Reflections on the past year

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

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;
  • 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:

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.

As always, I welcome comments on the blog or any other matter: you can reach me at, or you can join the 3,200 people who follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

Merci, Thank You, Miigwech

Great Beginnings, Big News…

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

The pace of events in our University community has been unrelenting, and sometimes a little exhausting!  But it’s also exhilarating.  There is much going on, and much progress to report to you in this latest blog posting.



At long last, we’ve settled on the future home of the Laurentian School of Architecture.  This step forward means we can now begin the serious work of imagining and designing what is sure to be a tremendous landmark in the centre of our city.  After months of planning and much work, the purchase of our preferred site – the Market Square property at Elm and Elgin Streets – was approved by the Greater Sudbury City Council. Laurentian, the School of Architecture Project Committee and the design team at Levitt Goodman are all thrilled about the possibilities this site presents. The Laurentian School of Architecture will welcome its first 70 students in September 2013 in the current Market building, while construction for the remaining 65,000 sq ft will be underway on adjacent space on the same site.

Open House


On November 12th, over 200 students, faculty and staff kept busy on the Sudbury campus, ushering in potential future students. We hosted close to 1,000 visitors from all across Ontario, young people and their parents getting a first-hand look at what Laurentian University has to offer. It’s exciting to speak with prospective students and their families, and it’s always gratifying to me to see just how impressed they are when they see our beautiful campus and deal with our engaging and responsive faculty staff.  By all reports, they enjoyed their weekend with us and we certainly hope to seeing most of them back here as new students in September 2012.

Towards a downtown presence in Barrie


Barrie City councilors voted on November 14th to approve a municipal contribution of $14 million toward the establishment of a downtown university campus.  This decision follows a presentation to City Council by Laurentian University on September 26th, outlining Laurentian’s vision for a $60 million academic facility of 162,000 sq ft serving 3,000 students. Laurentian University also pledged $14 million towards the project.  We continue to work toward the next step in the process: taking part in the upcoming provincial process to determine Ontario’s three new undergraduate campuses.


Employee Engagement


This past week, our Leadership Group met to share feedback from their faculties and administrative departments on the Have Your Say survey results.  Joining us were Tom Fenske and Ashley Thomson, who shared important insights with us from LUSU and LUFA. I congratulate the administrative departments where a number of tangible individual and team commitments have already been made to improve specific dimensions in the future. We have received valuable input from faculty and staff on next steps. Flowing from that, we’re pursuing more conversations to identify university-wide areas of focus. I look forward to communicating more on these very shortly.

2012-2017 Strategic Plan


Laurentian’s strategic plan received endorsement last Tuesday from Senate.  This document is truly the result of an exceptional degree of engagement at all levels of our university community, and I am grateful for the level of participation and the collective energy that went into it. There were more than 800 “touch points” from students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members throughout the process since February and I look forward to presenting our final five year strategic plan to the Board of Governors in December. After that, we’ll be talking about some of the highlights of the plan in greater detail. I think you’ll find it energizing and exciting.


Sudbury’s Top 40 Under 40


Sudbury’s young leaders were recognized on Thursday at the 40 Under Forty awards ceremony sponsored by Northern Ontario Business.  These young leaders represent the bright future of our community and their talent, ambition and success was acknowledged and celebrated during the awards presentation.  I am especially proud to report that this year, more than half of the recipients are either Laurentian students, alumni, faculty or staff. I would like to extend my congratulations in particular to Yunni Jeong, Dr Christine Kraus, Sara Kunto, Tracy MacLeod, Kristeen McKee, Chris Mercer, and Dr Albrecht Schulte-Hostedde who were among the recipients!

Toronto Celebrates Sudbury

Another exciting celebration took place on Thursday in Toronto. The first Toronto Celebrates Sudbury dinner was held in the Distillery District hosted by Perry Dellelce managing partner of Wildeboer Dellelce LLP and co-chair of Laurentian’s Sudbury Families initiative. The event brought together people who are either from Sudbury or have ties to Sudbury, who now live in the Greater Toronto Area. The evening celebrated Sudbury and its heritage, and provided an opportunity for Perry and his friends to give back to the Sudbury community. I was impressed by the incredible detail that had gone into planning this event and wish to express my gratitude to the hundreds of participants for supporting Laurentian University.

Margaret Atwood Event


Laurentian and the Sudbury community were as honored again this year to host Canada’s best known poet and author, Margaret Atwood, on her annual birthday visit.  This marks the fourth year that Ms. Atwood has joined us for a dinner party and fund-raising event. This year, the proceeds raised will be used to endow a Laurentian University scholarship in her name. It is a lasting legacy of the long and happy relationship between our university community and Ms. Atwood. Thank you to Dr. Susan Paterson Glover and Dr. Shannon Hengen for pursuing this great tradition.

Hilary M. Weston Scholarship Winners


So many of our Laurentian students do us proud every day. Another recent example is Hiren Rawal,research assistant in Laurentian’s School of Social Work. Hiren is a 2011 recipient of the Hilary M. Weston Scholarship, which will support his research into mental health, homelessness and the foster care experience of Northern Ontario youth.  Last year, Maaria Blackwell-Moxam was honoured with the same scholarship. Maaria holds Laurentian University degrees in Gerontology and Social Work.

Go Voyageurs!


There were several exciting moments in sports recently. The National Rowing Championships (Olympic qualifier) was held last week in Welland where Carling Zeeman placed third in the senior women’s race and as a result was 1st in the U23 women’s category.  Carling won gold at the Canadian University Championships the previous weekend finishing 12 seconds ahead of her closest competitor. Congratulations to our National Champion who earned the Canadian University Rowing Female Athlete of the Year!

As for swimming, the Laurentian Aqua Vees and Voyageurs competed in the Tihanyi Divisional Championships a week ago in Toronto and had some strong showings. On the women’s side, Emily Jones had three top-5 finishes and Brittany Maltais finished first in the 50m breaststroke. Jones qualified for the CIS Championships in the 50m and 100m backstroke while Maltais qualified in the 50m breaststroke. Laurentian will be hosting the OUA Championships from February 9th to11th.

Although soccer season has come to a close I want to acknowledge that the Laurentian Men’s and Women’s soccer teams both qualified for playoffs this season.  This is a first in the university’s history.  Even though we did not bring home the gold this year, I am proud of their efforts and look forward to cheering on both of our teams throughout next season.

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:

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Merci/Thank you/Miigwech