A Matter of Degrees

Any great institution exists because of effective collaboration, as people from all different walks of life, passion and expertise share and run after a vision that’s big enough and significant enough to pursue.  RDC has always been known for collaborating to make great things happen.

In 1990 we ventured into offering Collaborative degrees.  After years of seeking ways to offer degrees in Red Deer, we had our first opportunity.  The Ministry of Advanced Education approved the Bachelor of Science in Nursing, a degree program offered collaboratively by the RDC and the University of Alberta.  

RDC had been offering a Nursing program since the late 60s, when Marguerite Shumacher developed a program unique in Canada.  It was a departure from the usual three-year hospital-based programs. With Shumacher at the helm, RDC was interested in a unique methodology of teaching students, developing clinical instructors and balancing theoretical knowledge with practical training.  

The Nursing program’s core belief was that healing is affected by the interpersonal relationship of the nurse with the patient. This conceptual framework developed at RDC for Nursing education was later used by the University of California San Francisco and became the basis for developing and influencing many other programs across Canada, Great Britain and Australia.

Nurse educators and leaders came to RDC from around the world for hands-on, face-to-face consultation and observation, mutually influencing Nursing curricula. RDC’s openness to collaboration and excellence always placed both the learner and the patient at the centre, which in turn ensured the quality of the program.

The philosophy would saturate the degree program, drawing future health professionals to the College from around the province and beyond.  Since inception in the 60s, the Nursing program has been in high demand and competitive. Being able to offer all four years of the program in Red Deer had significant impact on the region, training new health professionals with practical experience in hospitals and care facilities in Red Deer and the greater region.

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No you can’t Google that, at least not yet

Believe it or not, there was an age before the internet. And somehow students thrived and carved out their own way in the world. Today’s learners might not know just how, in the same way the original alumni at RDC in the 1960s may have wondered how their grandparents survived the winters and learned the alphabet in the one-room prairie school houses of old.

In fact at RDC we use the symbol of the hand-held school bell, historically rung by prairie teachers in those one-room school houses to call their students to learning.  For us the bell symbolizes our connection to a tradition of education in the province.  The call is to always learn, to always reach for knowledge, to always pursue greater things.

That is why we have always changed with the times, adapting to new trends. We do so without losing sight of our goal: to provide the best education possible to learners in central Alberta.  We do this by leveraging new tools and new technologies in order to enhance learning so our students leave RDC, prepared for successful lives and careers.

Up until this point in our history, students would come to class not with tablets and other personal devices that beeped and buzzed. Notebooks were made out of blue-lined paper. Research required text books, printed periodicals and hours at a time in the library.

While we have always integrated relevant technology into our learning environment, the 90s marked major technological shifts.  In the 1995-96 academic year, when the internet revolution went mainstream, RDC opened The Net Effect, a ten station computer gallery housed in the Library that gave students internet access.   

In December of 1996 we accepted our first our first electronic application via the internet. Future students were now accessing RDC and learning in a whole new way.   And we’ve never looked back. It was in the 1998-99 academic year that we offered our first completely internet-based course in Communications.

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Index cards falling like snow

As technology became less cumbersome, the Library found new ways to incorporate it to simply processes and improve the student experience. Something College administration always had to weigh was introducing new technology that would take up limited and highly valued space in the Library.

In the 1980s personal computers were revolutionizing databases, and had made huge progress from the massive processing units that took up entire rooms.  However “PCs weren’t considered anything but a toy.” xlvi

RDC had implemented an automated library system in 1989.  Despite the digital switch, cards were maintained alongside computers for a number of years, partly because a portion of the student body was uncomfortable using the new technology and because the new system wasn’t always completely reliable.

The tattered old index cards were finally discarded in 1994 to much celebration.  Library staff arranged trash bins on the floor below the mezzanine while their colleagues leaned over the railing, dumping drawer after drawer of white index cards.  Thousands upon thousands of the cross-referencing cards fell to the ground like so many snowflakes.  Many missed the trash bins and drifted in piles on the carpeted floor.

As students and staff alike became increasingly literate on computers, the College continue to find ways to expand into developing technologies, especially as computers became a key communication and research tool on the world wide web.  As a key intersection of students and technology on campus, the Library had become the nerve centre at RDC.

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Building toward 2014

In this whole new world of online learning, there was a real sense of anticipation for the future.  In 1998 Ron Woodward became the ninth president of RDC.  In March of the same year Founding Member of Red Deer College George Harold Dawe passed away.  At the Convocation ceremony that June, the G.H. Dawe Memorial Award of Excellence was conferred for the first time, RDC’s 35th Year.

Woodward led the College and community in the same visionary spirit of our founders, launching a major new campaign called Taking Charge of Tomorrow. The audacious goal was to raise $6 million in order to undergo a major building project that included construction of the Library Information Commons. Future planning on a large scale was undertaken to prepare for the next fifteen years, in anticipation of the 50th year anniversary in 2014.  

“Our vision is to be the best comprehensive college in Canada,” said Woodward at the time, as the institution dedicated significant resource to research the future of post-secondary education in Canada and focused on learning trends and how they could support the needs in our region.  

The community engaged enthusiastically in the strategic planning.  Public sector organizations, businesses, government agencies and individuals developed partnerships and collaborated to plan the future of RDC. At the time it was noted that the greatest legacy of this strategic project “may be the renewed sense of community ‘ownership’ of Red Deer College.” xlvii

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xlvi - Library Information Commons. Legacy booklet. C. 2003.

xlvii - “Planning for the Future”, Red Deer Advocate insert for Annual Community Breakfast.  2002.