Sept. 17, 2019Print | PDF
President Deborah MacLatchy addressed the Laurier community during her annual town hall presentations on Sept. 16 in Waterloo and Sept. 17 in Brantford. The speech highlighted the many success stories at Laurier from the last year.
It’s a privilege to be Laurier’s president and I am thankful to do this work on behalf of our students, faculty and staff.
Today is an opportunity for us to come together to reflect on the exceptional work that Laurier faculty, staff and students do every day in pursuit of our mission as a leading comprehensive university that offers an exceptional student experience. It is also a chance to look ahead to the future and to be excited about the gains we have yet to make.
We have come together to reflect on the year that’s been and recognize the heartfelt loss of colleagues who are not here to share these successes with us. I also want to acknowledge the loss over the weekend by the University of Victoria of students on a field trip.
As a university renowned for its remarkable community and collegiality, I am confident we are in a strong position to take advantage of the opportunities we will make as we head into a new decade.
And this does not mean downplaying the challenges. Due to the mandated 10 per cent tuition cut and freeze, we are facing an $18-million per year deficit that must be addressed in the upcoming years.
Additionally, the reduction in OSAP funding challenges our students in accessing a university education.
Good leadership is about transparency and accountability. The Executive Leadership Team’s commitment to everyone here is that we will be open and accessible as we listen, collaborate and work through our challenges.
To empower our community, we have sought input from all staff and faculty through a university-wide online submission form and are planning a budget Town Hall for early October. You should have received late last week your invitation to that gathering.
This is an opportunity for us to come together to share ideas for new revenue sources, cost savings and efficiencies.
It is in times like these that leadership matters. I am asking everyone to embody that leadership and think intentionally about the university that we want to be.
The Laurier Strategy, unanimously approved by our Senate and Board in the spring, will help us focus our priorities and gives us a central mission to focus our work.
It emphasizes our strength as a community and outlines the areas where we must concentrate our efforts to keep pace in a changing post-secondary landscape.
It sets a mission that will guide us over the next five years.
That mission is to excel at creating a thriving community where all members of our comprehensive university can reach their potential.
From this foundation, we will develop future-ready people who will transform where they live, work and continue to learn.
This last year we have counted many successes in supporting these interconnected themes of thriving community and future-readiness, both inside and outside the university.
Some examples include:
- Wrapping up the Catalyst Campaign, Laurier’s largest fundraising campaign ever, which raised $130 million over the last decade to build new facilities, launch new programs and enhance our student supports.
- The Catalyst campaign grew our endowment from $36 million to $87 million and inspired 17,000 new donors to give to Laurier.
- The grand opening of the Laurier-Brantford YMCA last December, which marked the first time a university and YMCA have partnered to create a jointly owned and operated facility. This celebration also recognized the support of government at all three levels that made this project a reality.
- In its first year, the Laurier-Brantford YMCA has had a remarkable impact on student life, significantly increasing the quality of the health and fitness programs offered. In the first semester the Laurier-Brantford YMCA was open, almost 1,800 students came in to use the facilities.
- And, for the first time in our Brantford campus history, we were able to host fellow Ontario Colleges Athletic Association teams at extramural tournaments in men’s and women’s basketball, co-ed volleyball and co-ed dodgeball.
- Our next goal in Brantford is to transform One Market into new academic, cultural and service space to support the expansion of the Brantford campus.
- Once again, for the third year in a row, Laurier was ranked No. 1 for student satisfaction in the comprehensive category in the Maclean’s university rankings.
- In April, we launched the Making Space for Music Campaign to support the transformation of the Faculty of Music building and University Avenue entranceway on our Waterloo campus.
- In May, we hosted Federal Minister of Science and Sport Kirsty Duncan who made a national announcement about a new initiative to promote equity, diversity and inclusion in academia. The Dimensions: Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Canada program will provide Laurier with almost $400,000 over the next two years to support our EDI initiatives.
- As part of this Dimensions program, Laurier has been selected as one of 17 pilot institutions to develop and assess best practices in supporting EDI in its research endeavours.
- This fall we will launch celebrations marking the 20th anniversary of the Brantford campus, which has grown to almost 3,000 students.
- And in January, we will begin offering a Master of Education program out of the Milton Innovation Centre.
- It’s incredible to think how far we have come in pursuit of our multi-campus vision – and it’s in no short measure thanks to the sense of community and forward-thinking spirit of the people who work at Laurier.
It is this thriving community that inspires us to work together towards shared goals and will help us prepare our faculty, staff and students for the future.
Today I would like to share with you the ways our faculty, staff and students are already putting into action our strategic priority areas.
It is my hope these stories inspire you as we continue to focus on strengthening our thriving community and building our future-readiness.
In Canada’s north, Laurier researchers from the Faculty of Science and Faculty of Arts are enriching partnerships with Dehcho First Nations in the Northwest Territories.
Last summer, Laurier Biology professor Jennifer Baltzer and Geography and Environmental Studies adjunct professor Andrew Spring worked in collaboration with Dehcho First Nations to organize the Regional Dehcho Youth Ecology Camp.
This camp helps youth connect with elders, traditional knowledge holders and Laurier scientists who teach them about the land and the effects of climate change on their home.
The camp was so successful that Laurier was invited back again this summer and are now supporting a second event in Kakisa, another community the Dehcho area.
Andrew has said: “This is the stamp we want to put on Laurier’s work in the North – that we are working with communities and building relationships so knowledge can be shared.”
Working with our Dehcho First Nations partners is also a way we are furthering our commitments to pursuing enhanced initiatives to integrate Indigenous knowledges and practices across the university.
On our Brantford Campus, Laurier International and the Office of Indigenous Initiatives teamed up this spring to offer students a sugar bush trip to Mohawk Seedkeeper Gardens in Six Nations.
Mohawk seedkeeper Terrylynn Brant shared Indigenous ways of using maple sap for medicinal purposes and ceremonial practices. Laurier’s Elder in Residence, Norma Jacobs, prepared lunch for the students.
In exchange, students helped clean up and maintain the sugar bush.
These are just two examples of ways that Laurier staff, faculty and students are helping to Indigenize our university.
Events such as these, which emphasize knowledge sharing and cross-cultural understanding, also promote an inclusive community at Laurier.
Our inclusive community is fostered by creating the conditions where all can experience the powerful sense of belonging that has distinguished Laurier throughout its history.
In our Faculty of Education, professor and former dean, Colleen Willard-Holt has collaborated with teachers from the Waterloo Region District School Board to host a camp to help grade 7 and 8 students from under-represented groups achieve their goal of becoming teachers.
The Aspiring Teachers camp combines research with community engagement, as Colleen conducted interviews and focus groups with participants and their parents to better understand the barriers racialized students face in becoming teachers.
So far, the feedback is exceptional. Every single camper rated the experience very highly with the unanimous suggestion to expand it to two weeks next summer. Their parents were equally excited about the experience and are eager to spread the word to other potential participants next year.
By introducing these young people to role models and giving them access to information about the pathways to becoming a teacher, Colleen and her collaborators hope more students from racialized backgrounds will aspire to gain a university degree – hopefully at Laurier! – and be inspired to become teachers.
In the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics, Associate Professor Ivona Hideg is building a more inclusive community through her research by examining the unintended impacts of maternity leaves on women’s careers and seeking solutions to enable women to have both successful careers and be able to spend time with their newborns.
Her research has led to recommendations for companies to provide women on maternity leave avenues to stay in touch with the workplace to the degree they wish to and to provide training and feedback that will make their return to work more successful.
For this research, Ivona won an award for Responsible Research in Management in May 2019.
This year, Ivona has been awarded a research fellowship with the Women and Public Policy Program at the Harvard Kennedy School to further explore this topic.
Building our inclusive community also requires a commitment to internationalization and we do this through providing opportunities for our students, faculty and staff to cultivate intercultural understanding.
For years, on both the Brantford and Waterloo campuses, Laurier students have been supporting student refugees through the World University Service of Canada Student Refugee program – also known as WUSC.
Third-year Human Rights and Human Diversity student Ali Ibrahim is a recipient of the scholarship. Before coming to Laurier, he lived with his family in a refugee camp in Kenya after they fled conflict in Somalia.
Ali is now paying it forward as he helps other students make the adjustment to university life. Last fall, he was an icebreaker during orientation week, welcoming new students to campus.
In Waterloo at our spring convocation, we also celebrated the first cohort of graduates who are beneficiaries of the International Students Overcoming War program – also known as ISOW.
In total, ISOW has provided 16 scholarships for international students since 2015. This year, three more students are attending Laurier thanks to scholarships funded through ISOW.
Over fall 2019 reading week, Gavin Brockett, associate dean in the Faculty of Arts and faculty advisor for ISOW, accompanied Laurier student leaders to Ottawa to meet with representatives from the ministries of foreign affairs, immigration and international development, as well as House Leader and local MP, Bardish Chaggar to promote the program and advocate for government support.
Student Helena Wall, who is vice-president of ISOW, says that the organization has allowed Laurier students to make a real global impact. “We will continue to dream big,” she says.
Indeed, our internationalization efforts have yielded almost a 25 per cent increase in international student enrolment at Laurier since 2015. We now have students from 90 countries studying at our university.
This internationalization works both ways. Across our faculties, Laurier professors are offering students opportunities to study abroad in field courses around the world.
In the last year, Laurier students have travelled to countries in Africa, Europe, Asia and South America to study everything from music to history to business and language.
And last year, Human Resources and Laurier International introduced the Laurier Staff International Experience Program, which allows staff to apply for a job-shadow exchange at a university outside of Canada to develop their intercultural understanding and gain insight into practices at institutions abroad. This year, we have seven staff members who will travel to five countries to visit partner institutions.
Laurier’s thriving community is also built on our commitment to creating an intellectual climate that celebrates the expression, testing and challenging of a range of perspectives that are grounded in reason, evidence and frameworks of knowledge and creativity.
Every day, Laurier researchers and students engage in work that questions assumptions and allows us to look at the world from fresh perspectives.
This year, for the first time, undergraduate students joined graduate students to share their research in the three-minute thesis competition.
Over 40 Laurier students competed for thousands of dollars in prize money and the opportunity to compete at the provincial finals.
The three-minute thesis not only provides students the opportunity to share their research, it also helps them identify the goals of their research and communicate it in simple language.
This year’s winner was MSc student Mariam Elmarsafy (Elmar-soofi) who spoke about water flea tolerance to salinity. Mariam went on to represent Laurier at the provincial competition at McMaster University in April.
On our Brantford campus, the Academic Creative and Engaged Research Showcase (also known as ACERS) fosters our intellectual climate through a week-long event that showcases the exceptional research of our students and faculty to the community through interactive displays, presentations and colloquia.
This year’s poster competition winner was fourth year Bachelor of Arts student Erin McHarge (Mc-Har-gi) for her poster ‘Legally Bound: Non-Normative Gender and Identification’.
At ACERS, panel discussions and keynote speakers from Laurier also provide opportunities to exchange ideas and challenge assumptions. These events are open to the community, not just Laurier students and faculty.
Events such as these serve to contribute to the robust exchange of ideas and perspectives grounded in reason and evidence.
Supporting novel ideas and approaches to research are just part of Laurier’s forward-thinking, future-focused spirit.
We are committed to preparing people for whatever the future may bring.
For our students, this means offering innovative credentialing options that meet their learning needs at all life stages.
An excellent example of this is the Master of Public Safety program offered through the Faculty of Human and Social Sciences.
This program – the first of its kind in Canada – is a part-time program designed for people working in public safety.
Two Brantford police officers currently completing this degree have remarked how the quality of the program has expanded their perspectives and tools for work and that the flexibility has allowed them to balance their careers with personal and professional development.
“You learn with a leadership perspective on community-based policing initiatives and how to implement them, how to be diverse and reflective of your community and how you’re going to accomplish that,” says Sgt. Raj Saini, one of the Brantford police officers taking the program.
Indeed, our innovative offerings continue to grow. In Brantford at convocation this spring, we also celebrated the graduation of the first cohort of the Bachelor of Arts in Policing Program.
It was remarkable for course instructors to meet students in person after spending four years instructing them online.
As we continue to examine how we can best meet the needs of our students, we have created a credential innovation sub-committee at Laurier.
Over the coming year, this committee will be examining ways in which faculties can leverage their expertise to develop different forms of credentials beyond traditional undergraduate and graduate degrees.
In preparing people for the future, we must not lose sight of enduring skills – those competencies that remain constant no matter how technology, the workplace, the lab, or the classroom change.
Adaptability, creative thinking, collaboration, good judgment, ethical action and leadership are just some examples of these skills.
To develop these skills in his digital media and journalism students, associate professor Bruce Gillespie has created an 11-part interactive video series, called Brantford Newsroom, where students follow the journey of Frankie, an aspiring journalist embarking on her first internship.
Frankie faces on-the-job crises and ethical issues typical of the realities journalists face in newsrooms. Students are asked to determine how Frankie would react to these situations applying knowledge they have learned in class.
The feedback from Bruce’s students has been very positive. More than 80 per cent said the video series made a valuable contribution to their learning and 87 per cent said it helped them better understand what it means to work as a journalist.
In developing the video series, Bruce has also provided experiential learning opportunities for students.
Students in the digital media and journalism and game design and development helped conceptualize the story, film the videos and create the interactive, online games.
There are many ways that Laurier students across faculties are engaging in experiential learning and applying what they learn in the classroom to develop skills and expand knowledge.
This year in the Faculty of Music, community music student Tamara Menon, with the support of faculty members, created a ground-breaking project that aimed to provide healing for children of sex trade workers in India.
Tamara, as founder of the Yuva Arts Project, organized a two-week program for eight children to travel to the Waterloo Region to participate in a program to rebuild their self worth through collaborative music-making, performance opportunities and inclusion.
Assistant professor Gerard Yun introduced the children to mindful music-making practices, while music therapy professor Colin Lee focused on the therapeutic aspects of creative improvisation.
The children also sang with the multi-faith choir at Martin Luther University College.
Tamara says her learnings from the community music program allowed her to provide for them a space to heal and grow.
Laurier excels in fostering connections such as these – where our students, staff and faculty work across organizations, communities and countries to facilitate learning, knowledge creation and knowledge exchange.
In the Faculty of Social Work, associate professor Ginette Lafreniere’s work is carried out within a framework of university-community collaboration. She is overseeing the Building Supportive Breastfeeding Communities campaign in her role as director for Laurier’s Manulife Centre for Community Health Research.
This partnership with Laurentian University is leveraging engaged research to expand support services for breastfeeding in Waterloo Region. At the same time, Laurier and Laurentian researchers will be evaluating the program with the intention of providing more evidence-based information and supports for new mothers.
Additionally, Ginette has just received a SSHRC grant to explore the bio-medical discourse for women experiencing menopause.
Associate professor Michael Woodford is another researcher in the Faculty of Social Work who is engaging with the community.
This year, he launched the first-of-its-kind study to better understand what life is like for LGBTQ students on university campuses throughout Ontario.
This study is unique not only for its size and scope, but also because in addition to looking at discrimination and mental health, it examines academic development and engagement and indicators of positive well-being, such as social support and belonging on campus.
Michael and his team hope that the study will provide evidence to help shape policies and services tailored to this group of students, including strategies to foster their belonging and inclusion.
Another excellent example of this kind of engaged research is the Sun Life Centre for Physically Active Communities.
In partnership with the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education and founded by professors Kim Dawson and Pam Bryden, the Sun Life Centre provides physical recreation programs for children in the Waterloo Region who might not otherwise have access.
Activities include after school programs, summer camps, and basketball tournaments and Laurier researchers have conducted studies to better understand barriers to physical activity, the influence of team sports on building lifelong activity habits, and the influence of programming on activity and nutrition habits.
This past summer, the centre provided four weeks of programming to families thanks to the leadership of Laurier’s undergraduate and graduate Kinesiology and Physical Education students.
There have been so many positive outcomes from these programs: from a grandmother sharing a story of how her previously inactive grandson was inspired to run a 5-kilometre race; to a shy, young girl who had never played a team sport enrolling in soccer at the end of the program.
To date, this programming has enhanced the lives of over 1700 children in Waterloo Region and there are plans to expand to reach more youth in 2020 through partnerships with Sun Life, Pepsi Co. Foundation and the Sifton Family.
When we think to the future, many of us are concerned about the environment, and the impacts of a warming climate.
At Laurier, we are committed to leading the post-secondary sector in the environmental sustainability of our campuses and inspiring the incorporation of sustainable practices in society and the economy.
In the last few years, Laurier has been recognized as a leader in sustainability. We are proud of our achievements, including:
- A STARS gold rating in sustainability for 2019, which measures the sustainability performance of colleges and universities worldwide.
- The Waterloo Water Efficiency Excellence Award for 2018, for our water conservation efforts on the Waterloo campus.
- In 2017 our Waterloo and Brantford campuses were named the most sustainable in Ontario by Corporate Knights.
Thanks to our concentrated efforts and our first Sustainability Action Plan, Laurier has seen a reduction in intensity-based Greenhouse Gas emissions by almost 19 per cent since 2012.
In 2018, we released our second five-year Sustainability Action Plan, which includes an operational goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by another 15 per cent by 2022.
This commitment to sustainability permeates our classrooms, where Laurier students are inspired to find solutions to environmental issues.
BBA student Marissa Vettoretti and her team mates, Claire Richardson and Daniel Moll 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 disabilities through Mighty Hawks, a work-transition program created through Laurier Enactus.
Earlier this month, Marissa and her team mates were named among the finalists in the National Geographic Ocean Plastic Innovation Challenge and will be pitching their product to judges and investors in Washington, D.C. this December.
These examples I’ve shared with you today illustrate just some of the ways that Laurier is already enhancing our thriving community and building future-readiness in our people.
I hope that these stories inspire you to continue the exceptional work you do every day in support of our mission at Laurier.
We know that the next decade will bring some unique challenges. However, I am confident Laurier has the strength and capacity to meet these challenges head on.
Our strength lies in the engagement of our people who come to work every day, believing in Laurier’s mission as a comprehensive university that fosters academic excellence and exceptional opportunities for students and positively impacts our communities through meaningful research and outreach.
Reflecting on our successes over the last year, I am confident we will be able to think creatively and work collaboratively to adapt to change and harness opportunity.
The proof is right here!
Together, we will continue to improve lives, build strong communities and work on solutions to address some of the most pressing issues of our time.
Thank you for your commitment to growing this multi-campus, comprehensive university.
Now, I would like to take a moment to share with you some senior leadership changes that have happened over the past few months. For those I mention who are here, please stand up when I call your name!
Tony Araujo is the acting Vice-President: Finance and Administration. Tony has been the assistant Vice-President: Campus Administration and Special Constable Service on the Brantford Campus since 2013.
Maria Cantalini-Williams is the new dean of the Faculty of Education. Maria comes to Laurier from Nipissing University where she was a faculty member and administrator in the Schulich School of Education.
Carleen Carroll is the new Assistant Vice President of External Relations. Previously Carleen worked at the Mississauga-Halton Local Health Integration Network and as Assistant Vice President: Communications at the University of Waterloo.
Anthony Clarke is the new dean of the Faculty of Science. Previously Anthony was a professor of molecular and cellular biology at the University of Guelph where he held a number of administrative roles.
Jason Coolman is our new Vice-President: Advancement and External Relations. Jason comes to Laurier from the University of Waterloo, where he was the Associate Vice-President: Development and Alumni Relations.
Maureen Mancuso is our interim Provost and Vice-President: Academic. Maureen is an accomplished political scientist who was the Provost and Vice-President: Academic at the University of Guelph for 11 years. Maureen is out of the country and regrets missing the opportunity to meet more people today.
Jonathan Newman is Laurier’s new Vice-President: Research. Previously, he was a professor of integrated biology and served as the dean of the College of Biological Science at the University of Guelph.
In January 2020, Heidi Northwood will commence her five-year term as SEO of the Brantford Campus. Heidi is currently on administrative leave, and previously served in the interim SEO role since April 2018. Heidi previously held the position of Dean of Liberal Arts.
Congratulations to everyone in their new roles and for those joining Laurier from other institutions, welcome!
To everyone gathered here today, thank you once again for your commitment to our university.
Every day, our staff and faculty go above and beyond what is necessary to make life better for our students and each other. The success of this university is the product of your tireless dedication.
Whether it’s our amazing facilities team who show up on inclement weather days to clear away snow and ice, or those of you who routinely spend that extra ten minutes with a student to solve an academic or administrative problem, or the generosity of everyone who chooses to give back through the Community Campaign, there are countless examples of how you all make Laurier a better place by being part of it.
As Laurier’s president, I rely on your insights, expertise, and commitment to the university to continue to enhance, improve and grow Laurier.
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