A season of change and growth for Laurentian University

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

Summer is traditionally the time when we all slow down a bit and take a breather.  However, these past three months have been among the busiest ever, and there is much movement to report.

A St. Jean’s Celebration

Laurentian has been making headlines on several fronts.  Many of you will have heard the news about our partial designation under Ontario’s French Language Services Act. Effective July 1st, Laurentian became the first bilingual university in the province to earn this recognition.  The designation applies to services provided on the Sudbury campus, and to those programs that are offered entirely in French, leading to 13 degrees at the bachelor, master and Ph.D. levels.

This is a signature accomplishment for all of us at Laurentian University, and a high-water mark in our University’s history.  It was fitting that we were able to announce this news on the eve of la fête de la St-Jean, as the designation represents our unwavering commitment to French-language education and to la Francophonie.

Of course, Laurentian is not standing still in this commitment.  We currently offer more than 40 programs in French, along with more than 800 course sections annually, and I am happy to report that confirmations in French-language programs are up 33% for our Fall 2014 intake, especially in the newly-introduced master’s programs such as Orthophonie and Sciences infirmières.  So we continue to enhance and strengthen our offerings, and we appreciate the support of all members of the university community in this work, particularly the Regroupement de professeures et professeurs francophones, which initiated the process of applying for the designation in December 2011.  Bravo!

The Barrie Campus

Another big story was the adoption of a motion by Barrie City Council in late June, in support of Laurentian’s bid to build a stand-alone campus in Barrie.  On June 20th, the University’s Board of Governors’ approved an increase of $11M in our financial commitment to this important project.  Added to the $14M we committed to the Barrie project in 2011, and the matching funds pledged by the City of Barrie, Laurentian’s stand-alone campus now has committed funding of $39M.

The proposed campus would be a 225,000-square-foot technology-enhanced facility with space for 3,100 full-time-equivalent students.  Laurentian’s proposal includes the creation of more than 25 unique degree programs, state-of-the-art labs, athletic and recreation facilities and residence space for 500 to 750 students.

It is a big, ambitious plan, and it will create a stronger and more resilient future—for Laurentian University, and for Barrie.  We will be submitting our official proposal under the provincial government’s Major Capacity Expansion Guidelines this fall. In the meantime, we invite you to find out more about the project at the new micro-site launched June 24th, www.itstimebarrie.ca

You can also view pictures on my Facebook page of the June 20th meeting of the Board of Governors.

Another balanced budget

In June, the Laurentian Board of Governors approved the 2014-2015 operating budget of $141.2M.  This is the fourth consecutive year the University has achieved a balanced budget. The Board’s unanimous approval followed a series of 16 consultation sessions with the Laurentian community in Sudbury and Barrie.  As always, I acknowledge their input and assistance, and thank them for helping us steer the University in the right direction.  It is no small accomplishment for any university, and we have done it four years running.

New faces and new appointments

We are delighted to tell you about some of the exceptionally talented people arriving at Laurentian, to fill key positions on the Executive and Academic Management teams.   As you know, Dr. Patrice Sawyer is stepping down from the position of Vice-President, Research and Francophone Affairs as he begins an administrative leave this summer after eight successful years in senior administration. He has been a highly valued member of the Executive team, and has done so much to advance the many files in his portfolio.  In view of the re-alignment of the responsibilities of that office, in late June we announced the appointment of Dr. Rui Wang as Vice-President, Research, effective January 19, 2015, for a renewable term ending June 30, 2020.  An internationally-recognized scholar in his own right, Dr. Wang will help to promote and enhance research intensity across all seven faculties, and will attract new research chairs and scholars-in-residence in the University’s areas of research strength. Dr. Wang is currently Vice-President of Research, Economic Development and Innovation at Lakehead University.  Dr. Anne-Marie Mawhiney will serve as Acting Vice-President, Research, until Dr. Wang’s arrival in the New Year.

I am pleased to welcome a new Associate Vice-President, Academic and Francophone Affairs, for a five-year renewable term effective July 1st.  Dr. Denis Hurtubise comes to Laurentian after serving for 11 years in senior administration as Vice-President, Academic and Research at Saint Paul University in Ottawa and as Dean of Studies at Université du Québec en Outaouais. Dr. Hurtubise is a leader with an inspiring vision and we all look forward to working with him.

We are pleased to report that at its June meeting, the Board also approved an 18-month extension of Dr. Sheila Cote-Meek’s term as Associate Vice-President, Academic and Indigenous Programs. Dr. Cote-Meek continues to build on our excellent foundation, to help the University fulfill its purpose of offering a comprehensive approach to Indigenous education.

At the same time, the Board of Governors also approved the renewal of Dr. Elizabeth Dawes for a five-year term as Dean of the Faculty of Arts.  Elizabeth has been an exceptionally capable and forward-looking Dean, and has been instrumental in the creation of our new School of the Environment and the School of Northern Development, and we are fortunate to have her in the role for another five years.  Dr. Serge Demers has been confirmed as Registrar and Secretary of Senate. As well, as a result of our new Faculty structure, Dr. Roger Couture will serve as Dean of the new Faculty of Health for the duration of his term and as Acting Dean of the Faculty of Education until a formal search is completed.  Dr. David Lesbarrères fills the role of Acting Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies for the duration of his term. I also want to welcome our new University Librarian, Brent Roe, who joined us on July 1st for a five-year term. Mr. Roe was previously the Executive Director of the Canadian Association of Research Libraries. Our new Chief Advancement Officer, Tracy MacLeod, was also confirmed in her role earlier in May.

In other moves:  I want to recognize Dr. Peter Luk, Dr. Leila Wallenius and Dr. Bernadette Schell who have started their administrative leaves as of July 1st, 2014, and thank them for their important contributions to the University in their respective leadership roles.

When I contemplate the achievements and the ambitions of our university community, I am always reminded that our successes are fundamentally due to the excellent calibre of Laurentian’s faculty, staff and administrators.

Growing Northern Ontario’s next leaders

We are now into the second year of the Northern Leadership Institute program, launched in 2013. Laurentian University is a partner in this important enterprise, along with the City of Greater Sudbury, the City of Greater Sudbury and Health Sciences North which has since been replaced by other interested organizations.  Five representatives from each participating institution completed the leadership development program and reported on the experience in March at the Northern Leadership Institute Showcase.  I was proud to attend and to see the early results of this initiative.  It is a long-term legacy project, intended to shape the future generation of leaders in our institutions and our communities, combining leadership training, community engagement and mentoring, with action learning-based projects. It is a worthy investment.  Our first cohort included: Érik Labrosse, Dr. Céline Larivière, Justin Lemieux, Dr. David Lesbarrères and Nicole St. Marseille.The second cohort of new leaders has now begun the development program: Emilie Cameron, Benjamin Demianiuk, Dr. Joel Dickinson, Dr. Elena Hunt, and Shauna Lehtimaki.  Good luck to all.

Coffee and conversations

It took some time, and a lot of coordinating of schedules, but I can now report that I have kept my New Year’s Resolution to tour each of Laurentian’s 35 academic departments and schools, including Barrie. This has been an invaluable opportunity to sit down with colleagues in each department or school, and hear first-hand about their accomplishments, challenges and aspirations.  It has helped to open dialogues and certainly helps all of us to see new opportunities as we build toward the future.

From April 23rd to June 19th, I have held 23 meetings with colleagues in: Chemistry and Biochemistry, Orthophonie, Human Kinetics, Mathematics and Computer Science, Nursing, Physics, Philosophy, Education, Environment, Modern Languages and Literatures, English, Psychology, Sociology, Law and Justice, Indigenous Relations, Music, Rural and Northern Health, Library and Archives, Sciences de l’éducation, Engineering, Commerce, Architecture and Sports Administration.

Convocation and Honourary Doctorates

With all that’s been going on, we also managed to sail through another wonderful Convocation season.   We were proud to see 2182 students graduate this spring, with a total of 18 Convocation Ceremonies (nine in Sudbury, two in Barrie, one in Hearst, six with our nursing collaboration college partners). As always, it is gratifying and uplifting for all of us to celebrate these successes, and to share the joy with the proud parents and loved ones.  Spring Convocation 2014 also saw Honourary Doctorates bestowed on four outstanding individuals: the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Canada’s former governor-general; Blaine Nicholls, long-time advocate for the School of Architecture; Masha Krupp, president and CEO of Masha Krupp Translation Group Ltd.; activist and Canadian folk-rock music icon Bruce Cockburn. Our new Chancellor, Steve Paikin, showed true commitment to the University by presiding over convocation on the morning immediately following the provincial leaders’ which he moderated during the election campus.  Only a few months to go until Fall Convocation!

CAP Congress 2014 at Laurentian

Hearty congratulations to Professors Christine Kraus and Ubi Wichoski, Co-chairs of the 2014 CAP (Canadian Association of Physicists) Congress, hosted by Laurentian University from June 16-20, and kudos to the entire local organizing committee: Clarence Virtue, Rizwan Haq, Gennady Chitov, Jacques Farine, Ralf Meyer, Eduardo Galliano-Riveros, Nicole Gagnier, and Doug Hallman.  This important national event was exceptionally well-attended, with more than 500 delegates; our organizers had originally anticipated only about 350 guests, based on past Congresses.  With a full week of activities, it seems the tours of SNOlab were a particular draw.  More than 250 delegates were able to tour the unique facility.  A special note of thanks to SNOlab Director, Dr. Nigel Smith, and his team of staff and volunteers, who made it happen.

The season ahead 

Summer officially began on June 21st, and we kicked off the season with a celebration of National Aboriginal Day. National Aboriginal Day honours and recognizes the important contributions that Canada’s First Nations, Métis and Inuit people make to all of our communities. It was a beautiful day and a great way to recognize the role of Aboriginal people within the fabric of Laurentian University and all of Canada. I share the excitement of many colleagues with the launch this September of the new master’s program in Indigenous Relations.

With the warm weather now upon us, I hope that all of you will be enjoying some downtime over the summer. Meanwhile, you can watch the progress of the construction of Phase 2 of the School of Architecture. Renovations to the Single Student Residence and to Great Hall on the Sudbury campus are coming to the end, while other Campus Modernization improvement projects have begun. You may take a look on my Facebook page at pictures I took during a visit of Great Hall on June 16th.

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 7,700 people who follow me on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Merci, Thank You, Miigwech.