Dear members of the University community / Boozhoo / Aanii / Kwe kwe,
We began our spring convocations last Wednesday in Barrie and kicked off our convocations in Sudbury with the School of Nursing last Friday. There are ten more convocation ceremonies this week in Sudbury and at Algoma University. Colleagues and I have attended or will attend five additional convocation ceremonies with our college partners in Sault Ste Marie, Sudbury, Timmins and Kingston, as well as at the Université de Hearst. A record number of 2,124 students are graduating this year, bringing our total number of alumni to 46,644.
As I draft my convocation speeches, it’s always an opportunity to reflect on the power of education, my great sense of pride in our university community, and the amazing talent among graduates who will make our country an even better place to live, work and play.
As I reflect on this particular graduating group of students, there are so many with so much potential and so much to contribute, as evidenced by their numerous successes as students. Some highlights from the past year, include:
- Our annual athletics awards banquet honouring academic, athletic and community achievements by our student athletes after another successful CIS season. Many players in the their final year at Laurentian were honoured;
- Our engineering team earning a first-place finish in the 22nd Annual Canadian Mining Games. The team from Laurentian ranked among the top three in 12 of the events that make up the competition, completing the Games with a 27-point margin of victory;
- Seeing three teams of Laurentian students in the top 25 of Canada’s Next Top Ad Exec, with one of them making it into the top 10 again this year. Over 200 teams from 42 universities were selected and gradually narrowed through three phases of competition. Congratulations to Matt Marcuccio and Patrick Barsalou from the School of Commerce and Administration on their second top 10 finish in a row!
- 125 students from Sudbury and Barrie returned to model parliament, spending the day discussing, debating and negotiating important issues in the House of Commons. Our Chancellor, Aline Chrétien, served as Governor General and read the speech from the Throne in the Senate chamber. We also had over 40 alumni who participated in the Alumni Model Parliament taking place at the same time at Senate. Former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, former Deputy Prime Minister Sheila Copps, Sudbury M.P. Glenn Thibeault, and Senator Marie-P. (Charette) Poulin graciously gave their time to help add to the experience for the students. Laurentian is one of only two universities privileged to hold such an event;
- Laurentian students held another incredibly successful annual Airbandz for cancer fundraising event, raising over $21,000 in one evening for the Northern Cancer Research Foundation (NCRF);
- Several prestigious awards were also given to our graduate students, as follows:
- Ms. Twinkle Masilamani: NSERC Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship
PhD in Biomolecular Sciences, $150,000 over 3 years
- Ms. Indeewari Kalhari Silva Lindamulage: Ontario Trillium Scholarship
PhD in Biomolecular Sciences, $40,000 per year for 4 years.
- Ms. Kirsten McMillan: Ontario Trillium Scholarship
PhD in Boreal Ecology, $40,000 per year for 4 years
- Ms. Twinkle Masilamani: NSERC Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship
I am also extremely proud of the people that make up our organization this year. We took on many ambitious challenges and through hard work, determination and commitment we achieved many milestones:
- For the first time in four years, our operating budget was balanced in 2011-2012;
- We have formed solid partnerships with leaders who share our vision, like Stan Bharti and his family, who invested $10 million to enhance the student experience in the School of Engineering, and Dr. Dan Andreae, who has established the Distinguished Presidential Lecture Series on Living in Healthy Communities along with an annual scholarship;
- A record $15.1 million was raised from private sources in 2011-2012, with more significant gifts likely to materialize before April 2013 the end of The Next 50 Campaign;
- The City of Barrie matched our commitment of $14 million with a $14 million pledge towards a university campus in downtown Barrie;
- The launch of the School of Architecture remains on budget and on track for September 2013. We have received many gifts to support the new school, including $100,000 from Blaine and Lise Nicholls, $100,000 from TD Insurance Meloche Monnex and $50,000 from Downtown Sudbury. These generous donations will be used to support the education of Architecture students in various ways, including scholarships, bursaries, and resources that are needed for the Community Design/Build component of the program. This is a key ingredient in the Laurentian Architecture model, and will allow our students to get real “hands-on” experience when they actually build the projects they have designed.
- The construction of the new $20 million student residence on the Sudbury campus is on time, on budget;
- Our enrolment rose for a third consecutive year, while increasing the average entry grade each year;
- The proportion of senior year students who responded on the National Survey on Student Engagement (NSSE) that they would definitely return to Laurentian increased, while it decreased in Ontario universities;
- More people are noticing our collective success. Even when considering changes in methodology, no Canadian university has seen a bigger jump on Maclean’s rankings as Laurentian over the past three years. The value of our national earned media increased by 38% in 2011 to $1.435 million.
Another innovation that I am very proud of from the past year is the introduction of the Laurentian Soapbox. We have had five sessions hearing from faculty, staff, students and alumni who are championing successes and asking critical questions.
Short presentations and discussions varied considerably including:
- a colleague’s success in launching an autism registry in Greater Sudbury
- a student’s participation in a medical brigade in Honduras
- students’ success in being one of the top 10 finalists in “Canada’s Top Ad Exec” Competition for a second year in a row
- winning the 22nd Canadian Mining Games
- the 4th year Sports Administration (SPAD) consulting trip in Denver
- the International “Pay It Forward Day”
- the Cabaret Théâtre 2012
- the inaugural Greater Sudbury Technology Day
- new major research grant applications underway
- developments at the Centre for Research in Occupational Safety and Health (CROSH)
- the University’s 2012-2013 operating budget
- upcoming improvements to food services
- the School of Architecture
- The Next 50 Campaign
- Starting Point weekend
- Mois de la francophonie etc.
Although the topics were different they all had one thing a common: a genuine desire to make Laurentian University an even better place. I’m thrilled that we are celebrating the university community accomplishments.
Health Services Manager Lyne Rivet also kept us up to date on the « Loser vs. Loser » competition. She called us « a bunch of losers » but it turns out, that’s a good thing! Believe it or not, the 125 staff and faculty who signed up for the university’s first Loser vs. Loser competition dropped a total of 778 pounds over the 12-week campaign. Phenomenal results! Congratulations to Health Services and all the organizers who put this friendly competition together.
I look forward to the next editions of the Soapbox on June 28th and August 23rd.
Laurentian University continues to gain national recognition because of our people and their drive to succeed in finding innovative solutions to local and global issues. I am very proud to call Laurentian home.
In my next blog posting, after convocations, I will comment more specifically on some of our future directions for the years ahead.
Merci, Thank You, Miigwech