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Are we on our way to being Canada’s pre-eminent small university?

Posted on: Dec 13, 2017

Twenty indicators that CUE is on its way be being Canada’s pre-eminent small university.

Since assuming the presidency in January of this year all members of our community have heard me repeat my vision of Concordia University of Edmonton becoming Canada’s pre-eminent small university numerous times. This is not a meaningless catchphrase, and these are not empty words. I truly want to see us become a (or THE) leading small university. We’ll start with Canada, and then take on the world. So, what progress have we made in 2017? While we are still yet to define exactly what it means for us to be pre-eminent (that is coming in Spring of 2018), I have reflected on this past year and have articulated a list of 20 features and events that I believe demonstrate our journey towards pre-eminence.

  1. Our students are successful and satisfied. We graduated 351 students this past May, and are experiencing record enrolments. Our students speak highly of us. According to the CUSC survey 89% of our students think that the university experience at Concordia meets or exceeds expectations, above the national average.
  2. We have re-defined our identity. We have spent a large part of 2017 discussing who we are, culminating in the production of a Master Story by Story Engine (to be released soon), and an expression of how we continue to honour our rich heritage. Concordia places students at the centre of all that we do, offering a boutique educational experience in a strong community environment.
  3. Our engagement with Indigenous learners and communities has been revitalized. We have been implementing our Indigenous strategy, notably supporting a new Indigenous Student’s Council, a new Elder’s Counsel, hosting a Round Dance, Sharing Circles, Pipe Ceremonies, and engaging with Indigenous communities.
  4. Our theatre productions have met with rave reviews. Performances including Urinetown and the Canadian workshop premier of Waxworks were very successful shows, demonstrating the rich theatrical talent that we have at our university. If you have not attended our productions, you are missing out.
  5. We have sharpened our international focus. Our 2017 focus on the three regions of China, Brazil, and Western Europe has helped us to adopt a more organized and coherent approach to our international work. Our numerous faculty, staff, and student international courses and exchanges put us in a league of our own.
  6. We are more inclusive. The Pride Club, our Multi Faith Prayer Room, Inclusive Post-Secondary Education, the Concordia Christian Union, our improved work with Indigenous learners, our international days, and the Focus on Women research cluster have all contributed to the inclusive environment we offer.
  7. We have adopted a learning outcomes approach. Our students now have the most flexible degree programs possible, providing maximum choice through the adoption of an institutional learning outcomes approach. This approach makes a promise to our students that they will leave us with the knowledge, skills, and attributes they will need for success.
  8. We have a new symphony orchestra. At the start of 2017 we were left without an orchestra. Over the course of 2017 this has been rebuilt, culminating in a triumphal return performance of the Concordia Symphony Orchestra at the Winspear Centre this past October.
  9. We have become more efficient and live within our means. We worked together to defeat a budget deficit this year and made hard decisions to implement an anticipated 2% cut across the institution for 2018-19. We have held to a tuition freeze for 3 years, without government support for doing so. We have taken steps to even out faculty workloads, and will be looking to continue our work in improving program efficiencies without compromising on quality.
  10. We have good labour relations. We signed a new Collective Agreement with the Faculty Association in May and have experienced labour peace in all areas, including not only with faculty, but also with our staff, all of whom have seen salary increases despite challenging financial times. Efforts are being made on all sides to work together in a spirit of collegiality and understanding.
  11. Our athletics teams punch above their weight. In 2016-17 we were proud to see that 10 of our 12 athletics teams reached playoffs and/or conference championships. We are off to a strong start for the 2017-18 season, with both men’s and women’s soccer teams only narrowly missing the 2017 national finals, and the rest of our teams performing extremely well so far.
  12. Our mental health supports have been significantly improved. Assisted by targeted fundraising and a grant from the Government of Alberta we have been able to commence implementation of our new Mental Health Action Plan in partnership with the Concordia Students’ Association, with a focus on prevention and peer supports.
  13. We are ready to offer exciting new programs. A new Master of Education degree in School Leadership will be offered starting in the fall of 2018, while our new Doctor of Psychology degree is in the final stages of Campus Alberta Quality Council approval. We are moving forward with plans to develop new programming in the area of Occupational Health and Safety.
  14. We are emphasizing campus safety and wellness. Our sexual violence policies and codes of conduct, along with a responsive security team, are making our campus one of the safest in Canada. Our School of Physical Education and Wellness is leading our work in wellness promotion through becoming signatories to the Okanagan Charter for health promoting campuses.
  15. Our alumni are more engaged. Participation in our Alumni Association meetings and events is increasing, and the success of the various events including a summer BBQ, athletics nights, and a reception following Waxworks is evidence of increased alumni engagement. Changes to the structure of our Alumni Relations department have been helpful.
  16. Our research productivity and scholarly culture have been enhanced. Our Institute for Christian Studies and Society, our School of Music, our Canadian Centre for Studies in the Christian Faith, our School of Physical Education and Wellness, our numerous research clusters, the Centre for Innovation and Applied Research, our Library, prestigious guest speakers, the international National Model UN conference, and individual faculty members have all moved our research agenda forward this year.
  17. We have an engaged Board of Governors, and a new, prominent, Chancellor. Our Board of Governors is the strongest it has ever been, representing a diversity of views and opinions. Our process of on-boarding new Board members through committee work prior to appointment is enhancing the competence and professionalism of our Board.
  18. Our administrative structures have evolved to meet our needs. In a changing post-secondary education landscape the ability to change and adapt is critical. We have taken steps to ensure that the increased importance of our external engagement and research work is reflected in our administrative structures.
  19. We better engage with our local community. This year we have reached out to our local community leagues, and welcomed the community to our campus for open house, Christmas Tree Lighting, community conferences and meetings, music and drama performances, and a Round Dance.
  20. Additions and improvements to our physical plant are transforming our culture Not only is our campus clean and extremely well maintained, but we have provided a number of improvements this year including a new Student Success Centre, a Multi-Faith Prayer Room, renovations to 3 of our science labs, and the construction of our new $16 million Centre for Science, Research, and Innovation. Concordia places students at the heart of everything we do, and these improvements to the spaces in which they learn, study, find support, and research reflect that reality.

Concordia University of Edmonton is a small community, but the true depth and breadth of our activities in 2017 has only been barely touched upon here. We are accomplishing what institutions triple our size would be envious of, and the reason for that is the enthusiasm and engagement of our students, staff, faculty, Board, alumni, administration, donors, and friends. As this community continues to work together we will accomplish even greater things in the years to come. It is an exciting time to be at Concordia as we move from being Edmonton’s University to becoming Canada’s pre-eminent small university. I’m glad to be leading us at this time.

Tim Loreman, PhD.

President and Vice-Chancellor.