University develops new academic plan; goal is to define the school as an institution

Wilfrid Laurier University is currently in the process of creating a new academic plan that will come into effect in 2010.

In early October, upper administration issued an outline of these plans – important information that has an impact on the direction the school will be taking over the next five years.

Contained in this “green paper”, available online, are statements of Laurier’s unique place within the Canadian post-secondary education system.

The principles and values that define Laurier as an institution are listed, as well as the academic areas that characterize the school’s curricula across faculties.

Areas that Laurier excels at and aims to remain recognized in on a national and international level are also discussed.

The document emphasizes a commitment to a distinct Laurier community, even in light of unprecedented growth, the importance of civic engagement and the application of Laurier’s themes of sustainability, innovation and internationalization as a multi-campus university.

According to Deb MacLatchy, vice-president of academics at Laurier, most universities come out with a new academic plan about every five years.

Commenting on the content of this new plan, she said, “Even though it’s a new academic plan, it’s very much based on Laurier’s Century Plan that we developed previously.”

Laurier’s Century Plan was developed in 2005 with similar focus on students’ academic experience and what distinguishes Laurier from other institutions.

The proposed plan, MacLatchy said, is currently under review before being presented for approval from Laurier’s senate this coming spring.

“All the faculties on both campuses are looking at it and coming back with their views on what should be in the plan, feedback we’re working into the final version.”

Both the Century Plan and proposed new academic plan contain a lot of information on what Laurier’s image and reputation are and should be as the school approaches its centennial in 2011.

What effects will this new plan have on current students and those to come?

According to MacLatchy, there will be more of an effort to distinguish a program or degree at Laurier from those programs offered at other universities.

“One thing we really haven’t been good at here at Laurier is talking about what our academic areas of excellence are….What ties our curriculums together; what makes a Laurier arts degree or science degree. It’s about trying to distinguish us.”

MacLatchy further discussed the significance of the new plan. “This plan is our first attempt to say that there is something coherent about the Laurier academic experience, even if people are in very different disciplines.”

Current students may not see much change in day-to-day school experience, but these plans are broad in scope and aim to effect, however subtly, all elements of the student experience and what it means to be a Laurier student and graduate.

According to MacLatchy changes may not even be apparent to students because, “By and large [the new academic plan] is descriptive of what we’re doing already.

“It identifies areas that we believe really are core to what it is we do academically.”

Academic planning timeline

The process is set to take place in three phases:

October-December 2009

Consultation between faculty members, deans and the vice-president of academics. The vice-president academic will meet the university’s various departments and councils to discuss the Deans’ Green Paper. Each faculty is tasked to develop an internal response to the paper.

January-February 2010

The university will host facilitated workshops involving deans, associate deans, chairs and program co-ordinators. The goal will be to gather the responses and put them together in one document.

March 2010

Based on the previous stages the vice-president of academics office will submit a consolidated academic plan to senate for discussion and approval.