Connections and collaboration essential for RDC’s new President
I believe that Red Deer College is a pillar in this community. That’s one of the many things that initially attracted me to this institution.
When I was first learning about RDC and the central Alberta region, I realized there was a special opportunity here to work closely with community members. Coming from Vancouver Community College, where I served as President, we had made positive connections with our community. But at RDC, I saw there was an opportunity to become more closely connected to the larger central Alberta region. By working together and listening to what the community at large wants from this college, we can make an incredible difference.
Another pivotal reason that I came to Red Deer College was the opportunity to be part of the university transition. I have a wide familiarity with post-secondary institutions from my past experiences at the university, university-college and college settings. I have worked and led organizations and teams at all of these levels, and I’m excited about the path that RDC is on. Our future model is unique in that we’re not talking about a traditional university. By keeping the range of credentials that we currently offer and adding degrees, we will be maximizing the opportunities for our students.
I believe in the value of a college education, first and foremost, as a way to prepare students for the work force, and we never want to lose this. In my family, all three of my children are currently in post-secondary, and my middle daughter is a great example of the importance of a college education. She started in a Bachelor of Science program, but was concerned about her job prospects. She then transferred to a Laboratory Sciences Technologist Diploma and has had great success in this program, including an amazing co-op experience.
This example demonstrates the need to have a wide range of opportunities for students, including applied and hands-on knowledge in all of our programs. As we develop our own degrees, we will always keep the ideas of work integrated and experiential learning, as well as practicums and co-ops in mind. This will help our students across all of our programs to transition seamlessly to the workplace. We’re at an important time, when even more students from the region will be able to stay in Red Deer and complete their education in Red Deer, graduating with degrees. We want to prepare our students and graduates for the wider world, but we also want them to have opportunities to learn and to work right here in central Alberta.
We’re evolving as an institution, and we’re doing this at a time when there is an increasing need for post-secondaries to establish their own revenue streams to be continuously financially stable. This will require innovative thinking as we move forward, and that’s an area that I’m passionate about. For me, innovation has many components, and an important one is considering how we can repackage the education that we offer. What do our programs and credentials look like moving forward? Are we maximizing blended and distance options, and offering pieces of traditional education in ways that make sense for our students? Another area we will be looking at is our international student population and how to establish a balanced approach to increase international registrations. All of these questions require a lot of out-of-the-box thinking, but they are important topics to consider as we look to the university of our future.
As we have these conversations, it is absolutely essential that students are at the table. It may sound trite, but none of us would be here if it weren’t for the students. They come first in everything we do. I pride myself on the relationships that both my leadership teams and I have developed with student unions in the past, and I look forward to working with our Students’ Association and students as we plan RDC’s future together.
When we consider the future, it’s my vision to ensure we never lose sight of where we’ve come from. While honouring our history, we want to create a legacy of Red Deer University being an institution that’s virtually self-sustaining. We also want people to look at Red Deer as the first choice for post-secondary education in the region, and we will work with our community members to benefit RDC and all of central Alberta.
This past June, I came to RDC for my announcement as the new President, and I was amazed at the number of people who were in attendance. This really reinforced to me how many people will be counting on me. I know – and am very appreciative – of the fact that I will be part of a team at Red Deer College, but I still take my responsibility as President very seriously. There is important work to be done here over the next few years, and I look forward to undertaking it together.
This column was first published in Red Deer Advocate on September 7, 2019.