2013 In Review

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

It was a pleasure to see over 350 faculty, staff, students, alumni, Governors and community members at our annual Holiday Open House at 179 John Street on December 8th, and to see so many colleagues at the annual United Way fundraiser at Great Hall on December 11th and at the LUAPSA cocktail on December 12th.

With only a few days left to 2013, I wanted to summarize some of our collective accomplishments as a university community during the past year. The list certainly does not capture all the exciting developments. 

Student Satisfaction and Engagement

  • Return of men varsity hockey
  • Introduction of women varsity hockey, being ranked #2 in Canada for attendance at CIS women’s hockey games
  • Voyageurs re-branding, including the launch of a new product line
  • Opening of a new Subway on the Sudbury campus
  • Recognition of top first-year students by the Centre for Academic Excellence, 300 nominations of 40 faculty members teaching in first year, Rizwan Haq (Physics) and Suzanne Lamothe (Biology) as inaugural recipients of the Students’ Choice Teaching Awards
  • Consolidation of our Orillia programs in Barrie, enabling students to benefit from a wider course selection

 National Recognition

  • Installation of Steve Paikin as our new Chancellor
  • Launch of the Goodman School of Mines under the leadership of Dr. Bruce Jago as Founding Franco-Nevada Executive Director
  • Carling Zeeman named female Canadian Oarswoman of the Year and OUA Oarswoman of the Year, after winning Gold at the Canadian University Championships and two gold medals at the Ontario University Athletics rowing championships (including placing first with teammate Emily Jago in the women’s doubles event)
  • Appointment of Dr. Nathan Basiliko as Canada Research Chair in Environmental Microbiology at the Vale Living With Lakes Centre
  • Received the largest Collaborative Research and Development program research grant ever awarded by the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) for the “Footprints” project co-led by Dr. Michael Lesher
  • Announcement of the first private sector fully funded research chair at Laurentian (IAMGOLD Research Chair in Open Pit Mining)
  • Being one of the four Canadian universities involved as collaborating funding partners of NSERC’s new Canadian Network for Aquatic Ecosystems Services (CNAES), with the first AGM held on April 29-30th at the Vale Living With Lakes Centre
  • The Thinking Extinction three day international symposium hosted by our new Centre for Evolutionary Ecology and Ethical Conservation on November 14-16th
  • The Faculty of Management held its AACSB accreditation retreat on December 13th, exploring continuous improvement ideas to attain initial accreditation, as it enters the pre-accreditation phase and begins working on writing the AACSB Standards Alignment Plan  in 2014.
  • Being ranked #2 in Twitter engagement among Canadian universities
  • Launch of phase 2 of the website

University of Choice

  • 23% increase in high school applications
  • 7% increase in non-high school undergraduate applications
  • Record numbers of applications and confirmations (high school and non high school applicants), record percentages of Ontario university applications (1.5%) and confirmations (1.9%), record percentage of Ontario university 1st choice confirmations (2.21%)
  • 9% increase in enrolment in graduate programs
  • 50,000th graduate at Fall convocation
  • Off-campus perks program launched
  • Beginning of the $7.7 million rehabilitation of the Single Student Residence

Community Responsiveness

  • Opening of the School of Architecture: I was thrilled to attend the student showcase on Saturday December 14 and saw first hand the work accomplished by our talented and engaged students from the charter class
  • Conclusion of The Next 50 Campaign which exceeded its $50 million goal by raising $65.5 million, successful campaign close events
  • Events at BMO in March and King Edward Hotel in May in Toronto for the Goodman School of Mines
  • Hiring of six additional Indigenous faculty
  • Hosting Mining Day in March, which is being held annually in rotation with Cambrian College and Collège Boréal
  • Launch of the Northern Policy Institute (NPI) under the leadership of Charles Cirtwill, who presented  to the Board of Governors on Friday, December 13th the seven NPI projects already commissioned, the nine RFPs in development and five other projects under discussion
  • Successful Laurentian Leadership Summit on October 24th-25th involving close to 200 community leaders and students

 Organizational Excellence

  • Increase on each of the 20 “employee engagement” drivers on our second biannual Have Your Say survey, with the most progress measured in: performance feedback, continuous improvement, organizational communication, team recognition and satisfaction with senior leadership⁄senior administration
  • Launch of the Northern Leadership Program involving 20 leaders from Laurentian, Health Sciences North, Science North and the City of Greater Sudbury
  • Approval by the Board in October of the new Campus Master Plan which will guide the Sudbury campus development for the next 30-50 years
  • New Dean of the Faculty of Management, Dr. Stephen Havlovic
  • Hiring of new Executive Director of Human Resources and Organizational Development, Terez Klotz and new Director of Talent Management and Organizational Development, Kate Sikerbol
  • New collective agreement with CUPE Local 5011 representing Graduate Teaching Assistants

Over the past year, Laurentian leaders have continued to play a key role provincially and nationally. Here are a few examples:

  • Dr. Roger Strasser completed his term as co-chair of the Council of Ontario Faculties of Medicine.
  • Dr. Patrice Sawyer chairs the Ontario Council on University Research.
  • Dr. Birgit Pianosi from Huntington chairs the Ontario Interdisciplinary Council for Aging and Health.
  • Michèle Minor-Corriveau from Orthophonie chairs the Ontario Council of University Programs in Rehabilitation Sciences.
  • I continue to co-chair the Ontario Council on Articulation and Transfer and the Consortium national de formation en santé, and have been appointed to the five-member Executive Committee of the Association of Canadian Universities of Colleges (AUCC) along with my peers from the University of British Columbia, the University of Manitoba, the Université de Montréal and Mount Allison University. I have been serving since 2009 on AUCC’s Standing Advisory Committee on Educational Issues and Funding and will now be serving on the Standing Advisory Committee on University Research.

Locally in Sudbury, on November 14th, the biannual Top 40 Under 40 gala was held. Once again this year, a majority of recipients are either faculty members, staff, students or alumni of the Laurentian community. Congratulations to all recipients, especially:

  • Dr. Alain Gauthier (Assistant Professor, School of Human Kinetics);
  • Dr. Alison Goodwin (Assistant Professor, School of Human Kinetics);
  • Angela Gilmore (alumna);
  • Brandon Beeson (alumnus);
  • Charlie Andrews (former President of the Students’ General Association);
  • Christina Chicoine (alumna);
  • David Joseph Anselmo (alumnus);
  • Jennifer Horgan (alumna);
  • Jean-Paul Rains (Manager, Digital Strategy);
  • Kristin Green (alumna);
  • Kristy Rousseau (Manager, Individual Gifts);
  • Marc Mortin (former employee in Advancement);
  • Megan Kolppanen (alumna);
  • Nathalie Depatie (alumna and part-time instructor, University of Sudbury);
  • Nicole Tardif (Program Coordinator, Goodman School of Mines);
  • Shannon Katary (Director of Marketing and Community Relations, Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation);
  • Dr. Stacey Ritz (Associate Professor, Northern Ontario School of Medicine);
  • Dr. Suman Koka (alumnus);
  • Tom Fenske (Biology Technologist and President, Laurentian University Staff Union);
  • Tiffany Cecchetto (part-time instructor in Accounting-Finance);
  • Tracy Horgan (Manager, Financial Planning and Analysis).

I want to thank each of you for an exceptional year. I wish you a happy and safe holiday. In my next blog posting, I will highlight some of the developments you can expect in 2014.

As always, I welcome comments on the blog or any other matter: you can reach me at dominicgiroux@laurentian.ca, or you can join the 6,800 people who follow me on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Merci, Thank You, Miigwetch.

New University Website

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

At the end of September, in time for the Ontario Universities’ Fair (OUF), the University launched a new website.

On the old website, visitors did not have access to course sections and their respective description, nor did they have access to a faculty directory. There was little information about campus life in Barrie.  There was no consistent structure to the program information. “Page not found” was one of the most popular areas visited.  In short, the old site contained far too much information, much of it obsolete, including outdated references and dead links.  We were receiving complaints on a daily basis from applicants who could not find the information they needed.

The new website has generated internal criticism about the availability, completeness, accuracy or translation of some information.  All of these concerns are being addressed, and we’re doing more in the weeks ahead to correct any shortcomings.  But the complaints from students applying to Laurentian have dropped dramatically, because they are now finding what they need.

The new website was designed taking into account the information that users are looking for. Since November 1st alone, the University website has received 327,680 unique page views, for an average of 3.28 pages per visit and the duration of an average site visit of 3.22 minutes.  Users now have fewer “clicks” to find the information they are looking for, due in part to the new expandable menus from the main page.  Over 70% of visitors return.  And, visits from mobile phones are up compared with the previous website.

The most fundamental change with the new University website is that information which had been targeting current students can now be found on a new Student Portal (which has had more than 9,400 unique page views).  Information relevant to our faculty and staff can now be found in a Staff Portal (which has had more than 3,300 unique page views).  Over 250 users have already uploaded information on the intranet.  Moving content aimed at faculty, current students and staff to other platforms/intranets is absolutely the right approach.  We are catching up with some other universities and organizations that have been streaming information this way for some time.

The roll-out of a website is a complex operation, and it was my decision to launch an imperfect product, recognizing the challenges that come with that, in order to provide applicants what they needed in this recruitment season.

One of the challenges in the roll-out of the web was being able to source consistent and accurate data from multiple departments.  As we move from manual to automated processes, and from fragmented to centralized databases, we will see this improve allowing the University to deliver full academic calendars “at a glance” and reflecting personnel information more accurately.

The intent is to have a comparable information structure across all programs, which includes a program overview page featuring the language, campus and delivery mode, department contact information, admission requirements, employment prospects and credit transfers.  There will be subpages for course sections, degree options and requirements, and faculty members. Steps have been taken in the past few weeks to address some issues regarding degree options and requirements in particular.  For examples, a lot of new content has been uploaded over the past few days especially in Social Sciences and Humanities thanks to work of Dean Elizabeth Dawes.

I and my colleagues have certainly learned from the experience of rolling out a new website, and we do want to respond to the concerns we’ve heard, and make sure we’re well-positioned going forward.  Thus, I am creating a Website Advisory Group, co-chaired by the Vice-President, Academic and Provost and a faculty member appointed by the President and serving on Senate, to advise the University’s Chief Information Officer (Luc Roy) and the Chief of Staff (Chris Mercer) on the next phases of the roll-out of the new website.  The co-chairs will recruit members of the Website Advisory Group, which will include a total of seven faculty members (one per Faculty including one from Barrie, one from federated universities and one from the Library and the co-chair, ensuring linguistic and gender balance), as well as student, staff and alumni representatives.  The mandate of this Website Advisory Group will be completed no later than August 2013.  The direction to the effect that information aimed at University faculty, staff and students shall reside on an Intranet stands.  The efforts of the Website Advisory Group shall focus in priority on the webpage sections or features which have the most traffic from external users (we have measurable data to track this).

A number of suggestions were made at November 20th Senate meeting on this matter, including posting on the Intranet regular updates to the number of visits per webpage, and finding ways to better communicate to current students where they can access key information.  I have also committed to providing at Senate in January key content parameters as to the information expected (and not desired) on each program’s webpage (based on market research), with a process flow-chart of who is to submit or draft content and updates, who signs off for accuracy including translation, and who is responsible for ongoing updates and accuracy, all with associated timelines.  These key content parameters and process flow-chart will be validated over time by the Website Advisory Group.

Current improvement priorities include uploading the course and degree requirements (several have been updated for the faculty of social sciences and humanities, with more to come, including formatting and linking to course descriptions).  Access to an edit site through LUNET will be provided so that departments can update their information and faculty profiles.  The deans’ pages will be uploaded, while the Athletics homage and imagery on many pages will be updated.

I want to thank the 180 faculty members who have sent their profiles.  These will be posted in the weeks to come.  The course directory is also being updated with improved search functionality by subject area and keyword.

In addition to the new University website and intranet, a new student applicant portal has launched.  Over 20% of applicants have registered to this site so far for September 2013.  Online applications for residence (and other services) are now open earlier and increase access for students.  Many forms are being converted to online input to ease the application process for students.

Many staff members have worked very long hours to produce a new, user-friendly and attractive website, with the aim of maximizing the automation of content updates moving forward.  I look forward to the next set of improvements to our dynamic web presence and communications, to nationally showcase our exceptional teaching and research.

As always, I welcome comments on the blog or any other matter: you can reach me at dominicgiroux@laurentian.ca, or you can join the 4,700 people who follow me on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Merci, Thank You, Miigwech.