Message from Dan Patterson: Major planning initiatives and interim executive team appointments

Dan PattersonWith the school year under way, I wanted to thank you all for what has been an exceptional start to the fall term. Our focus on enriching the lives and fulfilling the dreams of our students is reaching farther.  We all share the pride and excitement when talking about how we help our students succeed.

Even with the challenges that come with a record enrolment, collectively we have worked together to make it one of the best starts ever.  It is a testament to the strong team work we have developed here at Niagara College.

As a high performing team we need to continue to plan for our future successes, and I therefore want to shift to looking forward.  I want to introduce major planning initiatives and interim executive team appointments to assist us in planning the future growth of Niagara College. Following a period of significant growth, this spring Niagara College launched a new Strategic Plan to guide us over the next three years. Our Strategic Plan charts a clear course to solidify our position as a leader in applied education, where we provide unique learning environments, directly linked to our regional economy, driven by entrepreneurial thinking and guided by a culture that supports new ideas and innovation.

In conjunction with implementing the goals set out in the Strategic Plan, we need to be continuously looking at how to maintain our dedication to unparalleled student experience and satisfaction, leading innovation and applied research and operational excellence.

Therefore, I am excited to today announce key initiatives that will advance our strategic goal of operational excellence and ensure we are equipped with the necessary information to respond to our increasing internal and external pressures.  These pressures flow from our growth, the economy and the expectations of the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU).

As we look to the future there is a need to ensure that we can strengthen what we are doing well, focus on where to invest, and reinvent or improve areas where challenges have been identified that may impede our students’ success and overall experiences at the College. We started some of this work this past spring with a review of front line student services which will result in a new integrated student services model.  The process to date has shown the value of stepping back and looking at all services and programs we provide and we have determined this is our best course of action.

The major capital additions to the College, completed in 2011, gave considerable additional capacity for enrolment. Much of this capacity has now been utilized, with a further 5.9% increase in full-time enrolment in the fall of 2013, bringing our total enrolment to over 10,000 full time students.  We have responded to this growth by adding staff and supports for students but have recognized that a larger strategic review is required.

The Ministry of Training, College and Universities has also given impetus to our need to complete a planning project. MTCU has indicated that it will soon release a differentiation framework for the post-secondary sector. This framework is expected to require universities and colleges to define their areas of specialization.  It will build on the Strategic Mandate Agreement developed last year, where institutions were required to identify their priorities and the metrics they would use to assess their progress.

INTEGRATED PROGRAM AND SERVICE PLANNING PROJECT

In looking for a best practice to undertake a college-wide planning project, Algonquin College’s Strategic Programs and Services Planning Project (SPSP) was identified as one that met our needs and would be effective in our culture. Niagara College will undertake an Integrated Program and Service Planning Project (IPSPP). This planning process focuses on gathering quality data about our programs and services within a framework that allows us to focus on continuous improvement by:

  • developing  metrics for evaluation of our programs and services;
  • identifying areas of strength for investment and enhancement; and
  • highlighting areas and processes requiring improvement.

It will be a consultative process providing opportunities for participation by staff, students and faculty. This initiative will engage the total college community and a separate, more detailed communiqué will set out its parameters in the near future.

CAPITAL DEVELOPMENT PROJECT

A second initiative will be undertaken to fully develop our next phase of capital development, captured under the project title Capital Vision 2016. This initiative will develop the important capital building plan to deal with our growing enrolments and to ensure we continue to be among the leaders for providing quality learning environments for our students. It will do this while also looking forward to more intensive use of facilities including the use of extended hours and more use of the spring term. Beyond just buildings, it will also delve into the overall information technology capital needed to support the College, based on the depth and nature of e-learning available to engage our students.

The overriding goal for both of these initiatives will be to enhance our reputation for excellence and leadership in the college system.  They will also ensure that we have a framework to make investment decisions that align our various goals in the most effective manner possible. We will need to have commitment and support from the whole College community in order to accomplish the initiatives in a timely fashion.

INTERIM EXECUTIVE TEAM APPOINTMENTS

To ensure the focused time and oversight required for these key initiatives to be successful, I have asked Vice President Teresa Quinlin to assume the new leadership role of Vice President, Finance & Strategic Planning for the next six months.  The new portfolio will include the Office of Planning and Institutional Research, which was formerly within the Associate Vice President’s role of Communications and Strategic Planning.

Teresa’s extensive experience at Niagara College and her network outside the college will allow us to aggressively enter into the planning process. The combination of Strategic Planning with Finance, which has long supported analysis requirements for various studies, will provide the core staffing for the planning project. The work undertaken by Teresa and her team, to gather key information and metrics, will position us for further growth and will allow us to effectively plan for any changes that may arise out of the MCTU differentiation framework.

While Teresa takes on her revised responsibilities over the next six months, I am pleased that Mike Trojan, former Chief Administrative Officer for the Region of Niagara, will assume an interim Vice President role. Mike will be Vice President – Administrative Services for the next six months with management responsibilities for Facilities Management, Human Resources, Parking & Security, Information Technology and Marketing & Communications.  Mike has significant experience working on all aspects of administrative services while engaged in the municipal sector for the past 35 years.  Most recently, he served 27 years with the Region of Niagara.  Mike’s biography can be found here.

Over the coming six months I will also be reviewing the responsibilities of each Executive Team member with a view to ensuring the portfolios meet future needs. I expect the planning process to provide considerable insight to my deliberations.

Niagara College is recognized as one of the most successful colleges in Ontario, with a reputation for strong programs, exceptional student satisfaction and distinctive programs. I am confident that the projects I outlined above will set the stage for our next decade of success. I want to thank Teresa for taking on this role and welcome Mike to the Niagara College family.

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