Comprehensive approach guides future

The University of Lethbridge's new 2009-2013 Strategic Plan sets a course for the University over the next five years. We asked various members of the University community their impressions of the Strategic Plan and how they fit personally in the vision of the plan.

René Boeré
Professor of Chemistry and Chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

What does this plan mean to you?
"I think this is a wonderful opportunity for all of us to take stock and refocus on what the central values of our institution are and how they can best be implemented. There is a tremendous challenge facing all universities: we must choose among many good and worthwhile endeavours to select, promote and celebrate the very best. This is easier said than done. Thus I am very pleased that the onus for the implementation of this plan has been placed out in the institution as a whole. I take this document more as a spur for creative and disciplined thinking by the community of scholars and learners (see below) than as a corporate diktat."

How do you see yourself in the plan?

Professor René Boeré sees the University of Lethbridge's future shaped around its emergence as a true comprehensive university.

"I am fully committed to the creation of a culture of graduate education at the University of Lethbridge. And I am convinced that doing so will enhance, rather than threaten, the core values of our institution. Honestly, without this dimension, we cannot hope to achieve what a university is uniquely supposed to be."

What does it mean to be a comprehensive university?
"I believe that in Canada in the 21st century, among the many kinds of education options that exist, the comprehensive university is the very best at exemplifying the original ideals embedded in the European or Western university tradition. The success of the university as an institution has been demonstrated, of course, by its adoption around the globe in societies ranging from the most sophisticated to those in the ground-floor stages of development. However, the core ideals of this tradition are sometimes better and sometimes less-well expressed.

The root of this ideal is expressed in our Plan when we state that, "We will welcome our students to a community of scholars" (p. 2), to which I would add, "to become learners". While other kinds of institutions tend to focus primarily on teaching (i.e. colleges and liberal arts universities) or training (technical institutes, professional schools at large universities), I believe that the comprehensive university provides the best opportunity for a true balance between scholarship and learning. I see a synergism between faculty who are leaders in scholarship, graduate students who are scholars-in-training and undergraduates who are being weaned from the school's model of dependence on "teachers" to becoming active learners.

My passion is that we can induct the young people of our region, and from further abroad, into this exciting community of scholars and learners that is now starting to emerge at the University of Lethbridge."

The plan outlines five strategic directions. What area of the plan are you most passionate about?
"I guess I gave this away already in my answer to the previous question. I am passionate about the growth of the graduate program, which I believe is central to our emergence as a comprehensive university (and I am thrilled to see that this is Strategic Direction A1 in the plan).

I really believe that an active graduate school, properly nurtured and supported, is the key to us becoming a functioning community of scholars and learners. While many other "directions" are identified in the Plan, I think it essential that these other initiatives are set in the context of this central value, so that they become aspects of enhancing our values: yes, we are a community, but a particular kind of community, and cannot therefore be all things to all people. Thus, I strongly identify also with Directions B4 (internationalization) and C2 (bridges to the city and region) - the graduate program will be more international than the undergraduate program has been, thus acting as a catalyst for this strategic direction. Yet by being very intentional at reaching out to the schools and citizens of our region we can really hope to transfer our broad vision of an interconnected world with the people of southern Alberta.

One concrete example of C2 was an initiative by my department, along with Physics & Astronomy, when developing the proposed new major in nanoscience, whereby we are seeking funding for a kind of mobile laboratory that would take cutting-edge nanotechnology out to the high schools in our regions so that potential young scientists can practice hands-on what they now can only learn about via the media. Similarly, the welcome focus in B7 on FNMI students represents a key aspect of that regional society that we ought to be reaching out to more intentionally."

Fast-forward five years, how would you describe the U of L of 2013?
"If we can be disciplined to focus our energies and refuse to dissipate them by going a thousand directions at once, 2013 could see the
U of L become a thoroughly functioning community of scholars and learners. It remains to be seen whether we can hold each other accountable to that vision. And if we can weather the fiscal storm that is battering the economy, I certainly hope by 2013 to see a start in construction of a new academic building for the laboratory-based sciences that integrates research and instructional activities and thereby help reverse the trend of the past 15 years of building more and more single-purpose research buildings."

For more information, view the Strategic Plan video on the UNews front page