Back to School, MTCU, Voyageurs Kick Off

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

The 2012 summer is quickly coming to an end and I hope you have all enjoyed some rest and relaxation over the past few months.  I am very fortunate to have spent some quality time with my family exploring the incredible landscape of western Canada.  I have recharged and am energized to be back into the swing of things as the school year starts.  We have a calendar packed with events for our new and returning students, and the whirlwind of activity is just beginning.  I have had the pleasure of welcoming new students at SOS Orientation on the Sudbury campus on August 15th, of welcoming new MD students at the beginning of NOSM’s Orientation Week, of visiting the new 236 beds residence in Sudbury, and of welcoming our new students with special needs who are taking part in the Laurentian Initiative For Transition (LIFT) Program on the Sudbury campus.  The Laurentian Student Union in Barrie will also be hosting orientation sessions this week to acquaint new students with facilities and services on campus.  We are all quite busy with the excitement of back to school activity and I’ll have more to report on this next week.


New Residence

The new residence was officially opened on August 30th with a ribbon cutting ceremony and tours of this incredible 12-storey complex.  With the completion of this new facility, Laurentian now offers on-campus housing for 1600 students in Sudbury.    For the past two years, many have worked hard to ensure that the residence would be ready for students in September 2012 and I would like to thank those involved in the planning and construction for their dedication and commitment to meeting the target.  I want to acknowledge Laurentian’s Director of Services, Romeo Bertoli for his leadership on this project and Pierre Fontaine and the Physical Plant and Planning team for the countless hours they have invested in this project.


Seeking Input – Ministry of Training, Colleges & Universities

At the end of June, the Ministry of Training, Colleges & Universities (MTCU) released a discussion paper entitled Strengthening Ontario’s Centres of Creativity, Innovation and Knowledge.  The document raises questions that will inform the government’s direction on postsecondary education in the province.  A series of roundtable discussions with the postsecondary education sector was held – Minister Glen Murray kicked off a session in Sudbury at Laurentian on July 26th.  In addition to these sessions, the Ministry is asking for written submissions from institutions, student associations, Colleges Ontario, the Council of Ontario Universities and other associations before September 30th.  Dr. Anne-Marie Mawhiney, Special Advisor in my office, is leading the development of a response from Laurentian’s perspective.  I believe it is important to consider as many perspectives as possible in forming Laurentian’s submission and I encourage all members of Laurentian’s community to offer input.

The other request we received from the Ministry over the summer is for an eight-page submission to “begin the process of developing strategic mandate agreements (SMAs)” between each university and college and the province.  The submission must be received by September 30th and we are required to include our institutional vision, proposed mandate statement and three priority objectives. I will have a chance to discuss this further at Senate in September. Anne-Marie and Dr. Robert Kerr, VP Academic and Provost, are co-leading the development of our SMA submission. This exercise is straightforward since it will incorporate strategic directions already approved either by the Board of Governors or Senate through the recent approvals of the 2012-2017 Strategic Plan, the Academic Plan, the Strategic Research Plan, the Graduate Expansion Plan or the 2012-2017 multi-year budget.

If you have any specific input to offer on any or all the questions included in the discussion paper, please feel free to provide it as soon as possible to Anne-Marie so that she can attempt to reflect your input in the first draft that will be circulated to Senate and the Board’s Executive Committee in mid-September.  Anne-Marie’s email is


Voyageurs – Kick off!

One more thing to watch for: The Laurentian Voyageurs Men’s Lacrosse team (CUFLA) takes to the field to play host to McMaster University at the LU Stadium on September 8th.  The match begins at 2 pm on Saturday afternoon.

Here’s to a winning season for all of us at Laurentian in 2012-2013!

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

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:

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Merci/Thank you/Miigwech