Students First

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

Walking through the Classroom Building, I see students sitting on the new benches, working, collaborating and laughing. Across campus, I see newly-renovated classrooms and labs filled with bright minds and state-of-the art technology. At the Great Hall, I regularly hear how the food and service is top notch. Starbucks and the new foyer of the Alphonse-Raymond Building are new spaces for students to enjoy.

MyLaurentian hub is up and running on the ground floor of the Parker Building, minimizing the need for students to go at various offices on campus for assistance. We will soon begin construction of the $10 million Student Centre next to the West Residence, an initiative led by the Student’s General Association (SGA) and funded by its members.

The East Residence was built to address a waiting list for residences on campus. The Centre for Academic Excellence was established to support student success. Varsity hockey was re-introduced as a mean to enhance student life.

Students spoke during the development of the University’s 2012-2017 Strategic Plan, and we listened.

Students now have new opportunities to be heard. You have likely seen posters around campus referring to the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). This survey is sent to more than 300,000 first and fourth year students at hundreds of colleges and universities across Canada. It measures how much time and effort students put into their studies, but also how well we do at supporting them in their studies.

The answers students give us help us understand what we are doing well… and not so well.

If you are a student, I hope that you can find a few minutes in your busy schedule to fill out the survey. You will likely have received invitations by email on February 9th, and we will remind you again in March. I should also mention that of those of you who do respond will qualify for two $500 prizes. If you want more information, please go to

The second upcoming opportunity for students to help shape Laurentian’s future is the development of the University’s 2018-2023 Strategic Plan. The Board of Governors and Senate have now appointed the 24 members of the 2018-2023 Strategic Planning Steering Committee:

• Dr. Linda Ambrose, Special Advisor – Strategic Planning; Full Professor, Department of History; former Acting Dean, Faculties of Social Sciences and Humanities; recipient of Laurentian University Teaching Excellence Award; recipient of Laurentian University Status of Women Achievement Award;

• Dr. Lace Marie Brogden, Dean, Faculty of Education;

• Dr. Sheila Cote-Meek, Associate Vice-President, Academic and Indigenous Programs; Full Professor, School of Rural and Northern Health; Senator; alumna;

• Dr. Robin Craig, Lead Research and Knowledge Mobilization Strategist; member of the board of Théâtre du Nouvel-Ontario (TNO); member of the board of the Laurentian Child and Family Centre;

• Dr. Joël Dickinson, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Psychology; Co-Chair, Committee for Sexual and Gender Diversity; recipient of a Laurentian University Teaching Excellence Award; Northern Leadership Program (NLP) Fellow

• Éric Dupuis, Bachelor of Business Administration student, Vice-President and Treasurer, Association des étudiantes et étudiants francophones;

• Grace Fox, member of the Laurentian University Native Education Council (LUNEC), trustee with the Rainbow District School Board;

• Dominic Giroux, President and Vice-Chancellor (Chair);

• Kraymr Grenke, H.B.Comm. student; President of the Students’ General Association (SGA); Vice-President, Finance of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance; Voyageurs athlete; Governor; Senator;

• Lorella Hayes, Member of the Board of Governors; Vice-President, Corporate Services, Greater Sudbury Utilities; alumna

• Paul Henry, Principal, École secondaire catholique Sacré-Coeur, Sudbury; member of the board of directors of Learning Networks of Ontario, Mid North Network; member of the Comité des services sociaux en français; alumnus

• Emily Jago, Master of Human Kinetics student; Voyageurs athlete; alumna;

• Marz Kord, CEO and President, Wallbridge Mining Company Limited; alumnus;

• Claude Lacroix, Vice-Chair of the Board of Governors; Partner, Lacroix Laywers; alumnus;

• Martin Laferrière, Director, IT Infrastructure; NLP Fellow; alumnus;

• Dr. Pascal Lefebvre, Associate Professor, Speech Pathology program; Senator;

• Justin Lemieux, MBA student; Director of Student Recruitment; NLP Fellow; member of the board of the Sudbury Charities Foundation; alumnus;

• Chris Mercer, Associate Vice-President, Student Life, Enrolment Management and International; member of the board of the Sudbury Airport Community Development Corporation; recipient of Sudbury Top 40 Under 40 award; Senator

• Dr. Thomas Merritt, Canada Research Chair in Genomics and Bioinformatics; Full Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry; Past Chair, Northern Water Sports Centre; recipient of a Community Builder Award for Sport and Recreation;

• Dr. Amanda Schweinbenz, Associate Professor, School of Human Kinetics; Co-Chair, 2021 Canada Summer Games Bid Committee; Voyageurs coach; Senator;

• Alex Usher, President of Higher Education Strategy Associates and Editor-in-Chief of Global Higher Education Strategy Monitor;

• David Vares, PhD in Human Studies student, President of the Graduate Students’ Association; member of the board of Sudbury and Manitoulin Workforce Planning; Governor; Senator; alumnus;

• Dr. Shelley Watson, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology; recipient of a Laurentian University Teaching Excellence Award; former Acting Dean, Faculty of Graduate Studies;

• Jennifer Witty, Chair of the Board of Governors; Superintendent of Human Resources Systems, Ontario Operations, Vale; member of the board of the Greater Sudbury Development Corporation; alumna.

Consultations will unfold between February 28th and May 30th.

Speaking of students and success, I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge some students from the Bharti School of Engineering who are on their way to compete in the Canadian Engineering Competition.

Both the Junior and Senior teams have qualified to compete at the national competition. The junior team is composed of Harry Brahmbhatt, Daniel Krupin and Alexander Macenzie and Connor Watson, while the senior team is composed of Matt Bennison, Stéphane Labine, Colin Roos and Aidan Simpson.

As usual, our students are punching well above their weight. It is not lost on me that once again, two of the 14 Ontario teams competing for this prestigious honour are from Laurentian, and remember there are 16 accredited engineering schools in Ontario. We know you are already all-stars and will make Laurentian proud.

As always, I welcome comments on the blog or any other matter. You can reach me at, or can join the 12,300 people who follow me on FacebookTwitter or LinkedIn.

Merci, Thank you, Miigwech.

Big decisions coming to fruition

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

I received a lot of positive comments to my last blog posting.  Interestingly, many of you shared with me your thoughts on Avis Glaze’s reference in her webcast presentation to the importance of emotional intelligence in the workplace.

I would like to update you on recent important decisions made by the Board of Governors at its meetings of June 18th and June 30th.


The 2010-11 Budget

The Board approved unanimously the proposed 2010-11 budget, as recommended unanimously by the Finance Committee on May 30th.  The budget presentation and document can be viewed here.  You may find pages 1 to 6 and page 13 particularly useful.  The information was also presented to Senate on June 15th.  I want to thank faculty, staff and students who took part in the budget consultations this year.  The budget committee held at least 30 meetings, including many with deans and directors.  I personally held with colleagues from the Executive Team nine meetings with faculty councils, department chairs and associations on campus.  Positive comments were made at both Senate and the Board of Governors by student representatives on the level of engagement this year in the budget consultation and decision-making process.

Here are the highlights of the approved budget :

  • Compared with the 2009-10 “plan B” budget, expenditures will be up 4% or $4.2 million
  • Budgets for the four faculties will be up 5%
  • Budget for student services will be up 6.1%
  • $2M over three years will set aside for new strategic investments (see page 13 of the budget document) to advance our four key goals, including for:
    • Enhanced capacity in the research office;
    • The proposed International School for Sustainable Mining;
    • Additional one-time investments in marketing and liaison;
    • The launch of a Teaching and Learning Centre;
    • Increased staffing in Simcoe County;
    • Modest additional investments in professional development for staff;
    • Initiating annual external reviews and benchmarking of selected non-academic functions, compared with best practices (our academic programs are reviewed on a regular cycle, the last time non-academic functions were reviewed externally was in 1993, except for IT about two years ago);
    • Establishing a measurable baseline of employee satisfaction/engagement and organizational climate.
    • Net reduction of 5.5 faculty positions, net increase of 3.5 staff positions
    • Deficit of $2 million, as contemplated in our Three Year Plan to Regain Sustainability
    • University is on track to balance its operating budget in 2011-12.  While we expect the University’s pension plan to be solvent, we have a “going concern deficiency” which will require plan changes for 2011-12 and beyond to ensure sustainability.  Failure to achieve consensus on sustainability adjustments would require further spending reductions of $1.75 million per year for 15 years (starting next fiscal year), in addition to spending reductions already required for 2011-12 to balance the operating budget.
    • Budget assumes an increase of 250 students this fall, with growth funded at 80% by the province
    • No economic adjustments for non-unionized staff until March 31, 2012 as per the Public Sector Compensation Restraint To Protect Public Services Act, 2010Progress through the ranks and one-time merit adjustments will still apply.  No economic adjustments for members of the Executive Team members for a second and third year.

A new student residence on the Sudbury campus

The Board gave final approval to the construction of a 236 bed residence to open in September 2012.  It will be constructed next to the University College residence, across the street from the Alphonse-Raymond building, bringing the total number of beds on the Sudbury campus from 975 to 1211.  A $20.6 million dollar contract has been awarded to TESC Construction for this design-built project.  TESC is partnering with the architectural firm J.L. Richards. This project will be 100% self-funded through residence fees and not from the University’s operating budget.  When the West Residence opened in 2006, there was still a waiting list for residence spaces on campus.  This new residence will allow us to continue being the university of choice, to meet the growing demand for university studies in the coming years, and will allow us to accommodate the impressive increase in admissions we witnessed last year, and are poised too see this fall.

Two new deans

I want to echo the comments made in recent communications by the Provost and congratulate Dr. Elizabeth Dawes and Dr. Vasu Appanna for their respective appointments as dean of social sciences and humanities and dean of science and engineering.  Dr. Dawes is currently the Associate Dean of Arts at the University of Winnipeg and holds a B.A. (Hon.) in French Studies from the Collège universitaire de Saint-Boniface, a M.A. and a PhD in Linguistics from the Université de Montréal.  Dr. Appanna is currently the chair of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department here at Laurentian and holds a B.Sc. from the University of Bombay, a M.Sc. from the University of Wales and a PhD from the University of Waterloo.

Along with their colleagues Dr. Roger Strasser, Dr. Peter Luk and Dr. Roger Couture, deans of medicine, management and professional schools, they will form a complementary and energizing team of deans.

Temporary site for the School of Architecture

The Board approved a short list of three potential temporary sites to serve architecture students for three years, pending the construction of a permanent site. A consultation and further technical analysis are underway to inform a decision by the Board in the coming weeks for the temporary site.  You can view pictures on my Facebook page from the first 5 hour consultation session held on June 22nd with about 50 members of the Sudbury community at Simon’s Restaurant on Durham Street.

Discussions are progressing well with the province on the timing of its program and funding approvals for this project.  The Premier and I had a direct conversation about the School of Architecture on June 14th in Ottawa.  He is visibly excited about the creation of the School.  The Premier reminded me of Winston Churchill’s quote: “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.”


Other Board decisions

Michael Atkins has been appointed Vice Chair of the Board of Governors.  Our new Chair Floyd Laughren and Michael will be a very effective duo leading the Board.  A reception was held to honor our past Chair, Carolyn Sinclair, as well as Board members Joe Drago, Robert Fontaine, Bryce Mulligan, and Fred Stanford who are leaving or have left the Board in the past year.

The Board has also confirmed the members of its committees for 2010-11.

The Board approved an increase of the spending rate of our endowment funds, from 2.5% to 3.5% next year. The spending rate of 2.5% had been in place since 2009-2010. Prior to the economic downturn, the spending rate of our endowment funds was always 5%, and was reduced last year to mitigate the impact of the economic downturn.

The Board has also created an Ad Hoc Committee on Governance to consider a number of outstanding governance matters related to the Board of Governors, taking into account best practices.


I would like to congratulate Shawn Swords, coach of the men’s basketball team, for his appointment as assistant coach of the Canadian men’s junior national team as well as Dr. Serge Demers, Director of the École des sciences de l’éducation, for being appointed as Chair of the Ontario Association of Deans of Education.

Congratulations to Sylvie Landry for being honored as francophone personality of the year by l’Association canadienne-française de l’Ontario (ACFO), and to Julianne Mayer for receiving the prix jeunesse award from the club Richelieu de Sudbury.

I would also like to commend Dr. David Pearson and Dr. John Gunn for the release of the final report of the Far North Science Advisory Panel. Both served on this panel, chaired by David, for the past 18 months. The report was presented and discussed with the Minister of Natural Resources, Linda Jeffrey, on June 9th and was passed on to the Standing Committee at Queen’s Park for consideration during the revision of Bill 191, the Far North Act.  Minister Jeffrey assured the Advisory Expert Panel that their recommendations would be very influential in affecting development in the North (e.g. Ring of Fire, mineral deposits, hydro, forestry, etc.). It will also set the direction for scientific research on issues such as climate change and long-range transport of contaminants such as mercury. Most importantly it will aid First Nation communities in conducting land-use planning to improve their well being while working to sustain the ecosystems they depend on.

This report should be of considerable assistance as we look to the future during our upcoming Strategic Planning process.  It calls for growth and engagement of universities in areas of research and education that already represent many of our strengths (sustainable mining, environmental protection, First nations engagement and training, climate change research).  The research recommendation in this report will have a major effect on the directions taken at the Vale Inco Living With Lakes Centre, but offers potential for a broad range of engagement from across the University.  I know that David and John are considering organizing general information sessions to transfer this information to any and all members of our university community.

Shawn, Serge, Sylvie, Julianne, David and John are six of many fine examples of leadership within our university community.

In closing, I wish you all an enjoyable and safe remainder of summer with family and friends.  We have had an extremely productive year and have much to celebrate.

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:

You can also follow me on Twitter and Facebook

Merci/Thank you/Miigwech