At the end of a busy Fall term that wraps up a year in which so much has changed, I want to begin with a heartfelt thank you to everyone in our MacEwan community. Your efforts to make the best of a very challenging situation, your resilience, creativity and innovation, and the care and support you have shown for our students – and each other – are things we need to recognize and celebrate.
Before you take a well-deserved rest over the winter break, I wanted to make sure to share several updates with you and to take a look forward into 2021.
Keeping our campus safe
As we continue to actively meet and exceed health measures put in place by the chief medical officer of health, our staff, faculty and students’ safety is always our first consideration. There are so many individuals and teams who have helped make this possible – staff members focused on health and safety and emergency operations, faculty members who have shown incredible flexibility and compassion, those who have adapted to working and learning from home, and every single person who has masked up while on university property. Your efforts to make sure we all stay safe are truly appreciated.
Our leadership, faculty and students are tweeting their reasons for masking up at #maskupmacewan.
Your incredible work over the Fall term balancing the requirements of a hybrid learning environment with the needs of students hasn’t been easy, and I can confidently speak on behalf of the entire university leadership team when I say how very proud, grateful and continually amazed we are at your ingenuity, innovativeness and resilience.
Those efforts will extend into the Winter term, which will start on January 6, as we continue providing a hybrid learning environment. Our campus is a safe place, and there will be some face-to-face teaching in January, but as we have all learned over the past several months, flexibility will be a key part of our approach to the coming term. We are committed to ensuring that students can virtually access the resources and services they need.
Vice-President Finance and Administration and Chief Financial Officer
Please join me in welcoming Sharilee Fossum to MacEwan as vice-president, Finance and Administration & CFO. Sharilee will join us after the holiday break and brings with her the education and skills that our university is looking for during this time of transition. She has demonstrated an innovative approach to leadership, and has served in both the public and private sectors. I am very pleased to welcome her to MacEwan.
Campus updates and news
$1-million legacy gift creates transformational bursaries
An anonymous donor’s inspiring legacy donation will create the most generous financial awards currently available to MacEwan students. The Larissa Bursary will help computer science students to overcome financial challenges to complete their studies, ensuring that well-educated graduates contribute to advancing an industry the anonymous donor cared deeply about. This gift makes a strong statement about the quality of MacEwan’s programming and allows us to continue contributing to the resilience and recovery of our communities. I can’t overstate the impact this gift will have. We are incredibly grateful.
Faculty and staff recognition
Over the past few months, I have spent virtual time with our faculty, staff and students – in meetings, lectures and events. I greatly value those opportunities to learn about your work, hear your thoughts and see just how involved our students are in their programs and scholarly work. The work you do both inside and outside of our classrooms is the foundation on which we will build as we look to our future and our place in Alberta’s post-secondary sector.
Distinguished Teaching Award
Recognizing the ingenuity and dedication of our faculty members is the purpose of the Distinguished Teaching Award. Please take the time to nominate a colleague, professor or mentor by January 29 using the nomination packages available on the Office of Teaching and Learning Services website.
I continue to be amazed and incredibly proud of our MacEwan alumni who go on to accomplish so much. Here are just a few of their many recent accomplishments.
Katherine Vladicka (BSc Transfer ’97), a 3M award-winning high school science teacher in Fort MacMurray, is a mentor and role model for her student Maryam Tsegay who recently became the first Canadian to win the Breakthrough Junior Challenge for her video explaining the concept of quantum tunnelling. Tsegay received a US$250,000 college scholarship, Vladicka will receive a US$50,000 prize and her high school will be outfitted with a new US$100,000 state-of-the-art lab.
I am so inspired by the contributions these alumni have to food security, Métis and Indigenous culture and storytelling, and inspiring the next generation of scientists. What incredible accomplishments.
During our Fall Curbside Convocation celebrations, we were able to show just how proud we are of our Fall 2020 graduates. I am so impressed by the perseverance and determination of our alumni family’s newest members and extend my congratulations and best wishes as they begin their next chapters.
Working with our partners
As I continue to orient myself and learn more about our internal and external communities, I have been meeting regularly with partners including Universities Canada, Council of Post-secondary Presidents of Alberta, industry and government leaders. This work is important in advancing our relationships and showcasing the work that is done at MacEwan University.
I have also spent time meeting with local community partners, including the Boyle Street Community Services, the City of Edmonton and have continued work with the Community Safety and Wellbeing Task Force. As a downtown university, we are embedded in the heart of the city and are part of our community. We must work with our partners to build our downtown on collaboration, support and innovation. In doing so, we can contribute to the resilience, strength and recovery of our city and its people.
Allard Chair in Business
Congratulations and welcome to Naseem Bashir, P.Eng., ICD.D. our 34th Allard Chair in Business. Naseem is the president and CEO of Williams Engineering Canada and chairman of the board for the Williams Group of Companies. I was so pleased to attend the School of Business’s virtual event on December 16 and celebrate our connections and partnerships with the business community.
I would also like to personally thank Tom Redl, our 2019 Allard Chair in Business, for his contributions, support and leadership to our students and our university community.
Looking ahead to 2021
I hope that you were able to join the Thought Leader Sessions with Kate White and Paul Davidson over the past two weeks, as part of the first phase of our strategic vision process. In January, we will continue to host sessions and provide opportunities to help us consider where we want to go and what we want to be as a university.
You can read a special strategic vision edition of my column, learn more about the strategic vision process, review summaries of our Thought Leader Sessions and submit your comments about the future of MacEwan at MacEwan.ca/StrategicVision. I look forward to continuing this conversation with you in January.
Alberta 2030 initiative
This fall, the Ministry of Advanced Education launched the Alberta 2030 Initiative, which 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. The Minister has shared with us that there will be a number of town halls scheduled to occur from January 6 to 14 focusing on Alberta 2030 strategy. I encourage you to register for and participate in one of these town hall meetings.
MacEwan’s Board of Governors and General Faculties Council have both made submissions to the ministry, which speak to our unique strengths and position within the post-secondary sector in Alberta. We continue to advocate for and speak about the relevance and significance our university has in the lives of our students, our downtown community and our province.
We expect to have our first opportunity to see the strategy, outcomes framework and roadmap of the Alberta 2030 plan in the new year, and I will continue to update you as we move through the process.
While the release of the provincial budget update in November included less of a deficit than projected, the province is still in a difficult position. We are committed to working with the government, partners, stakeholders and community to build strength and work toward the recovery of our city and province. We will work toward providing a more detailed university budget update that will align with the expected provincial budget in February.
December Board Meetings
This month, the Board of Governors and its related committees met to review the university’s short- and long-term plans and the 2019/20 annual report.
I want to emphasize our commitment to our students and their success. We value their input, feedback and thoughts on all aspects of university operations. As always, we have consulted with the Students’ Association of MacEwan University (SAMU) throughout the tuition and fee review process, and we will continue to do so as we set the academic plan for 2021/22 and develop supports that will provide the financial and personal resources students need in a post-pandemic world.
MacEwan’s 50th-anniversary campaign will officially kick off in spring 2021, featuring a series of smaller campaigns supporting the university’s students and programs.
Creating an endowment fund for the Distinguished Visiting Artist in Country Music is the first campaign’s focus, which will provide ongoing funding for visiting artists. Learning from these high-profile industry experts will support students in launching their careers in country music and establish Edmonton as a home for country music, artists, writers and music lovers.
It is an exciting way to begin marking 50 years, and I look forward to the many events and celebrations that will come in 2021.
Equity, diversity, inclusion and reconciliation
A few days ago, I was able to join Dr. James Makokis (BSc Transfer, ’01), our Indigenous Knowledge Keepers, faculty members and staff for a presentation and conversation about reconciliation. It’s one example of the incredible sharing that I’ve been fortunate to take part in over the past few months. In each of these opportunities, I have taken away action items and considerations that will inform my commitment to formulating a concrete plan supporting equity, diversity, inclusion and reconciliation.
Wishes for a happy holiday
I know I’m stating the obvious when I say that this has been a challenging year – one that has profoundly impacted the members of our university community in so many different ways.
As we head into the winter break, I hope you will take time to relax, reenergize and find new ways to connect with the people you care about.
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.