Happy New Year! Looking Back and Looking Ahead

I want to begin the New Year by wishing you a happy, healthy and successful 2015!

On January 4th I had the pleasure of welcoming our new international students, joining us for the first time on the Sudbury campus.  Among them was the inaugural cohort of 25 students from Laurentian’s dual degree program with Zhejiang University of Finance and Economics (ZUFE).

Barbara and I would like to thank those who attended our annual Holiday Open House on December 7th at 179 John Street. This festive event has become a welcomed tradition for our family and we were delighted to host more than 400 guests this year.

Since my last blog posting, I have had the opportunity to meet with colleagues from the department of Earth Sciences. My meetings with colleagues from the Centre for Academic Excellence and the Midwifery Program had to be postponed due to a death in my family, but I am looking forward to rescheduling these conversations in the coming weeks.

On November 19th, Laurentian University hosted the finale event in a ten-year tradition of birthday celebrations for Margaret Atwood, one of the world’s most renowned authors and a cherished friend of Laurentian.  Dr. Susan Glover and Dr. Shannon Hengen, with the help of many colleagues on campus, have done a remarkable job of organizing these evenings and I think all of us agree that this year’s discussion with Laurentian University Chancellor Steve Paikin was an ideal way to conclude this wonderful series.  We recorded the event, so that everyone has the chance to appreciate the special relationship between Ms. Atwood and Laurentian University. To view the full conversation between Margaret Atwood and Steve Paikin, click here.

On December 5th, Laurentian had the privilege of hosting Her Honour, the Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario, Elizabeth Dowdeswell.  We held a round-table discussion at the Vale Living with Lakes Centre, bringing together numerous faculty, staff and students for a wide-ranging talk about the environment, indigenous learning, architecture, northern development and other topics.  It was a stimulating and a fascinating conversation – in fact, it ran well over the time scheduled, and we hope to welcome Her Honour back to campus to continue our discussions.

Looking Back

2014 was a year of significant achievements in many of our Strategic Plan aspirations:

  • Student Satisfaction and Engagement: The Centre for Academic Excellence has expanded supports to students and faculty. The new Great Hall opened, renovations in the Single Student Residence are near completion and the Students’ General Association was successful with its referendum for the construction of a $10 million Student Centre. The Sudbury Campus Modernization project has begun – it entails new construction as well as upgrades and renovations to nine campus buildings with scheduled completion by December 2016.
  • National Recognition: We reached the top 10 in Maclean’s university rankings, climbing four spots which was the biggest jump recorded among all Canadian universities. A new Faculty structure, the School of Environment and two new masters programs in Sciences infirmières and Indigenous Relations were launched. A Research Support Framework and a Graduate Expansion Implementation Plan were developed; The Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation (CEMI) was awarded the largest grant of the 2014 competition of the Business-led Networks of Centres of Excellence (BL-NCE) program: $15 million over five years. As well, we hosted the 2014 Canadian Association of Physicists Congress and its 500 delegates.
  • University of Choice: Our average entry grade rose again to 82%, up from 79% in 2009. New partnerships were established with Collège Boréal and the Ontario Police College. A Flexible Learning Strategy and a Voyageurs Athletics and Campus Recreation Strategic Plan have been developed.
  • Community Responsiveness: Our application to the Province for a stand-alone campus in Barrie was short-listed in November by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities for formal review. We became the first bilingual university designated under Ontario’s French Language Services Act, and we opened a Speech and Language Clinic.
  • Organizational Excellence: Professional development opportunities have been enhanced. The Laurentian University Alumni Association donated $562,000 towards our new University Club. A three-year Strategic Mandate Agreement was negotiated with the Province, featuring a 20% increase in graduate spaces at Laurentian by 2016. A new collective agreement was reached with the Laurentian University Faculty Association.

We welcomed very talented new faculty and staff in 2014, including a record-number of Indigenous faculty and our first Manager of Energy and Sustainability, Kati McCartney. We recruited some new and very talented senior personnel to fill key roles, including Dr. Rui Wang, Vice-President, Research; Gisèle Regimbal, Chief of Staff; Dr. Denis Hurtubise, Associate Vice-President, Academic and Francophone Affairs; and Brent Roe, University Librarian.  We were also happy to promote from within to fill new and strategically important positions:  Dr. Osman Abou-Rabia, Dean, Faculty of Science, Engineering and Architecture; Dr. Serge Demers, Registrar and Secretary of Senate and Tracy MacLeod, Chief Advancement Officer.  

Looking Ahead

There are new milestones and accomplishments on the horizon in 2015.  We are looking forward to important developments on several fronts:

  • On January 19th, we will welcome our new Vice-President, Research, Dr Rui Wang. We look forward to his arrival and to the energy he will bring to our research endeavours. You can expect more support for research through our new Research Support Framework.
  • The Deputy Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities confirmed that decisions are expected by the Province in 2015 on the outcomes of the Request for Proposals for Major Capacity Expansion. Along with the City of Barrie and community leaders, we are eagerly waiting for the approval of our proposal for a campus in Barrie.
  • Expansion of graduate programs will continue. We have increased our domestic enrolment at the graduate level from 408 to 458 FTE since 2012. Our target is to reach 675 FTE in 2018-2019, including the future master’s program in Architecture.
  • We will continue our collective efforts to enhance faculty and staff engagement. Between now and June, I will continue the tour of departments and schools that I began in April by holding about 20 meetings, this time with administrative departments. Budget consultations will be scheduled in March-April to inform deliberations on the 2015-2016 Budget and the multi-year financial plan, to be presented to the Board’s Finance Committee on May 25th. The 2015 Have Your Say survey will be administered in May. I hope many of you will take the time to honour colleagues by attending the LU Rendez-Vous on January 22nd in Alumni Hall.
  • Under the leadership of Dr. Denis Hurtubise and the Conseil des programmes en français (CPF), we will continue to initiate the required steps to commence repositioning the French-language course offering, with a view to better meeting student needs and increasing enrolment in the coming years.
  • The Sudbury Campus Modernization, as well as Phase 2 of the School of Architecture, will pick up steam. We will pay close attention to the changing environment and internal communications during these capital projects to minimize disruption while we are “under construction.”

In closing, I would like to extend sincere thanks to Dr. Anne-Marie Mawhiney for the exceptional contributions she has made as a key member of the Executive Team since the fall of 2010. Thanks to her leadership, the University developed its 2012-2017 Strategic Plan, initiated the biannual Have Your Say survey on faculty and staff engagement, and updated its Board policies and Board orientation. She served with distinction as Acting University Secretary and Acting Vice-President, Research, and influenced the University’s Research Support Framework, presented to the Board of Governors last April. I will miss her sound advice and institutional memory in these roles. After completing administrative and sabbatical leaves, Dr. Mawhiney will resume her teaching duties as Full Professor in the School of Rural and Northern Health.

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 8,600 people who follow me on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Merci, Thank You, Miigwech.