First Laurentian convocation in China

Dear members of the University community / Boozhoo / Aanii / Kwe kwe,

I am writing this blog having recently returned from Hangzhou, China where we celebrated on Saturday, June 18th the first 25 graduates from our unique Bachelor of Business Administration dual degree program with Zhejiang University of Finance and Economics (ZUFE).  Top accounting students from the Province of Zhejiang (population: 55 million) are admitted to this highly competitive program where students earn two degrees – one from ZUFE and one from Laurentian. Students spend 12 months in Sudbury. We welcomed the first cohort in January 2015 and the second cohort in January 2016. I invite you to watch this video which describes this very successful collaborative effort.

This was my fourth visit at ZUFE in five years. In 2013, our men’s basketball team played at ZUFE. In 2015, ZUFE reciprocated by sending their swimming team to participate in a friendly international swimming competition that we organized at Laurentian along with the University of Waterloo and the University of Ottawa.

One of the ZUFE students who graduated on Saturday is Bob Jiahui Ma. I first met him when I spent time with this first cohort in Hangzhou in 2012, and again in 2013. I was amazed by his confidence and his improving mastery of the English language. We took a picture together in 2013. In late 2014, a few weeks before his arrival in Sudbury, he emailed me his picture as a reminder of our meeting (not that I needed it because I had been so impressed by our interactions!) and he asked to meet. I was pleased to welcome him and his classmates upon their arrival in snowy Sudbury on the Sunday before classes started in January 2015. We went for coffee a few times during his time here, he came to our annual Holiday Open House at 179 John Street and he managed to publish in peer-reviewed publications as a third-year undergraduate student. Bob earned top marks at Laurentian while being very involved on campus including as Vice-President of Laurentian’s Chinese Students and Scholars Association, he and his peers volunteered at the 10th annual edition of Sudbury ROCKS!!! and he initiated on his own trips to meet Chinese diplomatic officials in Toronto and Ottawa.

I know that Sudbury families hosted some of the ZUFE students for a Thanksgiving dinner in their own homes to have them experience Canadian traditions. Bob’s father spoke on behalf of the parents of graduates during what was a very moving convocation ceremony on Saturday, which was held in the presence of the Trade Commissioner at the Consulate General of Canada in Shangai, Joey Zhao. Bob begins a master’s program next month in international economics at Nanyang Technology University in Singapore.

ZUFE President Xiaomin Zhong and I were pleased to hold a signing ceremony on Saturday to renew the relationship between our institutions. This partnership and Bob’s experience remind me again how international students enrich our university community, the positive impact that cross-cultural education can have for graduates, how our students – whether from Canada or China – have a world of opportunities ahead of them, even more so if they are willing to get outside of their comfort zone and become engaged on campus and in the broader community.

During this short four-day visit, I also had very productive meetings with counterparts at ZUFE and at other partner institutions, with the Deputy Director General of International Cooperation and Exchanges at the Chinese Ministry of Education, and with the Secretary-General of the China Scholarship Council. These in-depth conversations will soon translate into new exciting collaborations and opportunities for Laurentian with regards to student mobility, faculty mobility and research.

For example, there was a keen interest in enabling Laurentian students to study for a term in programs delivered in English in Chinese universities, in our capacity to assist with regional economic development in Western China and with the development of future Chinese leaders working in international organizations thanks to our English and French-language programming, in ways to support top Chinese graduate students to enroll at Laurentian, in our efforts to become the undisputed global leader in mineral exploration research, on what Sudbury can teach China about air pollution and the global lessons from the Sudbury story in terms of environmental remediation. Finally, I had the pleasure of meeting very engaged alumni in Beijing who belong to our newest and third Chinese alumni chapter.

I look forward to welcoming in September the third cohort of ZUFE students, who I also had the opportunity to meet while in Hangzhou.

As always, I welcome comments on the blog or any other matter: you can reach me at dominicgiroux@laurentian.ca, or can join the 11,200 people who follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin.

A Sixth Consecutive Balanced Budget

Dear members of the University community / Boozhoo / Aanii / Kwe kwe,

The Board of Governors approved  today the 2016-2017 budget of $150.5 million, an increase of $2.7 million or 1.8% over last year. This is the University’s sixth consecutive balanced budget. You may view the budget presentation here as well as the approved budget statements.

Declining demographics of university-age population, declining per-student provincial funding and the Board’s decision to no longer resource programs in Barrie because of provincial government interference, were some of the factors posing additional challenges this year.

The approved budget is consistent with our 2012-2017 Strategic Plan, 2012-2017 Strategic Research Plan and 2015-2018 Academic Plan approved by Senate.

Investments in Faculties will increase by $3.2 million or 4% with seven more faculty positions overall (from 375 to 382), support for the AACSB accreditation of the Faculty of Management, for the expansion of the School of Architecture and the introduction this Fall of bilingual engineering programs. The increase in faculty positions includes four new research chairs in Metallogeny (Earth Sciences), Indigenous Health, Franco-Ontarian History, and in Biomining, Bioremediation and Science Communication. The budget for part-time sessionals is reduced by $550,000 while the non-salary budget for the Bharti School of Engineering is doubled. By Faculty, the budget will increase by: 13% in Management; 7% in Science, Engineering and Architecture; 6% in Health; and 3% in Education. It will remain stable in the Arts and in the Goodman School of Mines.

Investments in Academic Support and Non-Academic areas will increase by $0.8 million or 1.4%. This includes $335,000 more in the Office of Research Services to help advance the 2012-17 Strategic Research Plan, $238,000 more to enhance our web presence, digital strategy and communications; $187,000 more in the Faculty of Graduate Studies to support the Graduate Expansion Plan; $100,000 in the Office of the Provost to help advance the 2015-18 Academic Plan and support university-wide student retention strategies as per the advice received from the Leadership Group; and $100,000 for the development of the new strategic plan. As per the advice received by Senate, there will be no budget reduction to library acquisitions. One-time investments of $230,000 in 2015-2016 in Information Technology will be sustained. There will be reductions in Administration in Barrie ($319,000), non-acquisitions Library expenditures ($266,000) and Scholarships ($135,000). Overall, non-faculty positions will decline from 441 to 432.

The University’s accumulated deficit will be reduced from $9.2 million to $8.6 million. For the first time in years, the University will honour Board policy by earmarking 1.5% of operating income for deferred maintenance. Parking fees will increase on average by 20% this Fall.

A deficit of $4.6 million is forecasted in 2017-18, reflecting current student retention rates, current faculty retirement trends, lowered student recruitment forecast and the Board’s decision to no longer resource programs in Barrie.

The engagement with the Province will continue in the coming months with regards to undergraduate enrolment funding protection, pension solvency and the next tuition framework. On May 31st, the eight northern university presidents co-signed a letter to the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities urging him to maintain the undergraduate enrolment funding of each university, pending the implementation of eventual changes to the funding formula of universities.

In the meantime, relative to Ontario’s seven similar-sized universities, Laurentian has the highest proportion of its budget allocated to Instruction, and the lowest proportion in Information Technology and in Administration. The incoming Vice-President, Academic and Provost, Dr. Pierre Zundel, and Vice-President, Administration Carol McAulay, will co-lead broad based efforts in the next seven months to ensure sustainability, and report back to the Board’s Finance Committee in January 2017 on potential revenue increases and proposed expenditure reductions. The Manager of Institutional Planning, Michelle Brunette, is being seconded to the Provost’s office as Special Advisor on Retention and Sustainability to assist with these efforts.

I want to thank the dozens of students, faculty, staff and alumni who took part in the 17 budget consultations in April and May, as well as members of the Budget Committee and staff from Financial Services for their hard work in developing this balanced budget.

We have important work ahead to ensure the University can continue its progress in the advancement of its strategic directions in a sustainable way. I thank you in advance for the time, energy and creativity you will contribute toward these efforts.

As always, I welcome comments on the blog or any other matter: you can reach me at dominicgiroux@laurentian.ca, or can join the 11,200 people who follow me on FacebookTwitter or Linkedin.

Merci, Thank you, Miigwech.