Forward-thinking approach championed in difficult times

The University of Lethbridge has long prided itself on the strength of its faculty, and the reputation of the University is grounded in the reputation of its faculty. Now, in the midst of increased competition within the post-secondary sector, coupled with these difficult economic times, we look to draw on that strength and reputation to secure our future.

When facing uncertain landscapes, a common tendency is to retrench and maintain the status quo. We, however, must fight against this urge. Now is the time for innovation, now is the time for new initiatives and forward thinking that will further engage students and affirm the U of L's place as a comprehensive university; a University with a supportive, relevant and vibrant learning environment.

The best ambassadors we have to promote the student experience at the U of L are our own students. We can run a variety of promotional campaigns, and we can sing our praises in the media, but the value of supportive student testimonials is priceless. They are the most effective vehicles by which we can take our message outside the walls of the University and directly target our audience – the next generation of students. For a potential student, there is no recruitment tool more powerful than their friend or peer – another student – telling them about the great learning experiences they are having at the U of L.

Our task then becomes one that ensures our current students are engaged, that we are connecting with them on all levels and that we are providing the challenging and rigorous educational experiences we promise. We must continue to review our programs and ensure that they meet the needs of future generations of students, as well as meet our high standards as educators.

Such reviews are already happening, and I applaud those innovative thinkers throughout our Faculty who are developing new programs and courses that continue to look forward to meet the changing wants and needs of society.

One excellent example is the new Public Health degree being offered by the School of Health Sciences in collaboration with the Faculty of Arts and Science. This degree program is a showcase for what can be accomplished with a forward-thinking approach. Developed by our faculty, this undergraduate program carves out an educational niche within the post-secondary sector that others have overlooked. The potential for the future of the public health program is enormous.

So too is the potential for the growth of graduate studies at the U of L. Already recognized as a leader in providing research-driven, engaging, graduate offerings, the University must continue to develop graduate opportunities that will draw students to campus and support the continued growth of faculty research programs. Competition for these students within the post-secondary system will continue to be intense as institutions prioritize the mandate of the provincial government to increase access to graduate level programming.

What is important to remember is that potential graduate students exist within each and every undergraduate student we already have. We must build bridges over which our undergraduate students can seamlessly cross to graduate programs, confident in the knowledge that the
U of L has provided them the greatest opportunity to succeed.

It is essential we recognize that this is our time, our opportunity and our responsibility to act creatively, to connect with today's students, to build on the 42 years of history and reputation that our predecessors built and to ensure the continued strength of our programs for years to come.

Dr. Andy Hakin, Vice-President Academic and Provost, addresses academic issues in his monthly column