My first 60 days on campus at MacEwan University as president and vice-chancellor have felt quite familiar, in many ways. I’ve enjoyed many opportunities to talk with our staff, faculty and student leaders; I’ve connected with our post-secondary colleagues; and immersed myself in MacEwan’s culture, campus operations and governance processes.
In other ways, taking on the role of president at MacEwan has been much different than my early days at the University of Winnipeg. The pandemic, combined with the current economic and political environment, has changed many things, of course. Adapting, being nimble and finding innovative ways to stay connected, share information, learn from each other are now regular parts of every day.
Over the past two months, I’ve toured our campus, seen firsthand some of the incredible experiences and services available to our students, planned and prepared for the Fall 2020 term alongside our leadership team, and attended as many virtual campus activities and events as possible. Together, those experiences have provided me with a clear impression of the people who make up this university. Your dedication, professionalism and passion shine through and leave me feeling confident that together we can work through whatever the next months and years hold and build a future that will allow this university to thrive.
I toured our kihêw waciston Indigenous Centre, a beautiful space to gather and experience a sense of community.
I continue to learn about what our MacEwan community cares about most, the scholarly activity you are engaged in, and the history and foundation upon which this university is built. That knowledge will be essential as we begin to develop longer-term plans over the next few months, including a process to re-engage in the development of a strategic plan for the university.
On November 6, I will officially be installed as president and vice-chancellor. Please watch for details about the installation; I hope that you will be able to join me virtually.
In the meantime, I have many updates to share, and I am committed to continuing these updates on a quarterly basis, so you are aware of our active campus plans and many other initiatives underway.
While I’ve been connecting with and learning about our university community, I’ve also enjoyed a warm welcome outside MacEwan. I’ve spoken with community partners, met with our post-secondary colleagues and have been interviewed by several media outlets (including The Griff, the Edmonton Journal, the Edmonton Sun and CBC). It’s been a pleasure having the opportunity to help promote MacEwan, and I’m grateful to everyone who has helped me learn about the many ways we support our future and prospective students.
I have also been engaging with my university counterparts across the country through Universities Canada, and we have been tackling big issues, including anti-Black racism and the ways in which we can contribute to economic recovery. I also met with my provincial counterparts to discuss issues we have in common, including how we might collaborate in responding to Alberta 2030: Building Skills for Jobs, which will set a new vision and direction for Alberta’s post-secondary system.
I want to begin by acknowledging the faculty and staff who did an amazing job in pivoting to complete the Winter 2020 term and to deliver the Spring and Summer 2020 term virtually.
MacEwan was careful in responding to the pandemic. The university did not rush to take a pass/fail approach for the remainder of the Winter term. Our teams considered the best possible outcome for our students, worked quickly to move to online delivery and supported students in many ways, including providing grades on time. Those efforts all reflect the dedication and commitment that MacEwan has to our students and to teaching. I know it wasn’t easy. I thank Dr. Craig Monk, provost & vice-president, Academic, for his leadership, and our faculty and staff for adapting and working to support our students and each other.
A summer spent preparing for fall
Over the summer, countless hours were spent preparing for the Fall 2020 term. Compared to other universities in Canada, our campus has been very active – between 35 and 40 per cent of our current students are experiencing at least one component of their studies through face-to-face delivery. We have almost 6,000 students accessing campus at least once per week for their studies. Students can also visit our library and recreation spaces, which were re-opened under the guidelines from the Chief Medical Officer of Health. Overall, students appear satisfied with the course delivery plan and with the protocols that have been put in place to ensure they are safe on campus.
Rapid response plan and safety protocols
Having our campus safely open and accessible is important. It builds our community, contributes to our physical and emotional well-being, and allows a sense of normality in a world filled with new and different experiences. But we also know that it may be necessary to quickly adapt to changing circumstances.
We have implemented a Rapid Response Plan and implemented safety protocols to address outbreaks on campus, including our residence. We are welcoming faculty and staff back if they wish to return to campus. We continue to monitor the environment carefully and make sure that our safety measures are at the forefront of everything we do. We are committed to being transparent and providing clarity to our university community.
Looking ahead to the Winter 2021 term
Program planning for Winter 2021 is well underway, and we will continue to offer a hybrid model of course delivery with the goal of carefully increasing our face-to-face delivery. We are confident that, while following the present health protocols for the use of our space, we will be able to schedule 25 per cent of our programming with at least some face-to-face components.
This growth in the range of learning opportunities is designed to allow more students to participate on campus while offering more choice to students who already spend time here each week.
The Office of the University Registrar, working with the provost and the deans, has been preparing to make changes to the Winter 2021 schedule, and detailed communication with students about the registration process will continue throughout October.
We are committed to continuing to improve the student experience during COVID-19, and in making decisions that are based on constant evaluation and monitoring of both our health situation and the safety requirements needed to keep our campus community safe.
Governance and leadership updates
On September 1, I assumed the role of chair for General Faculties Council (GFC) and would like to congratulate the GFC members on their work over the summer. GFC approved new bylaws and launched a new standing committee structure with terms of reference. The renewed Bylaws and Standing Committee Structure can be found here.
I also participated in my first round of committee and Board of Governors meetings. We welcomed our first alumni members, Scott Kashuba and Tracy Sopkow, to the board, as well as new public member Julian Martin. The board also made some important decisions, including looking to the future and approving the continued planning for a new academic building to house the School of Business. While this is a long-term objective, we continue to plan and move this project forward. It is an integral part of our university’s growth plan and one that will enhance the student experience.
Investment Management Agreements (IMAs) were put on hold by the Minister of Advanced Education in the late spring as institutions grappled with the impacts of COVID-19. IMAs are to contain an updated mandate statement, and our university continued the work to renew our statement to reflect MacEwan’s role as an undergraduate university; our focus on teaching and learning, and scholarly research; and our position as an urban downtown university.
Now approved by both the GFC and the board, the new mandate statement is a great example of how our governance bodies work together. I want to thank everyone for their collective work on this.
In relation to IMAs, the Minister has signalled that the province will move forward with these agreements for the 2021/22 fiscal year. We expect to see revised metrics related to the outcomes-based funding model, which is a key aspect of the IMA. The Minister assures us that the metrics will consider the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on institutions.
MacEwan’s first chancellor
We will soon be launching the search for our first chancellor. The university’s chancellor will hold a very public role in our university and our community, and the selection of the person to hold this position is an exciting and historic part of MacEwan’s development. Chaired by Board Chair Carolyn Graham, a joint committee has been formed to begin the search and will nominate a candidate for a single four-year term. We expect the Board of Governors to name the university’s first chancellor in the spring and that the successful candidate will preside over our Spring 2021 Convocation.
We are making progress on the policy and procedures to allow MacEwan to grant its first honorary doctoral degree as early as spring 2021. The policy will focus on celebrating individuals whose achievements have significantly impacted their areas of expertise, including academic luminaries, athletes, community builders in Edmonton and across central and northern Alberta, performers, philanthropists and public intellectuals.
The search for the new vice-president, Finance and Administration, and chief financial officer is nearing its conclusion. We hope to have the successful candidate join us on campus later this fall. The new vice-president will lead the budget planning process for 2021/22 and continue the work of ensuring the university’s financial sustainability and resilience while managing both the financial impact of COVID-19 and the funding changes to post-secondary institutions.
Searches for a new dean of nursing and an associate vice-president, Students are also underway.
Campus updates and news
Faculty and staff recognition
The incredible work of our faculty and staff is critical to the success of our university. I want to congratulate everyone who has been recognized in many different ways – awards, research grants and speaking engagements. I have been impressed not only with the incredible work happening on our campus, but also with the national and international recognition that our colleagues have received.
I would also like to extend our congratulations to our faculty who are launching the university’s new chemistry major. This exciting new major will allow students to register for their designation as a professional chemist and prepares them for a variety of jobs in oil and gas, food sciences, forensics, cosmetic production and more.
School of Continuing Education moves to City Centre Campus
Today we are excited to celebrate the grand opening event for the School of Continuing Education’s (SCE) new home on the fifth floor of Allard Hall. The MacEwan Conservatory of Music will continue to reside at the Alberta College Campus, where it provides students of all ages the opportunity to explore their musical talents.
While SCE’s new space in Allard Hall will offer high tech lab, computer and classroom spaces, it will also support our Campus Master Plan – consolidating our campus and giving SCE students the opportunity to be immersed in the campus community.
With our Athletics program put on hold as a result of the pandemic, we know that this has been a challenging year for our student-athletes, coaches and athletics staff. We expect to have more information on our athletics program in November once a decision is made by Canada West. Our Griffins teams are an important part of our university, and we are committed to supporting our university athletes and the staff who work with them.
Mark December 8 on your calendar for a special day to celebrate our students who are graduating. Last spring, MacEwan introduced Curbside Convocation and we are bringing it back for our Fall Class of 2020 graduates. I hope you will join us in making this event special for our graduates. You can find up-to-date information at MacEwan.ca/Convocation.
Alberta 2030: Setting a new vision for the post-secondary sector
This fall, the Ministry of Advanced Education launched Alberta 2030: Transforming Post-Secondary Education. The Alberta 2030 initiative will result in a strategy, outcomes framework and roadmap to focus the post-secondary system on providing the high-quality education, skills and training needed to get Albertans back to work. Board Chair Carolyn Graham and I are participating in roundtable discussions with our partners and other post-secondary leaders to ensure that MacEwan is an active participant in developing the strategy. We want to partner with the government to help define the outcomes that will work best for this province’s future, for our students and to drive innovation.
The next phase of the consultation will frame key decisions about post-secondary system archetypes and subsequently inform the overall Alberta 2030 strategy. All Albertans can get involved through the public engagement process, and I would encourage you to participate.
50th anniversary campaign
The university has launched its 50th Anniversary fundraising plan. Rather than launching one big campaign, we are focusing on a series of modular or mini-campaigns as well as on raising funds for curriculum development and student scholarships focused on equity, diversity and inclusion. The first of these modular campaigns is the Distinguished Visiting Artist in Country Music campaign. This initiative is a North American first, and I am excited that Brett Kissel is our honorary campaign chair. I recently had the opportunity to join the campaign cabinet for a tour of our leading-edge facilities in Allard Hall. The campaign is a significant step forward for both the university and our music program.
I also had the pleasure of reaching out to several of our donors, including an opportunity to connect with the Allard family and with long-time friends of MacEwan, Bill and Mary-Jo Robbins, who in 2005 generously contributed the largest donation in MacEwan’s history.
We are launching our budget planning process for 2021/22, and we are carefully monitoring our in-year budget. Ancillary services and tuition revenue are key areas that can impact our budget this year, as COVID-19 continues to have a significant impact. Tuition revenue for the Fall term is stable, however, and we continue to monitor student patterns for Winter 2021.
Over the coming months, watch for updates from our new vice-president, Finance and chief financial officer. We will begin to have budget conversations around key tables, including General Faculties Council, Deans’ Council and Executive Council, as we set our budget for 2021/22.
Equity, diversity and inclusion
Recent conversations and movements across Canada and internationally about equity, diversity and inclusion have opened up opportunities to talk about and consider how we will respond as an institution and as a community. I am very proud of the work we are doing to have those conversations. I can assure you that we are listening to what our community has to say and are committed to finding ways to work together on this very important issue.
We will continue to share our ideas, explore and learn best practices, and formulate concrete actions in support of equity, diversion and inclusion within our universities, the higher education sector and our communities. I encourage you to join this important conversation.
Until next time
I want to thank everyone who has helped make my early days at MacEwan a supportive and rewarding learning experience. As we continue to find our way through 2020 and beyond, I expect that we will have many exciting accomplishments to celebrate, along with some challenging conversations and decisions to make.
I know that so far, this has been a year of change and uncertainty. But in the spirit of recent Thanksgiving celebrations, I know that there are many things to be grateful for. I can confidently speak on behalf of our entire executive team in expressing sincere thanks for all you do to make MacEwan University what it is and for your individual and collective efforts to keep each other and our campus safe.
The safety, health and well-being of our students, staff and faculty are of the utmost importance. Know that we are prepared to respond to changes in our health situation and are committed to keeping you informed about changes to campus operations. Please remember to wear your masks while on campus, but don’t let that stop you from introducing yourself if you see me.
I’m excited to continue getting to know all of you and to navigate this unusual year together as a supportive community.
Dr. Annette Trimbee President and Vice-Chancellor
Upcoming events and important dates
Presidential Installation is on Friday, November 6.
We acknowledge that the land on which we gather in Treaty Six Territory is the traditional gathering place for many Indigenous people. We honour and respect the history, languages, ceremonies and culture of the First Nations, Métis and Inuit who call this territory home.