Dr. Jeff Zabudsky: An Oakville Leader

The son of a single parent brick-layer becomes a Canadian educational leader

Jeff Zabudsky

Dr. Jeff Zabudsky was chosen to lead Sheridan College as president for another term after the school’s board of governors unanimously decided to renew his contract early this month.

Zabudsky started at Sheridan in 2010 and the renewal of his contract will keep him in the presidential seat for another seven years. He says this will give him time to finish many of the initiatives he has put forth since starting at the college. It will also give him time to see through Sheridan’s push for university status.

“My new contract extends to 2022 so that gives me a lot of runway to get a lot more things done,” said Zabudsky. “We have to finish the second phase of the Mississauga campus, which is a big deal, and we have plans to build a new technology centre in Brampton. The other thing that is important is the finishes on the Oakville campus with the new student service centre.”

“Be bold, be courageous…and if you get knocked down, get back up and try again and it’s amazing where life can take you.”

As for the transition to becoming a university, he’s been meeting with municipal and regional councils on the matter. The project is progressing. He believes that Sheridan will be in position to meet accreditation requirements in about three years.

Completing these initiatives are part of the reason he feels the board wants to keep him around. Another reason is his experience in the college sector. Before arriving at Sheridan Zabudsky was president of Red River College in Winnipeg and prior to that he was vice president of academics at Sault College in Sault Ste Marie. He also had a role as dean at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT).

“There’s been a lot of retirements from colleges and universities, so it’s getting increasingly hard to find experienced people who are seasoned and proven administrators.  I think I have a bit of that to show.”

His journey to post-secondary administration was a long one and it took him across the country and back. Being raised in the small northern town of Englehart, Ontario he says he never could have imagined his life would take him as far as it has.

After graduating from high school in 1983 he attended Ryerson for broadcast journalism. While in the media, he started a part-time course working toward his Master of Education in Distance Education from Athabasca University in Alberta.

Zabudsky then moved to Nova Scotia and worked at the Dalhousie Faculty of Agriculture where he spent three years before moving to Edmonton to work as a dean at NAIT. It was there he finished his Master Degree and began working toward his Ph.D. in Educational Policy Studies.

After his stint in Alberta, he came back to Ontario and took the role of vice president of academics at Sault College in Sault Ste Marie. Then he had the opportunity to become president of Red River College and moved to Winnipeg in 2004. He stayed there for almost six years, before finally landing at Sheridan in 2010.

“It’s hard to believe I was a kid growing up in a small town called Englehart. Raised by a single-parent father, I was the oldest of three siblings. My Dad raised us on his own and I never could have imagined where life would take me,” said Zabudsky. “My father was a bricklayer and worked hard to raise his family. I always thought I’d end up working for him as a bricklayer’s assistant. But you know, opportunity came a long and I went to Ryerson.”

Zabudsky attributes never saying “no” to an opportunity as the key to his success and wants to offer that advice to others.

“Be bold, be courageous…and if you get knocked down, get back up and try again and it’s amazing where life can take you.”

After all that moving he says he’s happy to be living in his home province again. He lives in Oakville with his wife, who is a lawyer, and has three daughters. His eldest is studying at the University of Ottawa and his two youngest will both be in high school by next year.

Now that he’s settled he plans to stay at Sheridan for as long as the board of governors will keep him.

“Why would I want to work anywhere else? I already work at the best possible institution in Canada. I’m working at a place that is moving toward a new status as a university, at the same time holding on to the great strength of our college programs. So where else would I want to be?”






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