Mahon has government's ear


The arrival of a new president on campus has given the University an opportunity to re-engage members of government at all levels. In the same way that the University of Lethbridge campus community has been interested in hearing about a renewed vision for our University, there has been significant interest shown by government officials across the province and country in learning more about President Mike Mahon and his priorities.

Shortly after his installation speech, President Mahon began to outline his four pillars: Student First, Comprehensive University, Community Centered and A Destination University to a variety of government members. This was initially done in one-on-one meetings with select individuals – the Premier of Alberta, Minister and Deputy Minister of Advanced Education and Technology and others.

In an effort to reach a larger number of government members, President Mahon then made formal presentations to the federal Alberta Caucus, the federal Liberal Caucus, the Alberta Rural Caucus, the Calgary Caucus, reeves and mayors of South West Alberta as well as to specific federal and provincial deputy ministers. At the conclusion of the upcoming Capital Region Caucus meeting, the four pillars presentation will have been shared with almost every MP and MLA in the province as well as a significant number of municipal leaders in our geographic area.

Introducing this vision to these groups has been important for a variety of reasons.

At the federal level, it has been an opportunity to reinforce the importance that research plays in creating a dynamic learning environment for our undergraduate and graduate students. In the past couple of years, larger universities have been pushing the federal government to concentrate research dollars to the larger institutions. Stories such as the success of U of L undergraduate students who developed an enzyme that cleans oilsands tailing ponds and subsequently received gold-medal standing at the MIT IGEM competition, underscore the benefits undergraduate students enjoy when research and learning are linked.

At the provincial level, the U of L story speaks to the need of having a destination university in the province. Currently 70 per cent of the students attending the U of L are from outside of Lethbridge. The U of L allows students from all over Alberta to benefit from a first-class educational experience without leaving the province. President Mahon has pointed out that the U of L is often described as a "best-kept secret". Certainly that perception is beginning to change and will no doubt continue to advance.

Finally, at the municipal level, underscoring the notion of community has resonated with local leaders. President Mahon has shared his goal of having all undergraduate students participate in a community engagement experience before they graduate. Some mayors are already contemplating how they too can play a part in this vision.

Despite the fact that the U of L is geographically removed from Edmonton and Ottawa, the U of L's contribution to teaching, research, culture, sport, economy and quality of life for all is becoming increasingly known. When federal ministers and northern Alberta MLAs alike give unprompted endorsements of specific U of L successes, as we have seen in recent months, it speaks to the institution's growing reputation. Maintaining that momentum in this area is extremely important. Knowledge about the U of L among the various levels of government is critical in ensuring the interests and aspirations of the U of L are realized.

Richard Westlund is the University's government relations director

This story first appeared in the Legend. For a look at the Legend in a flipbook format, follow this link.