Ontario invests in Laurier

Since St. Michael’s campus was initially purchased and renovated in 2001, the space has reflected the ever-growing student population at Wilfrid Laurier University. On June 20, the provincial government announced that it would be funding Laurier $72.6 million to develop a more long-term building on the St. Michael’s site: the Global Innovation Exchange (GIE).

The four-storey building, which will include seven lecture halls and a 1,000-seat auditorium, is set to house Laurier’s school of business and economics, as well as the mathematics program, which are currently located in the Bricker Academic, Schlegel Centre and Peters building.

“One of the underlying principles this is going to address is integrating the business school much more into the community,” said Ginny Dybenko, Laurier executive: strategic initiatives and former dean for the school of business, following the announcement. “The reason we called it ‘innovation exchange’ is to attract organizations and companies into the space so they can rub shoulders with the professors and the students.”

To promote this dialogue between companies, professors and students, according to Dybenko, the GIE will also house a cafe equipped with white boards for patrons to write out ideas while meeting over food or drinks.

The investment in the GIE was the first of 12 announcements made over the course of the week by Liberal MPP and minister of training, colleges and universities John Milloy to improve the infrastructure at post-secondary institutions across the province as part of government’s new Putting Students First plan.

In line with the plan to provide more spots in classrooms, the GIE is intended to support an increase of 2,000 students at Laurier, which university president Max

Blouw explained will greatly be made up of international students and graduate-level students.

Pronouncing the focus the province is placing on students, Milloy, when making his announcement in Laurier’s Senate and Board chambers, expressed, “The most important people in the room are students.”

Further stating the Liberal government’s vision, with a provincial election scheduled for this October, Milloy said, “We have a government that has put a real focus on education.”

“We need a government that is going to challenge its citizens to think about the future,” he later added regarding the provinces responsibility to keep taxes low but simultaneously contribute to long-term investments.

Following the funding announced for post-secondary institutions, on June 24 the province’s Liberal minister of infrastructure Bob Chiarelli also announced a 10-year, $35-million plan for Ontario. WLU stated it is welcoming this investment that includes commitments to universities and colleges.

While Laurier received the province’s largest investment through the Putting Students First campaign, there remains a gap of approximately $30 million to complete the project.

Robert Donelson, vice president: development and alumni relations, who is overseeing the fundraising campaign explained the process for the months ahead.

“Phase one of our campaign is going to focus on the Global Innovation Exchange and the projects in the school of business and economics but primarily our focus will be generating the $30 million to complete the construction,” said Donelson, due to the urgency with the government’s investment.

“We would be seeking financial support from both alumni and the corporate world, various foundations that would support these kinds of projects,” he explained that will ideally fulfill the target within 18 to 24 months.

Further explaining that phase one of the campaign hopes to bring in $55 million in order to also support scholarships, professorships and chairs within SBE, Donelson said that one of the opportunities for donors will include naming different spaces of the new building, from classrooms to wings.

“The other project that we want to focus on is the actual naming of the school of business and economics. Most major business schools in Canada — Ivey, Schulich, Rotman — they’re all named for prominent donors, so we would like to explore the potential naming of the school as well,” he added.

The project is the first of Laurier’s master plan, which according to Blouw, will intensify by replacing and renovating spaces already existing on campus. Later fundraising initiatives will focus on other related projects across the university.
A timeline for building the GIE has yet to be announced, however the university does want the building to be complete in 2014.

The office of the registrar has already taken the precaution of moving fall and winter term courses and tutorials for the upcoming school year that were originally planned for St. Michael’s campus to other buildings. According to registrar Ray Darling, the only students that may have been impacted by schedule changes were first-year students who had registered for classes earlier in June.

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