It was great to see everyone at Niagara Day. There is always a wonderful sense of anticipation and energy as we start the new academic year. We all share great pride as we begin what will be a very exciting but challenging year. I want to thank the entire college team for welcoming over 4,800 new and over 5,200 returning students. With the fall term now off to a strong start I wanted to share some contextual information and organizational changes with the college community.
As we have all experienced, the make-up of our student population has continued to change. The exceptional reputation of our College has led to significant growth in international enrolments. The international enrolment is diversified, with students coming from over 65 countries, in a great many of our programs. These students have added greatly to student life and the overall student experience. Our reputation for strong programs and exceptional focus on student success were key elements in obtaining the ability to launch our newest campus in Taif, Saudi Arabia.
At the same time as we have seen extraordinary international success, our local demographics combined with ever increasing competition across the post-secondary sector in Ontario has limited domestic growth. Sustaining our domestic enrolment is strategically imperative as it ties to our support for local industry and provincial funding. In the coming months, we will be launching numerous marketing and recruitment initiatives to assist in ongoing domestic recruitment success. These initiatives include the introduction of new online and video marketing initiatives, development of a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system and expansion of recruitment events and activities. As I mentioned at Niagara Day, as employees and ambassadors of Niagara College, we are all recruiters and I am very confident that we can improve our domestic enrolment in the future with the intent of matching the overall system domestic growth.
On the provincial front our government continues to support post-secondary education but within a very restricted financial situation. A provincial post-secondary funding review is underway that is likely to limit funding increases to the college sector. Revenue diversification, appropriate investments and planning will therefore remain top priorities for Niagara College. We will continue to build on our entrepreneurial nature to source funds outside of our provincial operating grants. We will also look to save funds, such as the recent $200,000 reduction in utility costs attained through conservation and controls.
In the Fall of 2013 I shared with you three major initiatives that will ensure that we are well positioned to meet these challenges and support our 2013-16 strategic plan:
TransformNC – This integrated planning process will help us prioritize programs and services in order to strengthen what we do well, help us to decide where we need to invest and improve areas that face challenges. Tier 1, the gathering of important data and the review of programs, services and business initiatives by a committee made up of faculty and staff, was started over the summer. The results will be shared with departments over the coming weeks. Tier 2, a deeper assessment in selected areas, will occur in the coming months.
Capital Vision – This plan will identify the facilities and e-learning environment required to support evolving and exceptional teaching. Architects have been hired and are renewing our facilities Master Plan with the goals of developing new teaching and learning spaces, student life and recreation facilities and road and grounds changes that include the replacement of the Black Walnut and Pavilion Buildings. Our focus on applied research will be supported with the construction of the Industry Innovation Centre addition to the Rankin Technology Center, to be completed by December 2015. To keep you up to date on the Capital Vision changes, a new website will be developed and Town Hall meetings will be held. The impact on programs and services will be developed and communicated through a series of department and divisional level meetings over the coming months.
Integrated Student Services Model – The goal of this initiative is to improve student retention, applicant conversion and the overall student experience. It will identify enhancements to services or their delivery to improve retention and assist student learning outside the classroom. It will also focus on services to applicants, to support recruitment goals and reinforce our brand. We have undertaken a comprehensive review of our existing services for students, benchmarked our services against other colleges and identified areas of potential improvement. Using both TransformNC and the Master Plan, we will now move forward to finalize a new enhanced and integrated delivery model, implemented over the next two to three years.
I am happy to report that we have moved forward significantly on all these initiatives. There has been input from numerous people, and all three initiatives will form the basis for much college dialogue over this fall. Our reputation for exceptional programs, services and facilities have been critical to our ongoing success and each of these initiatives is an important element in sustaining that success.
After reviewing our current operating environment and initiatives, there is a need to change our organizational structure. I am creating a new position, Vice President Business Development, focused on our strategic transformation priorities with a responsibility to strengthen our business development processes and opportunities. The position will be responsible for financial management and spearhead TransformNC and Capital Vision. I am pleased to appoint Teresa Quinlin to this new position. Teresa and her staff will work with the College team to build on our recent integrated risk management, sustainability and revenue diversification strategies.
The Vice President Corporate Services will retain responsibility for the major operational departments of Facilities Management, Information Technology and Human Resources. We will be proceeding with recruitment for this position immediately. In the interim, I have asked Teresa to continue to oversee these areas.
In April, Sean Kennedy Vice President, Student and External Relations was seconded full-time to international activities, including responsibility for leading the start-up of the Taif Campus. He will remain in this role until the end of March 2015 to lead the continued growth and development of our international activities. During this time, Rick Anderson will continue as Acting Vice President, Student Affairs.
I am also pleased to announce that Dean Dave Taylor has accepted the position of Campus Principal, Taif Campus. Dave will support the launch of our vocational programs next fall as well as the design of the final elements of the learning environment, which will be undertaken over the coming months. Steve Hudson will remain in the role of Vice President Academic. With Dave’s move, Fiona Allan will assume the position of Dean, Academic and Liberal Studies, including on-going responsibility for the School of Access Studies and Part-Time Studies. The other elements of Workforce Development will report directly to Steve.
Rob Walters, will assume new responsibilities as General Counsel, under the position of Special Advisor to the President and General Counsel. In addition to providing advice to the President and support to the Board of Governors, Rob will lead the College’s media and government relations functions and coordinate legal services for the College.
Click here to see a revised organizational chart.
The next few years will entail significant challenges and change for colleges and universities across Ontario. It will also be a period of opportunity for those post-secondary organizations able to respond effectively to the changing landscape through creative, flexible and collaborative strategies. I am confident that these organizational initiatives, in combination with the major projects we started last year, will position Niagara College for continued growth and success in offering unparalleled student experiences, programs and services.