We laugh at it now, but as people gathered round the TV to watch New Year’s celebration, mumbling the few words they knew of “Auld Lang Syne” to welcome the new millennium, there was widespread fear that the lights might all go out. Y2K was a much hyped computer bug that some thought might wipe out technology as we then knew it.  As one US Defense official put it, “The Y2K problem is the electronic equivalent of the El Niño and there will be nasty surprises around the globe.”  

The fact that you’re reading this now means that you know RDC (and the rest of the world) survived the feared technological doomsday.

The first decade of the new millennium would be years of growth and expansion for RDC. Flourishing toward our fiftieth year the campus would grow with new programs and new degrees, inspiring new facilities and more Athletics excellence with the emergence of our Kings Volleyball team as the most successful Volleyball program in Canadian College history.

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Make that $7 million

The community really rallied behind the future vision of the College and dug deep in its pockets to surpass the ambitious goal of raising $6 million for the new Library Information Common (LIC).  Donors gave over $7.2 million, 20 percent more than the original goal!  A 4,5000 square foot addition, two entirely new beautiful floors were to be the Library’s new home.  

Through a partnership with the Red Deer Public Library, the new facility was planned to serve both the College and the greater community.  Placed front and centre on the main campus, the LIC was built so it would be easily accessible to the public and to learners from all College programs.

A partnership with Hewlett-Packard Canada brought 165 computers and networked laptops to the Library.  Our collection had grown to 150,000 volumes including 10,000 that belonged to Parkland Regional Library which is the regional library system in central Alberta. In total, RDC students and the community could now access some 4 million library items.

On September 3, 2002, the first day of classes in the new school year, the Library Information Common opened.   With waves of computers, row after row of books, a comfortable lounge area, bright study areas and a large media room, the Library Information Common was a multi-purpose research and learning space fit for the 21st Century.

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Our Athletics teams and coaches create more history

One or two consecutive wins would have been impressive.   Three or four, incredible. But they didn’t stop there.  Five or six in championships in a row would have been unfathomable. RDC Kings Volleyball’s unprecedented eight consecutive National Championship wins put the program on the national consciousness.

The Kings Volleyball team led by Keith Hansen and an impressive group of talented student athletes made our College proud.  Members of these successful teams went on to play professionally in leagues around the world, represent Canada nationally and transition from post-secondary competition and academics into leadership positions in schools, communities and businesses.  They truly represented RDC as incredible ambassadors for learning and for sport.

Our other teams also performed exceptionally well.  In 2000 Queens Hockey officially joined the ACAC and took home the provincial gold in the same year. In 2007 our Cross-Country Running team won the National Team title.

The College continued to experience success in sports, however the news wasn’t only positive.  The Kings Hockey program was disbanded indefinitely in 2004 because it was no longer financially sustainable.  The news was a blow to the College and the community, which rallied to bring the team back. The return of Kings Hockey to the ACAC would be nearly a decade in the making.

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Turning up the degrees

In 2001 RDC introduced its first applied degree in Motion Picture Arts. Housed in College’s Arts Centre, the intensive post diploma training program was a big draw for college graduates and industry professionals that offered dual streams of learning for both actors and production students.  

The emphasis of the program was dramatic narrative film making.  It truly be a one-of-a-kind film school. With access to industry insiders and to the impressive Arts facilities, since its inception, the Motion Picture Arts program has contributed to the growing entertainment industry in Alberta. Our graduates from the program have found professional success in front and behind the camera in the Canadian film and television industry and in Hollywood.

We added to our suite of programs with more collaborative degrees through the early 2000s, partnering with both the University of Calgary to offer four year programs in a multitude of disciplines like Social Work, English, Psychology and History (to name a few) so that RDC students could stay in Red Deer to finish their Bachelor of Arts degree.

Through the Universities of Alberta and Lethbridge RDC added to its degree offerings the Bachelor of Education in Elementary for both Middle Years and Secondary, respectively.  

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New voices in Canadian Theatre through Scripts at Work

While we continued to grow programs RDC found new ways to offer learning to our students and the community through unique partnerships.

With funding and support from the RDC Student Theatre Society, RDC and the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, Scripts at Work (SAW) was launched in 2004 by Theatre instructors Tanya Ryga and Lynda Adams. The playwriting series mentored central Albertan playwrights by providing new play development assistance from professional dramaturgs and directors.

Like the Writer-in-Residence program of days past, SAW brought notable theatre professionals to the College so that new writers could be mentored.  The list included such notables as Colleen Murphy, Gordon  Pengilly, Vanessa Porteous, Mieko Ouchi and DD Kugler, to name a few.

Through the workshop, playwrights developed new work, built relationships with professionals in the theatre industry, and shared their work with audiences through an annual Festival of New Plays in Red Deer. In the decade that it ran, those playwrights went on to premiere new plays in Alberta, throughout Canada, into the US.   

At a time when there was much conversation about the development of theatre arts in Alberta, the Theatre program at RDC through its visionary instructors was creating opportunity and nurturing new voices in Alberta and Canadian theatre.

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Values are, well, a valuable thing

Have you ever sat down and asked yourself, Where do I go from here? Imagine what kind of answers you would get when over 150 College students and staff get together to discuss the future of a post-secondary institution. Try 95 pages of notes, 66 pages of flip charts and hundreds of exciting ideas.

Our two year process of strategic planning that we underwent was completed in 2002. We developed a key set of questions to guide the future plans of RDC.  We asked our students, faculty, staff and community key questions that helped RDC formalize our values of Exploration and Inclusiveness, Excellence and Integrity, Community and Accountability.

These values guide the College community in all that we do.  During this reflective time, much was happening outwardly.  The community had stepped up and contributed over $7 million of our capital fund raising goal, money that was used toward significant campus improvements. They included the expansion of the Students’ Association, and expanded Bookstore, the new Library Information .

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Looking good at 40

As the 2003-04 academic year rolled in, we marked our 40th year as a College.  What better way to celebrate than with a Coat of Arms!  The Canadian Heraldic Authority officially granted RDC our own Coat of Arms which incorporated a number of traditional symbols associated with RDC, the province and with learning.

A shield sporting a wapiti’s head represented the City. A gold lion holding a flaming torch in its paw represented the light of learning and our strong Athletics tradition.  On either side of the shield gold wapiti with black antlers on a grassy mound set with white wild rose flowers highlighted the province’s flower and our beautiful campus on the foothills.  The red deer stood above our motto which in Latin reads, “To Greater Things Through Learning.”

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CollegeSide, another RDC innovation

In our 40th year we also celebrated our newest expansion, the CollegeSide complex, a 110-bed extended care centre with 100 supported living apartments for seniors.  The new facility also had 10,000 new square feet for teaching, learning and research.

The comprehensive learning and caring community was the first facility of its kind in Canada.  RDC leased its land to the David Thompson Health Region so that the long-term care facility could be built on our campus.  In exchange, we gained teaching space and a learning facility where students in our Health, Sport and Sciences programs could have hands-on, real world learning opportunities.

Bethany Care Society then brought its 45-year history of experience in home care for seniors, which solidified the three-way partnership.  Clients in the care centre would have access to numerous programs at RDC, allowing them to pursue lifelong learning and to maintain a high quality of life.

With a family dining room, multipurpose area for a wide range of activities, a hair salon and other services, “It’s very much like a giant town square,” noted RDC’s Executive Director of Community Relations Michael Donlevy at the time.

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Building Communities Through Learning

A major fund announcement from the Government was made in our 2005-06 academic year: $29 million would be granted to RDC to kick start our ambitious Building Communities Through Learning campaign.  We had set our vision on our biggest project yet, to develop our Four Centres, the new homes for our Centre for Visual Art, our Centre for Trades and Technology, our Corporate Training Centre and our Centre for Innovation in Manufacturing.  

It was our commitment to be the leading comprehensive college serving learners through excellence and innovation and we needed to strategically prepare for growth.  Central Alberta was projecting huge growth into the decades ahead and we needed to be ready for it with facilities that could provide the much needed training for the people of our region.

In 2007 RDC received the largest ever private donation in our history from Jack and Joan Donald.  During this year we also received an $18 million government grant. The College was shifting focus from “growth” to “strategic growth” for specific program areas as well as with the use of our land.  Increasingly we were known as central Alberta’s community learning centre even as our region was becoming known as an attractive environment for living and learning, the envy of others around the world. We needed to be in a strong position for our students, business and industry.

The opening of the Four Centres took place in 2009, our 45th year.  After three years of building the facility was designed with a number of innovations.  All of the mechanical and structural systems were exposed so that students could learn in and learn from the building itself.  Designed with multiple open spaces, the space inspired collaboration and group learning.

The event was attended by more than 250 community members, supporters and RDC students, faculty and staff.  The recently retired president Woodward said at the event, “This expansion will create opportunities for RDC students and the communities of central Alberta,” l strengthening them.

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Establishing an Athletics Leadership Fund

We looked at strengthening our community in other ways as well.  If you’ve played team sports, you’ll know that being a member of an athletic team provides the opportunity for personal and leadership development.  In the mid-2000s we set out to develop a long term strategy to ensure our Athletics programs would remain sustainable, ensuring our proud legacy would go forward far into the future.

Created to develop and sustain leaders in our sports community with more tools, the Fund was established to provide ongoing support to our student athletes in all of our Athletic programs.   With honourary co-chairs of the Athletics committees, RDC alumni and hockey legends Mike Babcock and Melody Davidson lent their support.

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xlviii -Year 2000 Problem”, Wikipedia, retrieved January 29, 2015.
xlix - “Scripts at Work coming to an end,” Red Deer Advocate, December 29, 2014. Lana Michelin. Retrieved January 31, 2015
l - “Doors Officially Open at RDC’s Four New Learning Centres .” Celebrating 45 Years of Alumni Success.  Notebook, Fall 2009.