Phase One will examine earlier strategic planning work, consider what has happened since and engage the university community in discussing six big questions to shape the future:
What were the most strategic and impactful decisions MacEwan made in the last 50 years?
What must we protect as we look to the next 50 years?
What did we want to be in 2030 and why? How have recent events impacted those plans?
What is the most impactful thing MacEwan could do to support and prepare our students for the future?
What is the most impactful thing MacEwan could do to help create a brighter future for our city, region and province?
What do we want to be in 2030 and why?
Phase One will include a series of Thought Leader Sessions for faculty and staff to consider the possibilities of this transformational time, and opportunities for the university’s Board of Governors, General Faculties Council (GFC) and the broader community (alumni, retirees and other partners) to explore the six big questions.
During Phase Two, we will be reviewing the emerging outcomes from the Alberta 2030 Strategy, engaging the university community to develop high-level strategies and goals based on work completed during Phase One, and engaging with external partners. By the end of this phase, we will have developed the university’s strategic vision.
Phase Three involves seeking the endorsement of the strategic vision from the university community, GFC and the board. Once endorsed the strategic vision will be used to shape supporting plans.
Growing Boldly – Insights
In this series of regular posts, leaders share their perspectives on topics connected to the strategic vision process.
Thought Leader Sessions
In these sessions, faculty and staff can consider the possibilities and think about how the information presented might help address phase one’s six questions.
In the first of a series of Thought Leader Sessions on December 10, Kate White, deputy minister of jobs, economy and innovation, provided MacEwan University faculty and staff with an economic update and a look at the province’s forecasts.
White began by sharing some difficult statistics about Alberta’s shifting economy, including the changes to the composition of the province’s economy since 2000. “Nineteen years ago oil and gas was 27 per cent of our gross domestic product, and in 2019 it was 16 per cent – a huge shift.”
That shift, said White presents both challenges and opportunities, including the fourth industrial revolution.
“We must apply technology to what we do,” she said. “Alberta can not afford to miss this.”
Tapping into the digital revolution is where universities, including MacEwan, have a critical part to play. “Urban universities can help set the stage for future growth,” said White. “Translating the great human capital we have into innovation and ultimately productivity.”
Working with students on reskilling, building digital skills and teaching soft/durable skills will all be key ways MacEwan can contribute, said White. “We have the ingredients in this province for growth, we just need to get our swagger back and get working on solving the problems of the future.”
About Deputy Minister Kate White
An economist by profession, White has a passion for public policy and public sector leadership. Most of her public service career has been with the Government of Alberta, where she currently holds the position of deputy minister of jobs, economy and innovation. White has also been assistant deputy minister of economics and fiscal policy at Alberta Treasury Board and Finance, a chief economist, and deputy minister of finance and secretary to the management board for the Government of Yukon. She holds an MA in Economics from the University of Calgary and a Bachelor of Science from Dalhousie University.
On December 16, Paul Davidson, president and CEO of Universities Canada, spoke to MacEwan University faculty and staff to share his insights into the higher education sector’s challenges and opportunities.
“When the world turned inward, universities reached out,” said Davidson. “At a time of national crisis, universities stepped up. We will play our part in accelerating Canada’s economic and social reform.”
He shared polling data from this fall that sought to measure Canadian public opinion about the post-secondary sector’s response to the pandemic:
93 per cent of Canadians who were asked believe universities are essential to the country’s wealth and prosperity
88 per cent believe Canada should invest in higher education
84 per cent believe we need higher education now more than ever
“We continue to deliver on our higher education mission and research, and we continue to be anchors in communities across the country,” said Davidson.
He spoke of MacEwan as an anchor in downtown Edmonton, highlighting the importance of serving a wide array of people in the core, being prepared to innovate while staying true to the university’s values, conducting research and teaching that is informed by what’s happening in the community every day, forming partnerships to co-create knowledge, maintaining connections with business, and addressing the inquiries and social impacts of the pandemic.
Something MacEwan is particularly well-positioned to address, he said, involves upskilling and reskilling for people whose employment has been disrupted or who have been displaced from their jobs, and in preparing students for the workforce of the future.
Davidson wrapped up his address with a look at governance, highlighting three key themes: academic freedom, institutional autonomy and collegial governance. He also highlighted the importance of boards as enthusiastic champions of universities who help assert not only an institution's fundamental values but also their value.
As universities plan into the future, said Davidson, should involve thinking long-term – up to 50 years ahead. And while there is much to be taken from our ongoing online learning experiences, he doesn’t see the future of higher education as all-digital, all the time.
“Advances in technology and advances in pedagogy are real and are things that we should learn from and embrace,” he said, adding that “People have a strong sense of place and desire to be together – students want to get back together, and faculty want to get back together.”
About Paul Davidson
Paul Davidson has played leadership roles in government, the private sector and the voluntary sector for more than 25 years. He joined Universities Canada in May 2009 as president and CEO.
As president of Universities Canada, Davidson is building strong partnerships with business, post-secondary education and community leaders to advance a vision of higher education that promotes opportunity and excellence for Canadians. The university sector has also seen substantial and exceptional university research funding investments, increased resources for campus internationalization, and a heightened awareness of the need to improve Indigenous peoples’ access to postsecondary education. Davidson has been named both a top lobbyist in Ottawa and a top foreign policy influencer.
He holds an MA from Queen’s University, where he studied southern African history and a BA from Trent University, where he was part of the first graduating class of the Trent International Program.
Will the future of post-secondary education be for the “foxes” or the “hedgehogs”? Dr. Eric McIntosh from Deloitte Canada’s higher education transformation team posed this question to kick off MacEwan’s third Thought Leader Session on January 13.
Drawing from the ancient Greek poet Archilochus and mid-20th-century philosopher Isaiah Berlin, McIntosh began by explaining the origins of fox-like and hedgehog-like thinking. Then he introduced how Dr. Clark Kerr, the architect of California’s post-secondary system, interpreted that thinking: that foxes tend to know many things and see the detail in everything, while hedgehogs are more laser-focused on a single big thing.
“It’s not to say that one is necessarily better than the other,” explained McIntosh. “Kerr emphasizes the importance of having both fox-like leaders and hedgehog-like leaders for the multi-university, or the city of intellect, as he referred to it.”
McIntosh also spoke to the four key drivers of universities into the 21st century that Kerr outlined as part of the Godkin Lectures at Harvard University: cost, technology, jobs and access.
“Those four pillars that Kerr mentioned back in 2001 are dramatically shaping the dialogue today around cost, access to jobs and technology,” said McIntosh, specifically mentioning shifting funding models, the move to online learning precipitated by the pandemic, and the increasing focus on micro-credentialling.
“While the 21st-century rewards fox-like characteristics,” he said, “I also fundamentally believe that hedgehog characteristics are some of our most cherished things and that they can contribute to an institutional strategy and a way forward that differentiates who you are.”
About Eric McIntosh
Eric McIntosh is a higher education researcher who has worked in various areas of student affairs across Canada. After leaving the academy in 2015, Eric has consulted at over 100 university and college campuses across North America and the UK. His research interests involve student thriving, a holistic measure of student success, equity and access to higher education, student transfer and mobility, and predictive analytics for student success.
He holds an MA from Queen’s University, where he studied southern African history, and a BA from Trent University, where he was part of the first graduating class of the Trent International Program.
What does it mean to be a downtown university? Mayor Don Iveson, Catherine Warren, chief executive officer of Innovate Edmonton and Jan Fox, executive director of REACH Edmonton, explored questions about the importance of having an urban post-secondary presence at the final Thought Leader Session on January 21.
What would you say about the future of downtowns post-COVID-19?
Catherine Warren kicked off the conversation by noting that while workplaces are critical to downtown, they don’t exist in isolation. “Universities can really lead the way in reopening and lending a new kind of vibrancy to downtown that may actually draw workers back,” she said.
Mayor Iveson agreed, saying that while the short term might be difficult, we will get through this. “I think some years from now we’ll look back and see that downtowns in cities will continue to be a good long bet. And that it’s the anchor tenants that will help us get through that, not the least of which being MacEwan.”
Fox introduced the idea that the downtown narrative needs to shift away from talking about issues of vulnerability and social disorder and toward social inclusion. One potential change resulting from a change in the use of downtown office spaces, she said, could encourage a more inclusive representation of organizations in the city’s core. “If staff continue to work at home, we might open up our office space to some of our partners, and we might see more diversity downtown.”
What do you need from MacEwan? How can we help?
Beyond the critical role MacEwan will continue to play in the talent ecosystem, said Mayor Iveson, a downtown university has an opportunity not just to convene but catalyze action for social enterprise and innovation. “To make change and progress on these issues that many people feel are intractable, but really aren’t,” he said.
Warren added to the idea of social innovation, saying that the deep and sustaining work of social innovation also presents an opportunity for community engagement innovation for MacEwan – specifically in innovation placemaking, creating a sense of civic pride, celebrating local innovation and bringing global innovators to town. “Really being that great innovation marketplace that allows Edmontonians – not just members of the campus – to see what innovation means to them and the opportunity for staying in the city. University is a time for building identity, and for downtowns, a university can shape that identity.”
Fox said that many of the things she would expect and hope from MacEwan as a downtown university are already underway, adding that there is further opportunity for MacEwan to act as a good neighbour by providing affordable, safe, accessible meeting space for new and emerging groups.
What is MacEwan’s role around reskilling and upskilling?
Mayor Iveson spoke about how MacEwan could support new opportunities for skill development tied to new “phoenix from the ashes” opportunities that present themselves as a result of COVID-19 and changes in the economy. “We have this heritage of being problem-solvers, and we need to move the narrative from being part of the problem to being part of the solution.” It’s the job of all post-secondaries to help equip students with a sense of hope, entrepreneurship and possibility, he said, and that doing so could be an antidote to anger and cynicism.
On the theme of transitioning economies, Warren added that MacEwan could be positioned as a bridge for a “just transition.” Making sure that no worker is left behind isn’t only good for business, she added, “It’s the right thing to do.” Warren also spoke of her experience in post-secondary education in Vancouver and how being downtown presents opportunities to partner with cultural organizations and corporations and for students to work on solving some of the world’s biggest problems.
Fox emphasized the importance of education in an economic downturn. “MacEwan stands in the middle of our city as a beacon of hope that people look toward,” she said. “Perhaps it’s connected back to when MacEwan was a college, but there is a feeling of being accessible for everyone, and I don’t think you should ever lose that.”
About the presenters
Mayor Don Iveson
Since he was elected Edmonton’s 35th Mayor in 2013, Mayor Iveson has led Edmonton’s transformation into a more uplifting, resilient and globally competitive city. Alongside his remarkable partner Sarah, they both serve their city while raising two young children. Mayor Iveson’s guiding leadership principle is to make things better for the next generation.
Recently named chief executive office of Innovate Edmonton, Catherine Warren has served as a C-suite executive for publicly-traded companies, academic institutions and government-business enterprises. Most recently, she led the Vancouver Economic Commission in attracting $3B in foreign direct investment. Before that, she was CEO for Great Northern Way Campus and the Centre for Digital Media, where she led Vancouver’s vibrant industry, education and arts district through its “last mile” or urban revitalization.
As executive director of REACH Edmonton Council for Safe Communities, Jan Fox leads a team of professionals dedicated to making Edmonton a safer community. She works closely with social agencies, businesses and citizens to invest in our community, make our city an even safer place to live, work and play, and improve the lives of many vulnerable Edmontonians.
Feedback and questions
We invite your questions and feedback throughout the strategic vision process.