Dec. 9, 2019Print | PDF
Good evening everyone, my name is Deborah MacLatchy and as president and vice-chancellor, I’m delighted to be hosting you this evening.
To begin, I want to acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of the Neutral, Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee peoples. It is a privilege to be here for the purposes of this event.
This is a special evening and, if I’m being honest, one of my favourite events of the year.
It is a great privilege to celebrate with all our retirees and reconnect with familiar faces.
Each of you have played a special role in making Laurier the university that it is today.
Whether you spent five years, ten years, or 40 years working at Laurier, I’m sure you will agree with me when I say our university is a special place.
Our employees demonstrate an unwavering commitment to student success – not just while at the university, but in their future lives.
It’s no surprise, then, that Maclean’s magazine has named us the number one comprehensive university in Canada for student satisfaction for the fourth year in a row.
This is the legacy of our retirees. Thank you for shaping the outstanding culture of service and collegiality that define our campuses today.
For those of you who attended last year’s dinner, you may recall I asked you to share a memory that represents the essence of Laurier on our graffiti wall.
This was just one opportunity for us to collect feedback from the Laurier community as we reflected on the things that make our university unique and put together a strategic plan that will take us into a new decade.
I am proud to say that the work of everyone who contributed their memories and intentions for the future of Laurier came to fruition when the Laurier Strategy 2019-2020 was unanimously adopted by the Senate and Board of Governors this past June.
The document is called, Today. Tomorrow. Together. because the scope of our strategy is not limited to creating the best possible university right now, but instead lays out a list of strategic priorities designed to build a university that remains relevant and essential in the years to come.
Over the past year, the strategic planning process has incorporated input from across all of our stakeholder groups, including retirees, to establish a plan that is guided by two distinct strategic themes: thriving community and future-readiness.
Each of you have been given a card that outlines the strategic themes and the sub-themes that define how we will meet our objectives of creating a thriving community that produces graduates who are future-ready.
Over the weeks and months to come, our executive leadership team will be putting plans into motion that will ensure the future success of Laurier.
I want to thank everyone here who helped us articulate our ambitions and aspirations for the years ahead.
We are excited to continue focusing our resources and talent into projects and initiatives that build on the legacy of achievement you have all helped create.
One upcoming project will transform the face of our Waterloo campus by re-creating our University Avenue entrance and the Faculty of Music building.
The “Making Space for Music” campaign launched this spring after the successful conclusion of the “Catalyst” campaign, which raised 137 million dollars in support of the Laurier Brantford YMCA, Lazaridis Hall, student services, faculty funding and other campus-community projects.
The new campaign will support the renovation and expansion of Laurier’s current music building, transforming it into a vastly improved space for teaching, practicing, rehearsing, and performing.
Our Brantford campus celebrated its 20th anniversary this year. We marked this milestone at Homecoming and reflected at how far we’ve come in just 20 years.
When Laurier launched its campus in downtown Brantford in 1999, we had 39 students in one program – Contemporary Studies – all learning in one building.
Today, we have nearly 3,000 students in 23 programs learning across a campus that has more than 20 buildings integrated into Brantford’s downtown core.
To serve this growing campus, our staff and faculty complement has also grown from two professors and five staff members in 1999 to 107 full-time faculty members and librarians and 189 staff members today.
Our recent acquisition of One Market opens up the potential for us to increase our student population in Brantford over the next decades as the demographics of the GTA increase the number of 15-24 year-olds and as we expand programs for non-traditional students.
The Brantford campus stands today as a model of success for how Laurier can bring its unique brand of community-integrated learning to new places and find creative and innovative ways to work with these communities to thrive through higher education.
We are excited that Laurier will be expanding once again. The Town of Milton will be the new home of our Master of Education program which is launching next month from the Milton Education Village Innovation Centre.
The part-time program will feature a blended approach by offering evening classes and online components designed to accommodate working professionals from K-to-12 schools, post-secondary, government, corporate, and community sectors.
Our plans to build a fully-integrated education village in Milton were set back last year with the government’s announcement that capital funding would be cancelled.
With more than 10 years of planning put into our strategy to expand into Milton, I remain hopeful that our Master of Education program is only the first of many steps we will take to deliver future-focused university programs in Halton Region.
Another major initiative at Laurier has been the adoption and implementation of our second five-year Sustainability Action Plan.
We have made significant strides in our standing as an environmentally responsible institution. The work of our Sustainability Office has made progress on everything from the Laurier Energy Efficiency Project to diverting non-recyclable waste and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
These efforts have earned Laurier the title of one of North America’s greenest universities by the Princeton Review as well as one of Canada’s greenest employers for our commitment to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by another 15 per cent by 2022 and achieve carbon-neutrality by 2050.
The Sustainability Action Plan takes our leadership to the next level by incorporating environmentally sustainable practices into our research, teaching, and decision-making.
On the research front, Laurier was one of the first universities to sign the Dimensions: Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Canada Charter in May.
Signing the Charter exemplifies Laurier’s ongoing commitment to reducing barriers that underrepresented groups experience as post-secondary researchers across all disciplines.
In addition to signing the Charter, Laurier is also one of 15 universities partnering with the federal government to take advantage of the EDI Institutional Capacity-Building grant program.
This program will help us work toward identifying and eliminating systemic barriers to the recruitment, retention, and advancement of underrepresented groups within academia.
The funding will help support our new senior advisor in equity, diversity and inclusion, two EDI faculty colleagues and a research associate.
Our new Senior Advisor in EDI, Dr. Barrington Walker, a professor of history at Queen’s University will start at Laurier in January.
I am truly excited for this initiative to open doors and deepen the talent pool of researchers at Laurier.
Our researchers continue to make us proud with their commitment to excellence and significant accomplishments across a variety of fields.
Last month I had the pleasure of attending a gala in Ottawa at which three Laurier professors were welcomed into the Royal Society of Canada in recognition for their contributions to Canadian academia.
Phelim Boyle from the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics, Rianne Mahon from the Department of Political Science, and Eleanor Ty from the Department of English and Film Studies represent the largest cohort of RSC inductees to come from Laurier in a single year.
The spirit of community is alive and well among our alumni. This year saw the lengths to which some will go to live lives of leadership and purpose.
Ryan Martin is a BBA graduate from the Class of 2016 and he rode his bike more than 10,000 km across Canada to raise awareness and funding for mental health.
Ryan has bipolar disorder and used his four-month-long journey to stop at major cities, small towns, gas stations and coffee shops along the way to meet and speak with hundreds of Canadians about his struggles with mental health and what can be done to improve the lives of people who share his challenges.
By opening up about his mental health, Ryan hopes to de-stigmatize mental health conditions and inspire others to talk openly about their struggles and seek help. He raised more than $120,000 for the Canadian Mental Health Association.
Another recent graduate, Alex Watson from the BBA Class of 2019 climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania with the goal of raising funds for mental health initiatives and resources at Laurier.
Alex raised more than $6,000 for the Laurier Wellness Centre in September to support students who face personal difficulties and mental health challenges.
At our Waterloo Homecoming, the Wilfrid Laurier University Alumni Association pledged $800,000 toward capital support for our Indigenous Student Centre in Waterloo, sexual violence counseling and service programs, student financial aid, and new makerspace programming.
The new Indigenous Student Centre will be located at Lucinda House, which is undergoing a full renovation to purpose-build student-focused gathering, cultural and academic support space for our growing Indigenous student population.
We are also renovating our Brantford Indigenous Student Centre space to meet similar goals.
Thank you to our funders, the Lyle S. Hallman Foundation, the Laurier Student’s Union, the WLU Alumni Association, Ken Flood, the Graduate Student’s Association, and Waterloo Living in Waterloo and Eric and Valerie Grundy in Brantford for supporting these important renovations.
The final update I will share with you this evening focuses, of course, on our students.
As I mentioned earlier, our commitment to sustainability permeates our classrooms, where Laurier students are inspired to find solutions to environmental issues.
A wonderful example of this is the work done by BBA student Marissa Vettoretti and her team mates, Claire Richardson and Daniel Moll who have worked with Enactus Laurier since 2017 to develop EarthSuds, a single-use dissolvable tablet that is an alternative to the plastic shampoo and body wash bottles found in hotel rooms around the world.
In the spring, Laurier’s Enactus team placed in the top four overall in the Enactus Canada National Exposition against almost 70 other Canadian colleges and universities.
In May, the Inn of Waterloo tested EarthSuds products in some guest rooms and in June, the Beverley Hotel in Toronto also launched a pilot of the product.
EarthSuds is not only sustainable, the business is also enhancing our community, employing adults with developmental challenges through Mighty Hawks, a work-transition program created through Laurier Enactus.
The excitement for Marissa and her team continues this week as they pitch their product alongside other finalists in the National Geographic Ocean Plastic Innovation Challenge in Washington, D.C.
Truly, it has been a year filled with highlights.
As president, I am grateful to all of our retirees, who remain engaged with Laurier.
Tonight, let’s celebrate the conclusion of another year filled with accomplishments – accomplishments that wouldn’t have been possible without the legacy of all those gathered here.
I would now like to ask Pamela Cant, Chief Human Resources and Equity Officer up to the podium to make a few remarks and present the 2019 retirees’ with certificates.
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