Laurier outlines future academic priorities


Along with every other university and college in Ontario, Wilfrid Laurier University recently made their strategic mandate agreement (SMA) submission that Glen Murray, the Ontario minister of training, colleges and universities, called for in the summer.

Through his discussion paper titled, Strengthening Ontario’s Centres of Creativity, Innovation and Knowledge, Murray asked each institution to outline their priorities for the near future.

“It’s an invitation by government to identify our strategic position in the [Ontario] system,” explained Max Blouw, the president of Laurier.

Blouw outlined the three priorities that were made about Laurier: a focus on student outcome, the links between academic research and the community and lastly, to ensure cost affordable, high-quality education for students.

All three of these priorities, however, relate to one another.

“What we’re trying to emphasize there is that our research activity is very tied to our educational, community service and economic development missions,” added Blouw about their second priority.

These community relations exist in both Kitchener-Waterloo and Brantford

“It just about pervades everything we have and it is true in Brantford too … university presence in Brantford has rejuvenated and revitalized that community,” Blouw added.

In one of the avenues to ensure cost-affordable education, Blouw highlighted their multi-campus approach, including the potential Milton campus.

“We believe Laurier’s multi-campus model is a very good way to do that, and particularly if we go to Milton,” he continued.

The discussion paper, released during the summer, gave various discussion points about what direction Ontario should go in terms of education. In the past, heavy educational reforms such as three-year degrees, teaching-only professors and more accessible online courses have been debated.

But Laurier’s SMA also took into account the student experience outside of the classroom.

“So we have the academic, cognitive and intelligence side but also the development as a whole person culturally [and] socially,” said Deb MacLatchy, vice-president of academics at Laurier.

She added that the SMA submitted was discussed with the faculty, the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union and the Laurier Graduate Students’ Association.

“As with anything, you get positive comments and questions, and I would say, the overall response has been positive in that I think people feel that they can recognize Laurier in the SMAs, and that it’s an authentic agreement,” continued MacLatchy.

However, MacLatchy noted that the process to get in the submission was a bit challenging given the period in which was created.

“It was challenging because we got asked to do this mid-summer with an end of September deadline,” she said.

Both Blouw and MacLatchy noted that reforms in education are required and that they are open to such discussion with other universities and the government.

“I do think we need to be constantly thinking about how we can improve, how we can do better, how  we can manage within the resources that we have and to continue to really deliver exceptional quality of education,” concluded Blouw.

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