Towards a 2012-2017 Strategic Plan: Volunteers Requested

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

I would like to thank the approximately 150 people who came to the Holiday Open House at 179 John Street on December 12th.  Last week, we also had the opportunity to say farewell to Diane Massicotte after 35 years of service at Laurentian, and to Robert Bourgeois four years after joining Laurentian. As I said in my blog posting of June 9th, I cannot emphasize enough how much Diane has had such a positive impact on our university community. She was any President’s dream Assistant, always available, reliable, proactive, knowledgeable and insightful.  Likewise, Robert was a highly valued member of the Executive Team who served with distinction as Acting President in 2008-09. He led the development of the Three Year Plan to Regain Sustainability and played a key role in drafting the business plan for the proposed Laurentian School of Architecture.  Robert was instrumental in ensuring a smooth transition when I joined the University in April 2009.

In today’s blog posting, I would like to discuss the development of Laurentian’s next strategic plan.

In June 2008, the Board of Governors approved the University’s current (2008-11) Strategic Plan.

In October 2009, the Board streamlined the content of the strategic plan from 132 to 50 strategic actions (10 which would do the most to advance national recognition, 10 which would do the most to make Laurentian the university of choice, 10 which foster strong student engagement, 10 which would enhance our responsiveness to the communities we serve, and 10 others which were strategic imperatives).  Ten performance indicators were endorsed as well to measure progress over time.

I am pleased to report that after consultation with members of Senate, the Board of Governors approved the process that will guide the formulation of the 2012-17 strategic plan for approval by the Board.  This strategic plan for 2012-17 will guide the future of the University.

The Board’s Executive Committee recommended some principles to guide the process.  The new strategic plan will focus on what will be Laurentian’s Purpose, Values, Aspirations and Results for 2012-17, building on our unique strengths and opportunities.  It must answer questions such as:

  • Why does Laurentian University exist?
  • What do we do now that is core to Laurentian?  What are our current strengths?  What do we need to put into place to build on our strengths?
  • What could we do that would be different and would be difficult to imitate elsewhere?

It must contain measurable outcomes so that progress can be monitored over the period of 2012-2017.  The new strategic plan is to be informed by the updates to the academic plan and the research plan contemplated for 2011.  The Board is mindful that the process informs the outcome and is not itself the outcome and, as such, wants the strategic plan to be focused while engaging everyone in discussions about our strategic directions for 2012-2017.  The intention is to use as much as possible existing structures and committee meetings to inform the strategic plan.

The Board also approved the scope of the next strategic plan.  It will be:

  • For the period 2012-2017;
  • No more than five pages long;
  • Focused on what will be different in five years compared to now;
  • Used as a framework (Purpose, Values, Aspirations and Results) for guiding budget decisions and program approvals;
  • Connected to the four key goals endorsed by the Board of Governors in October 2009;
  • Centred on what differentiates Laurentian from other Universities or “what Laurentian could be the first to do”;
  • Building on Laurentian’s strengths;
  • Purpose-driven, relevant and bold;
  • Ambitious and achievable;
  • Explicit about what we will do and what we will not do;
  • Measurable over time;
  • Focused on unique opportunities for all sectors of the University; and
  • A living document that is reviewed and assessed regularly (i.e., every two years).

The Board also specified that the strategic plan will not be:

  • A composite of everything we already do at Laurentian;
  • The status quo;
  • A list of every participant’s hopes and ideas;
  • An Implementation Plan;
  • Crisis-driven;
  • An exercise detached from decisions over the period from 2012-2017
  • Relevant to a few and irrelevant to many; or
  • Shelved.

The Board approved the creation of a Strategic Plan Steering Committee.  The purpose of this 24 member Steering Committee will be to ensure that:

  • A 2012-17 Strategic Plan is recommended for approval by December 2011.
  • The recommended Strategic Plan is consistent with the Scope approved today by the Board.
  • The development of the Strategic Plan is consistent with the Principles and Process approved today by the Board.

At this time, I am inviting faculty members and students interested in serving on the Steering Committee to inform the Registrar and Secretary of Senate, Ron Smith (, by January 14th.  Senate is expected to appoint at its next meeting on January 18th four faculty members and four students to the Steering Committee.

The Board’s Nominating Committee is seeking volunteers for one of the following positions:

  • 4 members of the Board of Governors;
  • 1 Vice-President;
  • 1 Dean;
  • 1 Canada Research Chair;
  • 1 member of the Leadership Group from a non-academic sector;
  • 1 support staff;
  • 1 alumnus/alumna;
  • 2 community members: one from Sudbury and one from Simcoe catchment areas;
  • Chair of LUNEC or a designate.

Interested individuals for these positions are asked to contact Dr Anne-Marie Mawhiney ( by January 14th.

The following individuals will also serve on the Steering Committee:

  • President and Vice-Chancellor (Committee Chair);
  • Vice-Provost, Simcoe;
  • Associate Vice-President, Indigenous Programs;
  • Registrar and Secretary of Senate;
  • Special Advisor to the President (supporting the Steering Committee).

The Steering Committee is expected to meet six times between February and November 2011 on the following tentative dates: February 17, April 4, May 25, August 31, September 28, November 10.  These meetings could include opportunities to receive submissions by interested parties.  The Board’s Nominating Committee will finalize the composition in January, taking into account the complementary of the skill set, gender and linguistic balance.

The Board has approved a process which includes town-hall meetings open to all, focus groups with students planned for March 28th, targeted external consultations that may be necessary with key informants and groups including alumni, consultations with universities federated with Laurentian.  A discussion paper will be developed to solicit views from the internal and external community.  Members of the Leadership Group will work with their managers and councils, committees and teams to provide input into the Strategic Plan using existing processes.  The intent is to be inclusive of all who want to participate through councils, written submissions, team meetings, town halls etc.  The Steering Committee will review submissions received throughout the process.  Submissions will be particularly encouraged before each town-hall meeting.  Senate will receive a process update in April, vote electronically in June on key issues/questions before a first draft is developed, and have the opportunity to comment on a draft in October.

As this will be my last blog posting in 2010, I wish to you and your loved ones safe and happy holidays.

As usual, I welcome comments and questions on the topics discussed in my blog postings, or any other matter that may be of concern to you. My email is:

You can also join the 1,200 people who follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

Merci/Thank you/Miigwech


More Options Coming for Students

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

Following my blog of a few days ago, I’d like to offer another quick update on an initiative which could improve student satisfaction.

On November 16th, Senate unanimously approved a new undergraduate degree structure which, when implemented will preserve all the free choice that a student currently has, and will add options.  Whereas at Laurentian we historically paid closer attention to the structure of the specialization, that is, to the 60 or 66 credits at the students’ programs we, for the most part, left the choice of what to take, outside the specialization, up to the student. At the centre of this new structure is the notion that each department in Social Sciences, Humanities and Science can set up modules for a:

  • Specialization (60 credits in Humanities and Social Sciences, 66 credits in Science);
  • Major (42 credits);
  • Concentration (36 credits) – for three-year degrees only;
  • Minor (24 credits).

Students will be able to choose combinations of these modules, in consultation with an advisor.  They will be able to choose combinations in closely related fields, e.g., Political Science and Sociology, or Chemistry and Physics.  They may choose modules in very different fields, e.g., Biology and Music, or Economics and English.  Modules in the same discipline may not be combined, e.g., a specialization and a minor in Anthropology.  In addition to providing students with more options, the names of the modules will appear on the students’ diplomas.

Minors may be established in Management, Engineering and Professional Schools, areas where the curricula may not fit neatly into the full modular structures.  An example would be a minor in Management that would provide job-related skills to students specializing in disciplines that do not normally provide such direct job-related preparation.

Minors may also be developed in interdisciplinary areas, including where there is no specialization.  Thus, for example, there could be minors in International Studies, Canadian Studies, Health, etc.

Before this change in structure, students were free already to take 24 credits in a department outside their field of specialization.  The advantages of the new structure are that:

  • The faculty will have given prior thought to the structure of the shorter programs;
  • The students will be encouraged to think creatively about the structure of their full academic programs;
  • All areas of concentration will appear on a student’s diploma;
  • Students who have already graduated can return to take a few more courses in order to gain a minor in a particular subject, and when they do so their diploma will be appropriately amended.

Modules require specific courses, some of which (for example, Statistics) may be common to other modules.  Students may count only one such course for two modules.

The current restriction that students receiving a B.A. degree can take no more than 30 credits outside the Arts would be removed.  In fact, we will promote just the opposite, for example that a student with a specialization in English can take a major in Chemistry as well.

Some departments currently have “certificates”.  Under the new structure, the term “certificate” is being eliminated and replaced by the minor, for students doing their undergraduate degree at Laurentian.  Departments can, however, use the term “certificate” in place of “minor”, if they wished, for students not doing a bachelor’s degree at Laurentian.

In addition to the benefits to our students, this new approach will contribute to the reputation of the University and of specific programs among employers, the degree to which the university experience will prepare students for employment, the ease of course registration process and the satisfaction with the number of courses to choose from.

Internal conversations resulting from the new undergraduate program structure definitely fit well within the process currently underway to update the University’s academic plan.  This update will be critical to inform our 2011-2012 operating budget and 2012-2017 strategic plan.  A thorough update to our academic plan is critical for the University’s success in the coming years.  Since its revision will precede the University’s strategic planning process, and in light of the fiscal reality that higher education will be facing in the coming years, the updated academic plan will be of use to the University community only if it does two things:

1)      Feature, in a concise way, a limited number of carefully-selected and tangible measures that will advance one or more of our four key goals (national recognition, university of choice, student engagement, community responsiveness);

2)      Articulate which undergraduate programs (minors/concentrations/majors/ specializations) should be expanded or introduced, which ones should not and which ones should see their enrolment limited.

These two equally important requirements will become even more critical within the context of recommendations contained in this report from the new President and CEO of the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario, Harvey Weingarten (I served on the working group which provided advice for this report).  Should the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities pursue these recommendations, it would ask Laurentian to submit a mission statement that articulates our aspiration including our:

  • Desired enrolment target and mix;
  • Priority areas of teaching and research;
  • New programs the university wishes to develop or preferentially expand;
  • Particular strategic strengths because of the university’s location, tie to specific industries, history, current mandate, international standing or any other dimension deemed relevant by the university.

This is our opportunity to further highlight and reinforce our areas of strength, and what will truly set us apart from other universities.

I really look forward to engaging with all of you as we sharpen our collective focus on student satisfaction, find creative ways to leverage the new undergraduate program structure to develop attractive options for students, finalize the update to the academic plan and launch the strategic planning process shortly.

As usual, I welcome comments and questions on the topics discussed in my blog postings, or any other matter that may be of concern to you. My email is:  I would particularly welcome your suggestions as to new specializations/concentrations/majors/minors that should be explored at Laurentian with the existing course offering.

You can also join the 1,200 people who follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

Merci/Thank you/Miigwech