U of L uses recent minister visit to full advantage

The University of Lethbridge is a key contributor to building Alberta's knowledge-based economy. Add that to its many specific contributions to the economy and social well-being of the citizens of southern Alberta, and it was only fitting that eight Alberta government cabinet ministers spent the vast majority of their recent Lethbridge visit on the U of L campus.

The visit, part of a province-wide initiative, saw Doug Horner (advanced education and technology), Dave Hancock (education), Mel Knight (sustainable resource development), Yvonne Fritz (children and youth services), Lindsay Blackett (culture and community service), Jonathan Denis (housing and urban affairs), Len Webber (aboriginal relations) and Heather Klimchuk (Service Alberta) all attend.

The morning began with a tour of Markin Hall – the future home of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Management. In the context that the province is looking to diversify its economy by serving more as a financial hub for Canada, Markin's Finance Trading Floor, and its educational possibilities, was a key element of particular interest. Similarly, the Nursing Skills Lab, currently under construction, will train nursing students in a uniquely hands-on, innovative setting. It was not lost on the visiting ministers that placing the Faculties of Management and Health Sciences in the same building would create more opportunities for collaboration between faculty members, yielding new approaches of better-managing an expensive health-care system.

The Alberta Water and Environmental Science Building (AWESB) was next on the schedule, with distinguished water researcher Stewart Rood welcoming the ministers with a tour of his lab. The government has mandated to "ensure the province has the quality and quantity of water needed now and into the future to support the environmental, economic and social needs of Albertans" and the research work being done at the AWESB promises to play a key part in fulfilling this policy.

The morning tour ended with provost Andrew Hakin addressing the ministers, detailing how the U of L has positioned itself to best serve the post-secondary needs of Albertans, all the while pursuing a research mandate that will improve the quality of life for people throughout the province.

The evening tour featured a reception and presentation about the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery.

Dr. Josephine Mills, the director/creator of the gallery, explained the origin of the collection, its purpose in teaching and how the University connects with the broader community by sharing the works through exhibitions, publications and the web. The gallery is an important asset to the U of L in that it is used for educational, research, advancement and cultural purposes on campus and beyond. The ministers were introduced to a range of important works that revealed the collection's breadth and significance.

The evening concluded with a meal on campus that invited the Board of Governors, senior administration, deans and others. It was an opportunity to further build links between the
U of L and the provincial government.

This was a significant opportunity for the U of L to showcase itself. There is great geographic distance between Lethbridge and Edmonton and access to government members often involves significant effort and travel. Having eight ministers on campus at the same time is a rare opportunity, and the U of L used the occasion to its full advantage. The University also expressed a desire that similar visits would become of strategic importance to the Government of Alberta in the future.

Richard Westlund is the University's director of government relations