and reinforce their understanding of civic engagement and global learning, intercultural competencies and teamwork when leading,” explains Dr. Eikenaar.
This isn’t the first time Dr. Eikenaar has worked on leadership initiatives: for the past several years he has worked with fellow UBCO professor Dr. Carolyn Labun to develop Introduction to Engineering, a module-based program for students beginning their degrees. He also previously trained some of the top volleyball officials in Canada, noting that the aims of both contexts are similar: “We want individuals who listen, are respectful and empathetic, and who are prepared to make the best possible decisions in diverse and challenging situations.”
As one of two equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) advisors at the School of Engineering, Dr. Eikenaar has spearheaded several initiatives on the Okanagan campus to enhance the existing curriculum with intercultural understanding. He is also working to address issues related to the student experience through diverse and inclusive spaces, and enable two-way dialogue between UBC administration and students.
“The underlying EDI attributes of these initiatives need to get engrained into our culture so that everyone, regardless of who they are, can benefit from being included and heard,” explains Dr. Eikenaar.
After completing his Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy at McGill University, Dr. Eikenaar returned to the Okanagan, where he grew up, to complete his Master of Arts and PhD at UBC Okanagan in English Literature and Interdisciplinary Studies (English Literature and Cultural Studies). He says that his background in philosophy, literature and cultural studies has helped mould a foundation in developing themes related to inclusivity, diversity, identity and ethics: “How values are determined and derived, by whom, and how they are communicated are often the basis of whether ideas and initiatives are championed or not.”
Back on the volleyball court, a whistle blows and a coach starts yelling. Dr. Eikenaar consults with the members of the officiating team and, a moment later, the call is confirmed. A team captain comes over to have a word; Dr. Eikenaar listens, explains the call, and the team captain runs over to her coach to relay the information.
In a sense, this is a prime example of a positive, distributed leadership style where a leader (in this case the head official) processes a bunch of complex information including the opinions of others to determine a course of action.
“Our world is changing,” says Dr. Eikenaar, “and facilitating respectful, ethical conduct will help foster creative and critical thinking in our engineering students, and make our world a better place.”
The positive leadership program will soon play a role in developing such a world.