Campus Life

Board Chair message, University budget and letter of expectation

On Mar. 7, the Government of Alberta introduced the 2013-14 provincial budget. By now, many in our community will have read or heard of the financial impact this budget will have on the two post-secondary institutions in our city – Lethbridge College and the University of Lethbridge. At the University alone, this financial impact is a reduction of $11.9 million for this coming year and for every year that follows.

Having served as Chair of the Board of Governors for Lethbridge College and now as Chair of the Board of Governors of the University of Lethbridge, and as a graduate of the University, I've been afforded the opportunity to witness the quality teaching and research conducted at these institutions. I have seen and experienced the dedication and commitment of the faculty and staff to students in all programs and their devotion to their respective fields of teaching, research and creative exploration. I, like many thousands in our community, enjoy the fine arts productions, and the continuing education offerings. I cheer for the Kodiak and Pronghorn athletic programs, I use the facilities regularly, I attend the lectures and am grateful for the unique benefits afforded to Lethbridge by having two outstanding post-secondary institutions in our hometown – a rarity in Canada for any city of our size. I am also concerned of the impact these reductions and proposed changes to the post-secondary education system in our province will have on our University and College.

The financial constraints being imposed on both the University and College are significant and given the role both institutions play in our city, they will be felt well beyond the walls of the University and College. As significant are the concerns raised by the Letters of Expectation presented to each of the 26 post-secondary institutions in Alberta. The Letters are still in draft form and I remain hopeful that they will accomplish what both the Premier and Minister of Enterprise and Advanced Education have suggested - that our Universities and Colleges will comprise a world class post-secondary system renowned for its contributions to all elements of our society and a system that prepares students to be the citizens and leaders of tomorrow. While there is always room for improvement and greater efficiency, I would argue that we are already well on our way to accomplishing this vision for our system.

There is much public speculation about the responsiveness of Alberta institutions to the needs of students and the needs of employers. Both the University and College are leaders in the province when it comes to collaboration and accessibility. It was the vision of successive Lethbridge MLA's John Gogo and Clint Dunford that created the concept of Campus Alberta. In turn, it was the University of Lethbridge and Lethbridge College that created the standard for easy and seamless transfer for students in programs like Nursing and now in Management. The University shares a campus with Concordia University College in Edmonton and early next month will celebrate a partnership with Bow Valley College, Athabasca University and Olds College in downtown Calgary that truly is expressive of what the Campus Alberta concept can and should be.

As for responsiveness to the needs of employers, I can speak from personal experience that my University education prepared me well for my career and it prepared me well to be an active and engaged contributor to my community. Personal passion and curiosity are hallmarks of the most successful people in our society. As such, the education a student receives during their post-secondary experience at times will be targeted specifically to a particular job but should also be reflective and preparatory of the long and varied career the individual has before them. Given this, there is a significant role for both the College and the University in the creation of the workforce for our province and there is a significant role for all of the academic programs offered as it is these programs that enable individuals to pursue their personal passions and curiosity.

The Board of the University is incredibly diligent and committed to the fiduciary responsibilities assigned to it and the members take seriously the stewardship role that is imparted to them when they accept the volunteer role of Board member. I know from experience that the College Board has the same level of commitment. Any suggestion that there is wastefulness or "fat" at either school is false. I know the University operates very cost-effectively because our Board demands it of the administration. The resources of the University are specifically targeted to the areas that are of greatest importance – the students and the programs. National recognition bestowed on the University speaks to this. Maclean's consistently ranks the University of Lethbridge very high and most recently placed the University 3rd nationally. Research Infosource recognized the University as Canada's Research University of the Year – Undergraduate Category this year. These are significant accomplishments and illustrate clearly the quality of the University we have in our community. They also display a momentum that the University has created and it is this momentum that I am hopeful will not be lost as a result of our current challenge. This is a University we should be proud of not only for its accomplishments but because it is our University - born of our community and fought for diligently by our civic, business and community leaders in the 1960's.

I am hopeful that the outcome of the current provincial dialogue will not diminish the quality or reputations of our University and College. We owe that to those who helped create these institutions and more importantly, we owe that to those who have yet to experience these great institutions.


Gord Jong
Chair, Board of Governors
The University of Lethbridge