Convocation, Multi-year budget, 2014-15 major moments

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

As the 2014-2015 academic year comes to an end, it is a good time to take stock of the successes and accomplishments we have celebrated at Laurentian University. I would like to acknowledge students, staff and faculty for their many contributions. We have seen many achievements over the past year, and even in the midst of the of our massive Sudbury campus modernization program, we have managed to keep moving ahead and meeting our goals.

Convocation and Honourary Doctorates
We were proud to see 2,050 students graduate this spring with a total of 17 Convocation Ceremonies. This is a special time of year, when we celebrate our students’ successes and share their joy with proud parents and loved ones. Spring Convocation 2015 also saw Honourary Doctorates awarded to six distinguished Canadians: Craig Kielburger, New York Times bestselling author and co-founder of Free The Children; Susan Aglukark, 3-time Juno Award winner and social activist; Jean-Marc Aubin, long-time advocate for the education rights of Francophones; Marguerite Andersen, novelist, short story writer, poet and essayist; Peter Crossgrove, accomplished business leader and humanitarian; Master-builder and World Master of Contemporary Architecture, Douglas Cardinal. If you haven’t seen it yet, please read Chancellor Steve Paikin’s blog about our inspiring Laurentian graduates. You can also hear Steve in an interview with CBC Radio in which he talks about the busy job of being Laurentian University’s Chancellor. Already looking forward to Fall Convocation 2015!

2015-16 Budget
After 17 consultation sessions held in April with the Laurentian community in Sudbury and Barrie, the Board of Governors unanimously approved on June 19th the 2015-2016 operating budget of $147.7 million. This marks the fifth consecutive year the University has achieved a balanced budget. The budget represents a $7 million increase over last year to fund key areas of priority for the University in capital projects, research, student services, graduate studies and information technology. We have built a solid foundation to support the outcomes of the Strategic Plan and we are well-positioned to move forward with a balanced and strategically-focused growth plan that responds to the needs of the communities we serve today and in the future.

Thank you to those who participated in the consultation sessions, we value your thoughts and ideas. I would also like to acknowledge the Budget Committee and the Financial Services Department for their hard work and dedication throughout this important process. We have a lot of exciting developments to look forward to in the coming year!

The Laurentian University Alumni Association’s (LUAA) AGM
On June 1st, I had the pleasure of participating at the LUAA Annual General Meeting. Congratulations to outgoing president Diane Côté-Mihalek who did an exceptional job. Under her leadership, Laurentian saw greater alumni engagement, impressive accomplishments and an association with a strong financial position reinvesting in our university community. Thank you to Andrew Battistoni, Blaine Smith and Todd Frawley who are completing their terms on the LUAA board, to Robert Lemay and Alex Tétreault who represented the faculty and students. Congratulations to new members of the board: Megan Houle, Adam Cecchetto, Roberta Bald, and Hugo Chen who will represent the sections of Shanghai and Beijing, as well as the new President Brandon Beeson. Thank you to the rest of the Board of Directors. The impact of the LUAA has been tremendously positive and its momentum is shown by the fact that its nominating committee had received 40 appointments to fill three vacancies on the LUAA board. Bravo!

Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference
On May 30th we were pleased to host the delegation from the Governor General’s Leadership Conference 2015. We welcomed the group at the Living with Lakes Centre. Dr. Terrance Galvin, Dr. John Gunn and I spoke to these outstanding leaders about Laurentian’s areas of research strength and the University’s role in innovation and leadership in the communities we serve. It was an excellent opportunity to meet with these persons of influence from across the country, who reported back to the Governor General on their meetings and their findings.

2015 FISU Games
Laurentian University will be represented at the 2015 International University Sports Federation (FISU) Games in Gwangju, South Korea from July 3, 2015 – July 14, 2015. OUA Rowing Champion, CURC silver medalist and Laurentian’s Female Athlete of the Year Emily Jago will represent Team Canada, competing in the women’s four without coxswain. Heats for the regatta begin July 5th. Voyageurs Rowing head coach Dr. Amanda Schweinbenz was selected as the men’s coach for three separate boats, including the lightweight men’s four without coxswain, the men’s double sculls, and the men’s pair. As well, Shawn Swords, head coach of the men’s basketball team, has been named as an assistant coach for Team Canada. This will be Swords’ second FISU Coaching stint; he led the Canadians to a fourth-place finish in Kazan, Russia in 2013. You can find the complete FISU Games schedule and cheer on our athletes and coaches here.

Barrie Update
In May we learned that Laurentian’s proposal for a stand-alone campus in Barrie as part of the Major Capacity Expansion (MCE) process will not be approved for funding at this time. Since then, the University met with the City of Barrie who reaffirmed its commitment and support of Laurentian’s presence in Barrie. We also had the opportunity to meet with the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities who provided a technical briefing to the University about our proposal. The briefing was very transparent and forthcoming and we hope that in months to come we will be able to provide a sustainable long-term solution for Barrie. We continue our normal operations in Barrie while exploring the University’s options to deliver outstanding new programs in the future. We look forward to welcoming our incoming fall cohort in September, and we will be updating you on the Barrie project in the months ahead.

Yearly Recap

As another busy academic year comes to a close, I would like to recap some of the major moments at Laurentian over the past year:

  • Laurentian University climbed four spots in Maclean’s University rankings and is now in the Top 10 of all Canadian universities in the primarily undergraduate category;
  • Laurentian graduates have attained the highest post-graduation employment rates in Ontario at 92.6% after 6 months, for an impressive fourth consecutive year;
  • Our Bharti School of Engineering made history as both the Junior and Senior design teams won at the 2015 Canadian Engineering Competition;
  • Enrolment increased in Sudbury by close to 200 students, while continuing to increase the average entry grade from 79% in 2008 to 82% today;
  • The University was awarded an additional Canada Research Chair Tier 1 in recognition of its growing share of tri-council funding nationally;
  • The new Great Hall was unveiled with the launch of the Fresh Food Company;
  • The new facility for the Centre for Research in Occupational Safety and Health (CROSH) was opened, and Dr. Tammy Eger was appointed as Research Chair;
  • The new Speech and Language University Clinic opened;
  • The University’s designation under Ontario’s French Language Services Act took effect;
  • New bilingual degrees in Chemical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Mining Engineering were approved and will be introduced in Fall 2016;
  • A very successful and energizing two-day all-employee symposium “Connections 2015” was held in May;
  • Voyageurs men’s hockey returned to the playoffs after 15 years;
  • Senate unanimously approved a new 2015-2018 Academic Plan;
  • First-year rower Curtis Halladay set a new world record in the men’s 1000m Legs, Trunk and Arms Physical Disability event, as the Canadian Indoor Rowing Championships;
  • The Vale Living With Lakes Centre honoured with two prestigious awards from the Ontario Association of Architects;
  • Dr. Pamela Toulouse from the School of Education was honoured as one of this year’s 3M National Teaching Fellows;
  • The Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum (CIM) has honoured Dr. Dean Millar of the Bharti School of Engineering and MIRARCO as a Distinguished Lecturer;
  • Third year nursing student Joel Maziarski received the 2015 Excellence in Professional Nursing Practice at the Undergraduate Student Level Award;
  • Phase 2 of the School of Architecture is well underway with impressive cross-laminated timber panels;
  • And, last but not least, we balanced our budget for the fifth consecutive year.

We have much to look forward to in September. I wish you all a happy and safe summer. Thank you for your continued dedication and commitment to making Laurentian a university of choice.

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 9,600 people who follow me on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Merci, Thank You, Miigwech.

A Year Following Up on Employee Engagement, Implementing Our Academic Plan and Finalizing Our Strategic Plan

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

In this blog posting, I would like to discuss the follow up to the “Have Your Say” survey administered on faculty and staff engagement, address some rumors related to our financial situation, and conclude by commenting on the strategic planning process.

Faculty and staff engagement

In early May, a significant proportion of faculty and staff took the time to complete a confidential on-line survey “Have Your Say” on faculty and staff engagement. Over 51% of full-time faculty and 79% of full-time staff completed the survey, which is a very strong participation rate especially for a first survey.

As I shared with you in the employee engagement town-hall meetings held in February, enhanced faculty and staff engagement and a positive organizational culture are key to a strengthened university, which in turn leads to enhanced student satisfaction and engagement, which in turn can translate in greater national recognition and Laurentian being increasingly a university of choice. Faculty and staff who didn’t have a chance to attend one of the three town-hall meetings held in Sudbury and Barrie in February may view one of these presentations on the Employee Engagement intranet.

Survey results were shared with the Advisory Committee on Employee Engagement on June 27th and with the Leadership Group on August 29th. The Advisory Committee met again on August 30th to discuss next steps. Members of the Leadership Group met again in sub-groups during the week of September 12th.  They will engage with faculty and staff in the coming weeks to share the results, both university-wide and, when available, for their specific Faculty or department.  A second conversation is planned in each Faculty or department to discuss the commitments that individual faculty, staff and members of the Leadership Group can make to one another to foster a positive organizational culture. Survey results will be posted on the Employee Engagement intranet on October 7th.  Members of the Leadership Group will regroup on November 14th after their initial meetings with faculty and staff.

When this process began in February, I made a number of commitments:

  • Survey results would be shared first with the Advisory Committee, to which every faculty and staff association/union was invited to appoint a member;
  • Survey results would be shared with the Leadership Group. Its members would benefit from capacity building on how best to initiate constructive follow up conversations with faculty and staff;
  • Each faculty and department would have the chance to discuss the survey results, and most importantly, what can be done in a tangible way at the faculty or department level to foster a positive organizational culture;
  • Survey results would be posted on the intranet;
  • Each member of the Leadership Group would have a specific performance goal in 2011-2012 related to faculty and staff engagement;
  • The survey would be re-administered every two years to foster collective accountability and allow us to measure progress over time.

I am pleased to confirm that all these commitments have or will be fulfilled.

As Mahatma Gandhi said, “we must become the change we want to see”. When I did my tour of 52 meetings with departments in 2009, and in my many interactions with the university community since then, faculty and staff identified one aspect or another that they wanted to see improved within the University from an organizational perspective. We now have measurable information to inform our collective actions and focus.  However, the follow up is not about improving survey results in 2013.  It’s about fostering, together, a positive organizational culture.

I really look forward to the outcomes of the follow up discussions and action planning at the faculty, department and university-wide levels.

Rumors related to our financial situation

I know that some rumors are circulating among faculty and staff about further staffing impacts related to the university’s financial situation. Such rumors can deter our attention from the task at hand of building a positive organizational culture, being responsive to student needs and pursuing excellence in teaching and research. I would like to put some of these rumors to rest.

The university’s operating budget is more transparent than ever, with the addition this year of 13 supporting schedules detailing the salary and non-salary budgets of each academic and non-academic department, as well as budget projections for the next two years.  These materials were circulated at Senate in May and to the Board of Governors in June.

Unlike many universities, our operating budget is balanced. Our pension plan is solvent. The “going concern” deficit of the pension plan has largely been addressed, thanks to changes negotiated with LUFA, changes implemented with non-unionized staff, and the University fully absorbing in this fiscal year $0.5M in special pension payments on behalf of LUSU members.

We are in a much better financial position relative to other Ontario universities.

While in any institution, there will always be ongoing minor organizational realignments, the University has no plans for further staff redundancies or mass staffing changes.

In a presentation made to the Board of Governors in camera on June 24th, the Executive Team advised the Board that with budget assumptions at the time, the University was projecting 8 fewer faculty and 7 fewer staff positions in 2012-2013 and another 3 fewer faculty and another 2 fewer staff positions in 2013-2014.  These reductions will be achieved through attrition by not replacing some of the vacancies, while new positions will have to be created to meet emerging needs.

These staffing projections assume an average of 4% in annual tuition fee increases for domestic and international students in 2012-2013 and 2013-2014, no undergraduate enrolment growth in 2011-2012, fully funded undergraduate enrolment growth of 135 students in 2012-2013 and 200 students cumulative in 2013-2014 (excluding architecture). While we don’t know yet what will be the province’s tuition policy for the next two academic years, enrolment is now projected to increase by approximately 180 students this Fall, which puts us in a much better position relative to our June assumptions.

There are currently 86 faculty members who are approaching retirement.  A significant proportion of these positions will be replaced in the coming years.

The Academic Plan approved by Senate in February outlines five criteria which shall inform the Deans’ recommendations for new or replacement staffing:

  1. The enrolment in a program;
  2. The centrality of the program to the university’s mission;
  3. The ability of a Department/School to offer an advertised program completely; and
  4. Where relevant, retain its accreditation.
  5. Finally, in responding to requests for hires, Deans/University Librarian shall consider the cohesiveness and functionality of the department/school making such requests.

Once again this year, we circulated this month a copy of the performance goals for each member of the Executive Team to the Leadership Group and to Senate. I believe this enhances transparency, accountability and internal alignment.  Many of you have commented favorably to me in the past about this practice.

One of the Provost’s performance goals this year is to seek recommendations from the Deans/University Librarian by December 31st on positions which should be renewed/not renewed/created in the coming years (in priority sequence for new hires) based on the five criteria articulated in the Academic Plan.

In my view, faculty renewal decisions are among the most important decisions that any university makes. Ideally, faculty recruitment strategies must be at least national in scope and should be initiated at least 12 months before the beginning of a tenured or tenure-track appointment in order to maximize the pool of candidates. Selection processes should not be limited to academic departmental interviews. This will be one of the key priorities of our new Executive Director of Human Resources and Organizational Development, Bernard Beaulieu, working closely with the Academic Vice-Presidents, the Vice-Provost, Deans and the University Librarian.

Bernard will begin in his role on October 1st. In light of the importance of sound human resources management and organizational development for the future success of the university, Bernard will be a member of the Executive Team. This also reflects my commitment to fostering a positive organizational culture, following up on the faculty and staff engagement survey.

Enrolment increased this Fall university-wide for a third year in a row. Our average entry grade increased for a third year in a row as well, from 79.2% in 2008-2009 to 80.8% in 2011-2012. International enrolment increased by 25% this Fall, while enrolment in graduate enrolment increased by 15% this Fall. Does this mean we should rest on our laurels?

Absolutely not. This is why another of the Provost’s performance goals this year, consistent with the Academic Plan, is to seek Senate approval by June of proposals in the Social Sciences, Humanities and Science to combine/re-group programs in new innovative ways that cross departmental barriers. As stated in the Academic Plan, such programs should be of high quality, sustainable, in-demand by students, building on previously identified areas of academic strength.  Further, the Provost will seek Senate approval by June 2012 of majors and specializations that reach across Faculty boundaries.

 

Strategic planning

From February to June, over 20 consultations were held within the university community to inform our 2012-2017 Strategic Plan. In addition, seven electronic brainstorming sessions involving students, faculty, staff, Board members, alumni and community members were held both in Sudbury and Barrie.  Over a dozen submissions were also received by the 27 member steering committee.

The Board expects a five page measurable 2012-2017 Strategic Plan to be approved in December. The content of the plan is to be aligned with the university’s four key goals and must articulate our purpose, values, aspirations and intended results for 2017.

The steering committee reviewed a first draft of the 2012-2017 Strategic Plan on August 31st.

A second version was developed with their feedback and is now being used for validation.  It features a proposed purpose statement, specific values, 10 aspiration statements and a number of results for 2017 for each aspiration. Validation sessions have already been held in the past few days with the Leadership Group, faculty councils of Social Sciences and Humanities, Professional Schools, Library and Archives, Science and Engineering, and Senate.  Validation will continue until the end of October with the Board of Governors, remaining faculty councils, the executives of faculty, staff, student and alumni associations/unions, and the Laurentian University Native Education Council.

One of the trends which emerged from the May survey on staff engagement was the importance that all staff members have an opportunity to shape the future directions of the university.  Three validation sessions for staff are scheduled for the morning and the afternoon of Monday, October 3rd, and the afternoon of Wednesday, October 5th. Each full-time staff member will be invited to one of these sessions.

While this validation phase occurs, a third version of the strategic plan will be presented to the steering committee on September 28th, a fourth version will be shared with the Board of Governors on October 13th in Barrie for input, a fifth version will be brought forward at the final meeting of the steering committee on November 2nd, while a sixth and final version will be presented to Senate on November 15th and to the Board of Governors on December 16th for approval.  The input from the validation phase will inform the next four versions of the strategic plan.

I am very confident that this process will lead to a concise, focused and compelling strategic plan to guide our decisions and build on our momentum as a university for the next five years.

Should you have any questions or comments about the strategic planning process, please do not hesitate to contact Dr Anne-Marie Mawhiney at ammawhiney@laurentian.ca or at (705) 675-1151 or 1-800-263-4188, extension 3221.

As you can see, now that the University is in a better financial position, the coming months will be a period where we will build on the ongoing accomplishments of students, faculty and staff by collectively taking action to promote a positive organizational culture, plan strategically for faculty and program renewal as called for by the Academic Plan approved by Senate, and confirm the future strategic directions of the university.

While this represents significant work, I know we will be very successful thanks to our collective knowledge and insights, the spirit of creativity and innovation demonstrated by students, faculty and staff, and our relentless focus on the four key goals approved by the Board of Governors in October 2009.

In my next blog posting, I will provide an update on the University’s plans for Barrie.

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: dominicgiroux@laurentian.ca.

You can also join the 2,400 people who follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

Merci/Thank you/Miigwech