Update on Faculty and Staff Engagement, Strategic Planning and the 2011-12 Budget

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

Since my last blog posting, we have held a very successful Research Week and a productive full-day working session of the 37-member Leadership Group. The provincial government has released the Growth Plan for Northern Ontario, announced the creation of a Northern Policy Institute and has asked me to serve as co-advisor on the implementation of this institute.  Several departments and research centres were very visible during the international convention of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) in Toronto. We have welcomed over 1,000 applicants and their parents during March break. I have had the pleasure of speaking at the annual year end celebration for the francophone commerce program which included the distribution of awards for strategic management and business planning student competitions, attending the XVIe Souper de la francophonie organized by the Association des professeurs et professeures francophones de l’Université Laurentienne, and attending again this year the Gerry Lougheed Jr Volunteer Appreciation Dinner with 550 students from residences in Great Hall.

On February 28th, I had the opportunity to welcome the Premier on campus.  We discussed challenges and opportunities in higher education, Northern Ontario and Barrie, the recent accomplishments of our university community, the need to close the gap in the long-term in the proportion of graduate spaces funded in Northern Ontario, as well as the planned Laurentian School of Architecture in downtown Sudbury.  He was very impressed with the following 5 minute video which captures the importance of this project.  Over 1,100 people have already viewed the English version of this inspiring video on-line.

On March 30th, we held our awards celebration, called an Evening of Tribute. This event is truly a celebration of the generosity of our donors and a demonstration of the unbelievable results our students can attain with their support. Almost 400 people gathered in the Fraser Auditorium, to celebrate the donors who have created scholarships and bursaries to benefit our grateful student recipients. Many of the donors we celebrated are faculty, staff and alumni.

In today’s blog posting, I would like to update you on three important initiatives: Have Your Say 2011 (on faculty and staff engagement); the development of the University’s 2012-2017 strategic plan; and the development of the 2011-2012 operating budget.


Have Your Say 2011 : Striving For Organizational Excellence

Since my last blog posting, I have lead three town-hall meetings (two in Sudbury, one in Barrie) on “Have Your Say 2011 : Striving For Organizational Excellence”.  An 11 member advisory committee is leading this initiative.  All employee groups have been invited to serve on this committee.  Members have been very engaged in developing two on-line questionnaires, one for faculty and one for staff, which will be administered between May 2nd to May 16th by an independent third party selected by the advisory committee.  This voluntary and confidential questionnaire, to be administered every two years, will provide us as a university community with the needed measurable baseline to inform conversations in each department to determine areas where, together, we want to bring positive and significant change as an organization – and to measure progress over time.  The participation of faculty and staff in completing this on-line questionnaire is critical.  It is one of many tools available to us to pursue organizational excellence.

I invite all faculty and staff members to view the following information on “Have Your Say 2011”, including a webcast of my presentation at one of the town-hall meetings as well as frequently asked questions.


2012-2017 Strategic Plan

We wrapped up Laurentian’s 50th anniversary celebrations this week with the launch of consultations for the development a five page measurable 2012-2017 strategic plan by December.  A 27 member steering committee is leading the exercise.  Three sessions were held earlier in Sudbury with approximately 163 representatives from students, faculty, staff, alumni and the community.  A six page backgrounder has been developed to inform the strategic planning process, featuring 10 trends which the steering committee has identified has important to be mindful of as we refine our future directions.

Dr Anne-Marie Mawhiney, Special Advisor to the President, has offered to meet with any group interested in hosting a focussed discussion to inform our strategic plan.  She has already met with over 210 participants, including: representatives from the faculty of professional schools; faculty and staff from the J.N. Desmarais Library; a group of students, faculty and staff convened by Laurentian International; and partners of the Vale Living With Lakes Centre.  She has further sessions scheduled or being scheduled with over 200 participants, including: the faculty of science and engineering; counselling services in Sudbury; the Laurentian University Native Education Council; directors reporting to the Vice-President, Administration; Student Affairs; representatives from Indigenous communities in Simcoe County; and representatives of students, faculty and staff in Simcoe County.  Please feel free to contact her directly at ammawhiney@laurentian.ca or (705) 675-1151, extension 3221 if you are interested in hosting focussed discussions.

A call for submissions will follow shortly; stay tuned!  In the meantime, please take a look at the intranet set up for members of the university community to review the information related to the strategic planning exercise.  The steering committee will synthesize on May 24th all the input received at that time and develop some specific questions to be asked to the Board of Governors in June.

2011-2012 Operating Budget

Since my last blog posting, I have also lead 14 budget consultations (in Sudbury and in Barrie) with the Leadership Group, Senate, student, faculty and staff associations, representatives from the faculties and the J.N. Desmarais Library, as well as with the Laurentian University Native Education Council.  The Vice-President, Francophone Affairs, Research and Graduate Studies, Dr. Patrice Sawyer, has also met three times with representatives from the Association des étudiantes et étudiants francophones (AEF).

At this time, our preliminary scenario contemplates a balanced operating budget for 2011-2012, a $1.2 million increase to the budget of faculties with an equivalent decrease in administration.  Overall budgets for academic supports and student services would remain essentially the same as this year, with a small increase for physical plant.

I invite students, faculty and staff to consult the materials circulated during those budget consultations, as well as the answers to some of the most common questions we have received so far during the budget process.

Over 175 people have taken part in these sessions.  I want to thank them all for the constructive nature of the discussions that took place.  We have also received very clear feedback from students, faculty and staff in Simcoe County on the need to expand increase academic and administrative supports there, and the importance of accelerating the implementation of a 10-year plan for Barrie.

The Vice-President, Administration, Carol McAulay, and the Vice-President, Academic and Provost, Dr Robert Kerr, continue to welcome any questions or suggestions that members of the university community may have as we finalize the budget.

The Budget Committee is has finalized the allocations for faculties.  Allocations for other budgets will be finalized between now and May 16th when the 2011-2012 operating budget will be presented to the Finance Committee of the Board of Governors.

As we approach the end of another semester, I want to wish much success to all students.  Chancellor Aline Chrétien and I really look forward to the upcoming nine convocation ceremonies in Sudbury and 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 1,700 people who follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

Merci/Thank you/Miigwech

Engaged Students, Faculty and Staff

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

Laurentian University has all the assets to be recognized in the future as one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers, as Georgian College, George Brown College, Kwantlen University College, the University of Toronto, McGill University and Simon Fraser University have been in the past decade.

As a sector, we are measured on numerous indicators, yet we have no data on the experiences of faculty and staff members on areas where collectively we do well as an organization and where we could improve.  We collectively need measurable information to guide action planning.  It’s essential to prioritize and focus efforts to bring about the most significant and positive change towards the goal of becoming one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers.

To enable this priority-setting, faculty and staff members will be invited to complete a confidential on-line questionnaire in May.  Results will be released in September and the survey will be administered again every two years to measure progress over time.  The outcome of the questionnaire will inform the 2011-2012 performance goals of the university’s Leadership Group and of other supervisors, but most importantly will inform authentic conversations at the department level.

I would like to thank the 150 faculty and staff members who attended one of the two Have Your Say 2011: Towards Organizational Excellence town-hall meetings held on February 3rd and 4th at the Fraser auditorium. We received excellent and constructive feedback and questions regarding next steps for the above-mentioned initiative.

Faculty and staff union/associations have been invited to join an Advisory Committee, which has already met twice to review and make adjustments to the proposed process and review the top bids received in order to select an external consultant to collect the data in confidence and report back to the university community.  Over the coming weeks, this Advisory Committee will review the questionnaire and provide advice on ways to maximize the success of this initiative.

While voluntary, your participation will make a difference.  We must become the change we want to see.

There is much to build on, including a very strong track record as a university in attracting and retaining talent.  We have talented and creative staff.  We have innovative faculty.  We have engaged leaders who care about the university.  We need to make sure that our energies are channeled and focused.

If you have any questions or comments regarding this initiative, please do not hesitate to contact Dr Anne-Marie Mawhiney at ammawhiney@laurentian.ca or extension 3221.  We are in the process of setting up an intranet link so that all employees can view the presentation that was used in the town hall meetings last week.  Another session is being planned for Barrie soon.

Laurentian students never cease to amaze me with their leadership and enthusiasm.

Just in the past two weeks, I was able to witness their strong level of engagement on a daily basis including at the:

  • 36th Annual SPAD Hockey Tournament organized by students from the School of Sports Administration (note that the Laurentian staff team won 3-2 vs the faculty team this year);
  • First event of the newly-created Saudi Club on the Sudbury campus;
  • 8th Annual SGA Charity Ball, with profits going to the Live-In for Literacy (kudos to Hannah Thompson and Sarah Williams for raising over $5,430 to build school libraries in India)
  • 2nd Annual Road to Riches Accounting Challenge organized by the Laurentian University Accounting Association and attended by 36 current and prospective students and over 20 Laurentian alumni who are now Chartered Accountants or C.A. candidates (kudos in particular to alumna Emily Blimkie from Collins Barrow and Valorie Leonard from the School of Commerce for their impressive efforts);
  • Last basketball home game for the Lady Vees and Voyageurs (kudos to graduating seniors Katie Goggins and Lisa Furchner who were honoured on Saturday);
  • Chinese New Year Party organized by the Laurentian University Chinese Student and Scholar Association;
  • 8th Annual Airbandz for Cancer for which students raised $17,000 this year for a total of $102,000 over the past eight years for the Northern Ontario Cancer Research Foundation (four fellow judges and I had the thought task of picking the winners).

Students give particularly high marks to Laurentian for its class size, the level of interaction with faculty, the availability of faculty outside class, the sense of personal security and safety on campus and the physical fitness, sports and recreational facilities.  What strikes me though when I speak with faculty and staff members – especially those who go beyond the call of duty to attend events such as those listed above – is that they are energized by the students’ energy and aspiration to do always do better, and in turn this gives faculty and staff the boost to be even better themselves at what they do.  I know that’s why so many faculty and staff members love what they do at Laurentian, and I am certainly one of them!

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 1,500 people who follow me on Twitter and Facebook, as well as find pictures of the above noted events.

Merci/Thank you/Miigwech