Author: Dr. Annette Trimbee, President and Vice-Chancellor
Do I believe there is room for growth at MacEwan? Absolutely. Post-secondary participation rates in Alberta are low. There is a youth demographic bulge on the horizon. We have a large number of unemployed people who want to get back to work. And there are a significant number of international students who want to come to Canada.
The market is huge, and we must plan to grow into it. There are noble reasons for doing so – leaning into our strengths and expanding in a way that recognizes our place as a downtown university.
What might that growth look like? I’m an ecologist, so I tend to look for parallels in the natural world. Earlier in our strategic vision process, we heard about hedgehogs (who have a single laser focus) and foxes (who know many things). I often use a similar example of bears and dandelions. A “bear” way forward might involve focusing on one or two cubs (programs), while a “dandelion” approach could be to throw seeds everywhere (and assume that enrolment will increase across the board). I don’t think either of those scenarios is MacEwan’s future.
More likely, that future involves both growing into greatness – taking a hard look at our current mix of programs without assuming that we have that mix exactly right or that enrolment in every single program will increase at exactly the same rate.
It could include exploring the idea of “steeples of excellence,” which would see us really shine in a select number of areas where we could make a significant impact. Those “steeples” aren’t necessarily disciplines but rather areas of focus that address challenges, themes and impacts in ways that ultimately serve to lift everyone up. It could mean embracing an interdisciplinary approach with post-bachelor certificate and diploma programs (different than graduate programs). It could involve significantly increasing our international student enrolment in ways that use technology and bring disciplines together.
Growing our enrolment also means considering strategies that aren’t tied directly to MacEwan’s physical campus. We used to think of our enrolment capacity as limited by our footprint, but COVID has shown us that isn’t necessarily true. That doesn’t mean that our future plans involve moving fully online, but there is an opportunity to look at how we use technology to increase access, opportunity and enrolment.
But growth isn’t simply about what we deliver and how. It’s also about the quality of what we offer. It’s about the ways in which we are embedded in our community. I want to see us grow the number of MacEwan thought leaders and experts who are “in the mix,” visibly addressing complex issues in a range of areas.
Growth can be messy and uncomfortable, but it’s necessary. If we want to have more students and if we want to offer new, relevant programming, we must continue to be bold. If ever there was a time to do so, it is now.
Dr. Trimbee's strategic vision question
In the interest of keeping our strategic vision conversation going, Dr. Trimbee will ask a question during each Growing Boldly — Insights instalment and invite you to share your thoughts using the strategic vision feedback form
Q. What opportunities do you see for MacEwan to grow?
“When I think about “growing boldly” in the context of scholarship, I first think about why students should care whether or not faculty members at an undergraduate institution actively engage in scholarly activity.”
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