University has the ability to prosper in times of change


Although change is a relatively simple word, it carries with it a context that so often leads to hesitation and unease. What must not be forgotten is that change, while moving us out of our routine, can be both positive and rewarding.

Our University will negotiate many changes over the next several months and indeed years and with these changes will come fresh perspectives and new opportunities to further establish our credentials as a comprehensive University.

A very significant change will be the appointment of a new President in the summer of 2010. Seeing Dr. Cade step down from office after 10 years of service will be difficult for many people at the University but I believe we must approach this with the same spirit in which Bill has, as an invigorating opportunity.

Dr. Cade leaves our University in a position of strength and with a blueprint, the 2009-2013 Strategic Plan, for continuing success. With each semester we are further establishing our reputation as a first-rate teaching and research university, graduate programming is blossoming throughout our faculties, we have just opened the Alberta Water and Environmental Science Building and the Sports Field Complex, campus day care and Markin Hall are all in progress.

We are already showing our abilities to meet and address significant challenges. One example is how the University took an aggressive approach to a recent decline in application numbers for the Fall 2009 semester.

Against a backdrop of difficult economic times, applications dipped dramatically early in 2009. The University's application numbers were off 18.2 per cent from the previous February. We took that as a challenge, looked at our recruiting practices from new perspectives and with the leadership of key personnel within the Registrar's Office and Student Services, we put into place a new marketing approach. As of the end of March, we'd boosted those numbers by 10.6 per cent and are now in a much healthier position to maintain our current enrollment levels.

The new ApplyAlberta online application is a Government of Alberta initiative in which the University of Lethbridge has played a leadership role. The U of L has supplied people, time and much effort to see the pilot project through to successful completion. We were the first post-secondary institution in Alberta to successfully test the system and the first person in the province to apply using the new ApplyAlberta system is a future U of L student.

Looking forward, the University has submitted a proposal to the Government of Alberta that requests planning money for a new science building. The science teaching and research laboratories in University Hall have served us well but the time has come to move to a purpose-built facility. If we are successful with this funding request we will be returning to our community and asking for volunteers to help move the project forward.

In addition, the University has recently requested infrastructure funding from the federal government for the construction of Phase 2 of the Water and Environmental Science Building. The current state of the economy does not provide a great deal of assistance for our funding requests but our position is clear. We are a university that is moving forward, a university with new goals to achieve.

We have the people and the resources here at the University to embrace the challenges that change produces. Others may have some say but our community will be the architects of the major changes ahead. We will not be passengers.

Dr. Andy Hakin is the U of L's Vice-President Academic and Provost. This column originally appeared in the April issue of the Legend.