The big picture

May 9, 2018 | Campus Life

Making sure we all see ourselves in MacEwan’s plans for the future


In a way, the Spring and Summer Terms feel a bit like academic New Year’s Eve. Not only is it a time to reflect and celebrate what we’ve all achieved over the Fall and Winter semesters, it’s a time to look forward. To restore ourselves, engage in projects and activities we’re passionate about, and make plans for the next academic year.

Building the next set of plans for our institution’s future is something we’ve been working on for months now – for me, this process really began with the stories students, faculty and staff shared last summer in the days and weeks after I arrived at MacEwan. Since then, we’ve been learning from those stories, taking an objective look at where we are, evaluating our position from 50,000 feet, and seeing how we can express what we’ve observed together in a concise set of statements.

We’ve had many conversations about what that big picture might look like – at the executive level, in meetings with faculties and departments, at events like Organizational Development Day and town halls, and with stakeholders in our external community. And we’re going to continue having many more of those conversations, because documenting the values, vision, mission and the strategic directions for MacEwan isn’t something that can – or should – happen overnight.

At the town hall in March, I was able to share a very early glimpse at some of the pieces that will come together to guide the creation of our next Institutional Strategic Plan (ISP). I’d like to take a bit of time to look at those pieces, how they fit together and what the big picture they create will mean to all of us.

Building a strong foundation

The ISP is about setting down the things that guide us as an institution. It’s something we can all look to when we’re planning and making decisions for the university. Because of that, it must be a document that not only maps out a clear future, it needs to do so with our values, vision, mission and strategic directions in mind. And those pieces need to reflect all of us – students, faculty and staff. The ISP at the heart of the story of our institution.

Our current integrated strategic plan will take us through until June 2019, so we have started the process of developing our new ISP a bit early – which is a good thing. The conversations we are having right now and over the next several months will inform the plan that will be presented to and approved by the Board of Governors.

Saying goodbye to the pillars?

Before we go any further, let’s talk about the pillars. I’ve been asked several times if the process of defining our values, mission, vision and strategic directions, and crafting our new ISP, means that we are steering away from the university pillars. The answer is no.

MacEwan’s eight pillars are incredibly important because they outline the commitment we make to our students, to our community and to ourselves. The values, vision, mission and strategic directions we are currently working to create will support planning and decision-making, and allow us to execute those eight pillars.

Focusing on values

Before we can tell our story, we need to really think about what is important to us – the broad guidelines that influence our behaviours and our attitudes. Our curiosity. Our willingness to embrace change. Our optimism. While the individual words we choose to use to express these ideas may evolve, what I’ve heard time and again from the people who have shared their experiences and opinions of this institution reflect these three big values.

Identifying these pieces allow us to check in and make sure that the culture which we are building doesn’t drift from our hearts and who we really are.

An excerpt on curiosity, change and optimism from Organizational Development Day 2018.

We teach. We learn. We serve.

Our mandate is set out in the Post-secondary Learning Act. While that piece of legislation clearly states our role as an undergraduate university, it does not address the many ways in which we are different from other universities.

That’s the job of a mission statement. It’s a way to emphasize our focus on, and commitment to, undergraduate education. We teach. We learn. We serve.

Again, although the words themselves may change, each and every one of us – students, faculty and staff, regardless of or role here – do all of these things, whether we realize it or not. We all have a part to play in teaching, learning and serving – each other and our community.

Where are we headed?

Our vision is about answering the question: what do we want to become? Where do we see ourselves going? It’s our opportunity to really think big. And it’s the place where our ongoing discussion about what it means to be Edmonton’s downtown university fits.

Strategic directions

Just over a year from now when our current strategic plan ends, what will our priorities be? How will we make decisions between competing worthwhile initiatives and plans? The strategic directions will outline our organization’s priorities and focus through until 2024. They should reflect what we collectively want to be, they should make us proud and they should make us stretch.

We’re in the process of crafting the exact words for each of the four strategic directions, but they will address implementing the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, emphasizing student experience, highlighting our focus on being an inclusive institution, and acknowledging the role we can play as city builders.

An excerpt on the future and some of the big questions I’ve been asking from Organizational Development Day 2018.

Seeing yourself in the plans

I’m grateful to the many students, faculty and staff who have already made time to share their thoughts and ideas – in emails to, by participating in Organizational Development Day, by attending faculty and department meetings, and by contributing to the Campus Master Plan project.

We are in the process of creating a plan that will include more opportunities for you continue sharing your input into the development of the ISP in a variety of ways – this spring and again in the fall. Watch for additional town hall meetings, a web page on the portal with more information about the draft ISP and a place to gather online feedback, and other communications vehicles – like this column on and Today at MacEwan University.

I hope this very high-level overview of the pieces that will inform our new ISP is useful. Please know that this conversation is ongoing, and that there will be opportunities for you to be included in the development of the ISP.

Campus Master Plan update

Developing the plan for how our physical spaces will grow and change over the next 25 years – the focus of the Campus Master Plan – is ongoing. Our campus master planning team has been interviewing stakeholders, offering workshops, and hosting pop-up open house events to gather feedback.

Although this work is still underway, one of the things I really like about what I've seen so far is the idea of getting our students out of the buildings and into the community – of using our current spaces much more efficiently and expanding our minds beyond the second-floor corridor that suspends us between 104 and 105 Avenues.

If you haven’t already had the chance to provide your input about the future of our campus, the next opportunity to contribute the discussion will be the Campus Master Plan Open House on Wednesday, May 30. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about the project and the feedback we’ve gathered so far, and to ask your own questions and chat with the campus master planning team.

Organizational updates

Continuing with the theme of planning, Dr. John Corlett will be leaving his position as vice-president, Academic, and taking on a new role as special advisor to the president. For a two-year period, effective May 14, John will be completing a series of projects and reports of strategic importance to MacEwan.

Dr. Lynn Wells has been appointed as MacEwan’s first associate vice-president, Students. When she arrives on July 1, she will be responsible for student development, student life and student support. This new position is an exciting development—and an important step in enhancing the student experience at MacEwan.

The university’s first research chair positions were recently awarded to Dr. Sandy Jung and Dr. Samuel Mugo. The positions, which recipients hold for a two-year term, recognize and support faculty members who have demonstrated or have shown potential to produce internationally recognized scholarly or creative activity. Sandy and Sam will receive a research grant and course release time to further develop their research programs. Please join me in congratulating them.

A semester in photos

The 2018 Interdisciplinary Dialogue, Journey to Reconciliation launched in January and ran throughout the Winter term. In April, a celebration of learning event marked the end of the semester but not the end of the discussion. In 2019, the Interdisciplinary Dialogue will once again focus on Truth and Reconciliation.

On February 22, 235 faculty and staff members came together to participate in Organizational Development Day.
I was thrilled to work with Pearson Canada in February to explore the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls to action.
In February, we marched in solidarity with cities across the nation, uniting and demanding action to end violence against Indigenous women, girls, two-spirit and LGBTQ people who have been murdered, gone missing, been tortured, raped, trafficked and assaulted.
I’m grateful to the many people who shared their thoughts and questions at the town hall meeting in March. Please watch for other opportunities to get involved in the development of our Institutional Strategic Plan.
In March, our leadership participated in a blanket exercise. If you haven’t had the chance to participate in one, I would encourage you to watch for the many opportunities to do so on our campus.

On the occasion of its 10 year anniversary, we were honoured to welcome the many people who have contributed to the Robbins Health Learning Centre, including the Robbins family. In early April, we celebrated the many incredible achievements that have grown out of the roots our students, faculty and staff have set down in this space.
Research is close to my heart, so I was thrilled to see the variety of creative and scholarly projects our students completed this year.

Things you should know

I hope the spring and summer months are filled with opportunities for you to plan and reflect on where we want to go in the next year – and beyond. If you have the chance, march with MacEwan in the Pride Parade on June 9, participate in National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21, take in one (or more) of the many festivals that our city is known for. And don’t stop there.

Wherever you go – whether it’s the businesses you support, the health care services you access, the child care your children receive, the cultural events you take in – I guarantee that you’ll see the impact that our students, alumni, faculty and staff are making in our communities. You don’t have to look very far to see the many ways we all teach, learn and serve in this city.



President, MacEwan University
@DocSaucier on Twitter

Read Deb’s columns on

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