From the Board of Directors:
The genius Board of Directors is excited to welcome Selena Gignac into the role of Executive Director of the Global Youth Education Network Society (genius). Selena brings incredible experience and vision to the role and we are thrilled that she will be leading the important work of the organization.
Before introducing Selena to you, we want to take this opportunity to recognize outgoing Executive Director, Kevin Millsip, and his brilliant leadership over the past 14 years.
Since founding genius in 2004, Kevin has grown the vision of the organization and its programs, and genius has seen an incredible evolution over that time. Next Up, our flagship program, began in Vancouver in 2006 and now offers social and environmental justice leadership programs in seven cities across Canada. It also offers specific Indigenous leadership training opportunities for Indigenous young adults in Saskatchewan and British Columbia. Genius has also supported the important work of Organize BC, Get Your Vote On, Front Runner and Hua Foundation. It has been an honour for the Directors to work alongside Kevin, support his vision, and celebrate the impact that genius has had. Kevin has shown incredible commitment, passion, and integrity throughout his tenure as Executive Director and we want to thank him for setting the stage for Selena to carry this organization into the next era.
We also want to thank Tracey Mitchell (former Acting Executive Director and Prairie Regional Manager, Next Up) and Kristie Starr (former Operations Manager and Fund Development Coordinator) for their incredible contributions to Next Up and for their guidance throughout this transition period. They will be truly missed and we wish them well in their new respective projects.
As for the future, we are very excited to welcome Selena into the role of Executive Director and watch how the organization benefits from her energy, vision, and many talents. She is described by her colleagues as an incredible relationship builder and convener. She has an extensive background in youth leadership training, both as a Next Up graduate and as a facilitator of youth leadership programs. Selena participated in Next Up Calgary during the first year it was offered (2010/2011), and, we are thrilled to have a Next Up alumna move into this leadership role.
Selena has coordinated global and national youth events, including supporting national youth conferences focused on reconciliation. She is Co-Chair of the Board of Directors of Canadian Roots Exchange, and has been a community facilitator with the 4Rs Youth Movement, which works to change the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth through nation-to-nation dialogue. She is a skilled facilitator, public speaker, and a powerful story teller.
During the interview process, Selena presented an exciting vision for how genius can evolve to build an even stronger social and environmental justice sector across the country. We were inspired by her ideas, her energy, and her creativity. As Selena stated, “genius demonstrates a daring belief that youth are not merely ‘leaders of the future’, but that with the right opportunities and support networks, they are already the leaders of today.” It was clear that Selena’s strong progressive values align with the mission of genius, and we know she will be an excellent leader for genius and its programs.
From Selena Gignac:
The transition from founding Executive Director to new leadership is momentous for an organization. Many in our network will recall Kevin’s beautiful story-telling and his ability to ground us in why this work is so vital to the fabric of our communities, but also to ourselves. His energy, joyful sense of humour, and stories of his once magnificent beard, will all be missed - but as Kevin has reassured me as I’ve come on board, he remains committed to supporting the movement. There is still so much to learn together.
I am deeply humbled by the Board’s belief in me and am ready to learn, listen, and be fearless with you. I am energized by this opportunity for genius to boldly redefine progressive leadership in Canada: leadership that holds institutions accountable to communities, challenges systems to be rooted in a culture of sustainability, demands equity without condition, and inspires not only individuals, but a generation, as instigators (agitators!) for change.
As an anglophone, Acadian-settler mother living in Alberta, my relationship with colonialism is complex. I believe that reconciliation is rooted in both an understanding of self and in collective community experience. This is critical and personal work for me as I strive within my own communities to decolonize what it means to be part of the Acadian diaspora. I am deeply committed to safe(er) spaces that allow for authentic dialogue and centre equity at the core of what we do.
In the coming months, I will be taking time to connect with our network of allies and alumni. You will notice some exciting changes as we move out of summer and into what would usually be our program year. If you’re looking for the usual Next Up program in your city in the fall, you will instead find an opportunity to gather and connect in focused intensives. As we approach 12 years of programming, we are launching an organizational equity review, which will challenge and strengthen our movement as we navigate changes to the progressive sector together; I look forward to sharing and discussing the results and action plan with you.
This shift in approach for the next few months isn’t about being quiet or passive. Genius is taking one deep, collective breath so we can take stock of how far we’ve come, and, loudly & boldly demand better of ourselves and of the world around us. I look forward to co-conspiring with you.