By Dr. Annette Trimbee, president and vice-chancellor. Originally published by the Edmonton Journal on July 20, 2022.

The Oilers’ best playoff run in 16 years was electrifying. Scored five minutes into overtime, Connor McDavid’s winning goal in Game 5 against the Flames won’t be forgotten any time soon. The team’s quest for the Stanley Cup brought our city together in the spirit of celebration and optimism, something that was very much welcomed after two trying and unprecedented years.

The excitement on the ice wasn’t the only source of energy, however. Throughout the Ice District and beyond, downtown was buzzing with life as Edmontonians dined, laughed, and cheered on the Oilers. The sense of renewed vitality in the heart of our city was undeniable.

For a downtown core to thrive, it needs people, lots of people, living, working, and playing. Vibrancy is best fuelled when people — particularly young people — are drawn to the city’s downtown to enhance the city’s cultural, social, and economic diversity with their entrepreneurism, creativity, and innovative ideas.

A recent report about Calgary bears this out. In May 2021, the provincial government established the Calgary Revitalization and Expansion Working Group, more commonly known as CORE, to provide recommendations to help restore the city’s downtown core as a healthy and energetic place to work and live (a similar panel for Edmonton is expected to submit its final report this summer).

Between the collapse in oil prices in 2014 and the pandemic, Calgary’s downtown office vacancy rate had reached a staggering 32 per cent (the benchmark rate for a healthy downtown is eight per cent) by early 2021, and the city’s core suffered as a result. Streets had fewer pedestrians, restaurants and bars had fewer customers and downtown neighbourhoods became less safe.

What to do? One of the priorities identified by the panel was to support “vibrant initiatives,” which included expanding the presence of post-secondary institutions. As laid out in the final report, institutions of higher learning located in a downtown core serve as significant contributors to bringing new opportunities and vibrancy and act as magnets for the aspiring and the determined.

MacEwan is proud to be Edmonton’s downtown university. The decision to locate our campus downtown wasn’t just an accident of happenstance, but a deliberate choice based on the bold leadership of government, community, and institution.

An ambitious, upstart post-secondary institution, MacEwan wanted to approach teaching and research differently. Only so much learning, after all, can take place in the classroom. We wanted to offer our students a uniquely valuable academic experience by breaking down ivory towers and lessening the distinction between “town” and “gown,” creating opportunities to integrate our students into their surrounding environment so they can apply their academic knowledge in the real world, in real-time.

In an ever-more competitive job market, these experiences give students the skills they need: our commitment to them is at the core of Teaching Greatness, our recently released strategic vision. Our proximity to the heart of Edmonton’s business community reinforces our commitment to sharing knowledge in ways that are adaptable, engaging, memorable — and personal.

Our success is in our numbers: we continue to grow, as more and more students are attracted to us because of our track record of offering quality education that delivers real-world results: a good-paying job after graduation, industry connections, and setting the stage for the success for future academic studies.

Over the next 10 years, we plan to increase enrolment by five per cent every year, which will result in 20,000 FLEs (full-time learning equivalents) by 2030 — a 60-per-cent increase from today. But our growth is also efficient: MacEwan currently has the least amount of space per student among Alberta’s university sector — on average, about a third less than other post-secondary institutions.

MacEwan was founded on the idea that the city is our campus. While we remain true to that ideal, we continue to adapt and change. In just 50 years, MacEwan has grown from offering classes in elementary school classrooms and a former grocery store into one of the country’s most innovative institutions of higher learning with a growing student body. Our grads become the business and community leaders who are building a more diverse and resilient future for Edmonton and Alberta.

With some vision and forward-looking policies, we can continue to grow and strengthen MacEwan’s presence for the benefit of our students, for Edmonton’s downtown core, and for the province as a whole.

Dr. Annette Trimbee is president and vice-chancellor of MacEwan University. 

Related Reads

Let’s stay in touch!
Sign up to receive our weekly MacEwan University e-newsletter straight to your inbox.