Inspiring Events

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

My wife Barbara and I invite all members of the University community to our annual Open House on Sunday, December 9th, from 1:30 to 4:30 pm.  Last year, over 450 people came for a portion or all of the afternoon.  This is a wonderful tradition and a great opportunity to socialize with colleagues and students, as well as with Board members, alumni and other members of the Greater Sudbury community.  Please RSVP by calling 705-673-6577 or by email at lul-rsvp@laurentian.ca by December 5th.  Please bring indoor footwear. A babysitting service is available, as well as a shuttle service from the York Street and Bell Park (off Elizabeth) city parking lots.

I want to thank the 250 people who attended the “LU Rendez-Vous” to celebrate 84 colleagues on November 21st.   We celebrated a combined 2,101 years of service among those who completed 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40 and 45 years, as well as recent or upcoming retirees. We received a lot of positive feedback about this year’s event and want to acknowledge members of the organizing committee, Silvie Allard, Bernard Beaulieu, Suzanne Chartrand, France Girard, Julie Lacroix and Marie-Lynne Michaud for their hard work, as well as the many people who supported them from various departments.  I would also like to thank the wonderful jazz ensemble and Café Piaf artists who made it a memorable event. Pictures from the event, as well as the video of testimonials from honorees, can be viewed here.

It was also a pleasure for me to join colleagues to celebrate the book launches of Alain Beaulieu (“Gilles Deleuze et ses contemporains”) and Réal Filion (“Foucault and the Indefinite Work of Freedom”) that same afternoon at La Fromagerie Elgin.

On Thursday November 22nd, another well attended Laurentian Soapbox was held in the building housing the School of Education, the Department of Music and the School of Rural and Northern Health.  This month’s edition had an international theme, with insightful presentations from Dr. Jorge Virchez (Geography), Dr. Gerardo Ulibarri (Chemistry), Melissa Keeping  (Laurentian International) and student Matt Rabey.

That Friday, an emotional sunrise ceremony presided over by Chief Steven Miller from the Whitefish Lake First Nation took place on the site of the School of Architecture, across the street from La Fromagerie.  The ceremony was attended by over 50 people from all parts of the University and of the external community, very early in the morning. I was moved once again by the First Nations’ traditions, the symbolism of the ceremony, but most importantly by the diversity of the gathering which illustrated well the genesis and the future benefits of Laurentian School of Architecture.

On Tuesday November 27th, I had the pleasure of opening the NELHIN/Laurentian University Seniors Falls Prevention Forum with my colleague Louise Paquette, CEO of the North East Local Health Integration Network (LHIN).  The forum was held at the new United Steelworkers Hall. Congratulations to Dr. John Lewko for his leadership in organizing this joint workshop attended by 180 people.

I have also heard from colleagues how very enthusiastic they are about the announcement from a few weeks ago, appointing the Silver Birch String Quartet as the String Quartet-in-Residence at Laurentian.

Finally, the annual Aramark luncheon to benefit Laurentian’s United Way Campaign will be held on Wednesday, December 12th in the Great Hall. I look forward to seeing you there!  If you haven’t yet considered making a gift or pledge towards the $42,500 campaign goal, I encourage you to do so now!  We are currently at 60% of our goal, with three weeks left to the campaign.  Donors who make a pledge by December 7th will qualify for a draw for free parking and a dinner at Verdicchio’s.

These events – and I could have highlighted many more – have one thing a common: they are inspiring.

As always, I welcome comments on the blog or any other matter: you can reach me at dominicgiroux@laurentian.ca, or you can join the 4,700 people who follow me on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Merci, Thank You, Miigwech.

New University Website

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

At the end of September, in time for the Ontario Universities’ Fair (OUF), the University launched a new website.

On the old website, visitors did not have access to course sections and their respective description, nor did they have access to a faculty directory. There was little information about campus life in Barrie.  There was no consistent structure to the program information. “Page not found” was one of the most popular areas visited.  In short, the old site contained far too much information, much of it obsolete, including outdated references and dead links.  We were receiving complaints on a daily basis from applicants who could not find the information they needed.

The new website has generated internal criticism about the availability, completeness, accuracy or translation of some information.  All of these concerns are being addressed, and we’re doing more in the weeks ahead to correct any shortcomings.  But the complaints from students applying to Laurentian have dropped dramatically, because they are now finding what they need.

The new website was designed taking into account the information that users are looking for. Since November 1st alone, the University website has received 327,680 unique page views, for an average of 3.28 pages per visit and the duration of an average site visit of 3.22 minutes.  Users now have fewer “clicks” to find the information they are looking for, due in part to the new expandable menus from the main page.  Over 70% of visitors return.  And, visits from mobile phones are up compared with the previous website.

The most fundamental change with the new University website is that information which had been targeting current students can now be found on a new Student Portal (which has had more than 9,400 unique page views).  Information relevant to our faculty and staff can now be found in a Staff Portal (which has had more than 3,300 unique page views).  Over 250 users have already uploaded information on the intranet.  Moving content aimed at faculty, current students and staff to other platforms/intranets is absolutely the right approach.  We are catching up with some other universities and organizations that have been streaming information this way for some time.

The roll-out of a website is a complex operation, and it was my decision to launch an imperfect product, recognizing the challenges that come with that, in order to provide applicants what they needed in this recruitment season.

One of the challenges in the roll-out of the web was being able to source consistent and accurate data from multiple departments.  As we move from manual to automated processes, and from fragmented to centralized databases, we will see this improve allowing the University to deliver full academic calendars “at a glance” and reflecting personnel information more accurately.

The intent is to have a comparable information structure across all programs, which includes a program overview page featuring the language, campus and delivery mode, department contact information, admission requirements, employment prospects and credit transfers.  There will be subpages for course sections, degree options and requirements, and faculty members. Steps have been taken in the past few weeks to address some issues regarding degree options and requirements in particular.  For examples, a lot of new content has been uploaded over the past few days especially in Social Sciences and Humanities thanks to work of Dean Elizabeth Dawes.

I and my colleagues have certainly learned from the experience of rolling out a new website, and we do want to respond to the concerns we’ve heard, and make sure we’re well-positioned going forward.  Thus, I am creating a Website Advisory Group, co-chaired by the Vice-President, Academic and Provost and a faculty member appointed by the President and serving on Senate, to advise the University’s Chief Information Officer (Luc Roy) and the Chief of Staff (Chris Mercer) on the next phases of the roll-out of the new website.  The co-chairs will recruit members of the Website Advisory Group, which will include a total of seven faculty members (one per Faculty including one from Barrie, one from federated universities and one from the Library and the co-chair, ensuring linguistic and gender balance), as well as student, staff and alumni representatives.  The mandate of this Website Advisory Group will be completed no later than August 2013.  The direction to the effect that information aimed at University faculty, staff and students shall reside on an Intranet stands.  The efforts of the Website Advisory Group shall focus in priority on the webpage sections or features which have the most traffic from external users (we have measurable data to track this).

A number of suggestions were made at November 20th Senate meeting on this matter, including posting on the Intranet regular updates to the number of visits per webpage, and finding ways to better communicate to current students where they can access key information.  I have also committed to providing at Senate in January key content parameters as to the information expected (and not desired) on each program’s webpage (based on market research), with a process flow-chart of who is to submit or draft content and updates, who signs off for accuracy including translation, and who is responsible for ongoing updates and accuracy, all with associated timelines.  These key content parameters and process flow-chart will be validated over time by the Website Advisory Group.

Current improvement priorities include uploading the course and degree requirements (several have been updated for the faculty of social sciences and humanities, with more to come, including formatting and linking to course descriptions).  Access to an edit site through LUNET will be provided so that departments can update their information and faculty profiles.  The deans’ pages will be uploaded, while the Athletics homage and imagery on many pages will be updated.

I want to thank the 180 faculty members who have sent their profiles.  These will be posted in the weeks to come.  The course directory is also being updated with improved search functionality by subject area and keyword.

In addition to the new University website and intranet, a new student applicant portal has launched.  Over 20% of applicants have registered to this site so far for September 2013.  Online applications for residence (and other services) are now open earlier and increase access for students.  Many forms are being converted to online input to ease the application process for students.

Many staff members have worked very long hours to produce a new, user-friendly and attractive website, with the aim of maximizing the automation of content updates moving forward.  I look forward to the next set of improvements to our dynamic web presence and communications, to nationally showcase our exceptional teaching and research.

As always, I welcome comments on the blog or any other matter: you can reach me at dominicgiroux@laurentian.ca, or you can join the 4,700 people who follow me on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Merci, Thank You, Miigwech.