President's Installation Address
Good morning everybody.
Thank you all for being here today, and for those who are not used to being here, welcome to GPRC.
We are so pleased to see people from near and far, and we welcome those watching from home or wherever they are around the world on our livestream.
We are grateful to gather today on the traditional territory of Treaty 8 and value our strong partnership with our indigenous communities.
I would like to give specific recognition and thanks to both of my alma maters for being represented here today, and being represented by dear, lifelong friends – Dr. Judy Garber from UofA and Dr. Mark Spencer from Brock. And thank you to you both for not telling more detailed stories.
I also want to thank the number of family and friends that have made their way here today to celebrate this occasion with us. I want to thank the Board of Governors for their trust in me. I want to thank our staff, students and the entire GPRC team for having been so welcoming so far. And to the members of the community, that have welcomed me with open arms to Grande Prairie and the Peace Country.
I stand before you a humble and certainly an unlikely post-secondary president, but I believe the right President at the right time for GPRC.
I have never been one for following the traditional path – I’ve always had a mind to doing things differently, being true to myself and challenging the status quo and the stereotypical view of how one should progress or how things should be done. Some call that gumption, some others here, might call it being a pain in the butt.
I am known for hard work, for placing service above self, and I am most definitely not afraid of a challenge – I think those characteristics make me an ideal fit as a post-secondary President in the Peace Country.
It is a tremendous honour to take on this role, especially at this point in GPRC’s history – a time when our post-secondary institutions and some of the values we hold most dear are under threat, but also a moment of incredible opportunity for GPRC if we can act together toward the common goal of pursuing excellence in all that GPRC does.
We live in a world currently defined by polarization, conflict, complexity, change and a rebellion against truth. Where people once sacrificed their lives for the opportunity to pursue fact, truth and enlightenment, we see increasing trends of people actively working to decay the legitimacy of expertise and fact in the pursuit of likes, retweets, and shares.
We are also facing a global political realignment and economic upheaval. The normative foundations of the global order and international society that we have become accustomed to for more than 30 years with the western world as their driver have been thrust into peril. Our traditional means of surviving and thriving are being cast into doubt.
These shifts are manifesting themselves here at home in very real ways on a daily basis. Look no further than our province’s economic challenges, debates within our great country about our social and economic future, and the increasing divisions among Canadians. We see a province, country and world increasingly defined by separation and alienation.
At a more local and regional level, Grande Prairie and the Peace Country have seen recent growth and economic prosperity, but our economic and social challenges are not divorced from those across Alberta.
We are seeing changes in our regional economy. The power of disruptive technologies and advent of Industry 4.0, combined with the need for a diversified and sustainable economy, mean that training and education must shift to align with the needs of a rapidly evolving region and province.
It is in this context that GPRC, and post-secondary institutions more broadly, are as important now as they have ever been in human history.
The mission of our post-secondary institutions is unmistakable: we must be the conveyors of fact, hubs of research, drivers of innovation, centres of human progress, and spaces where solutions to the most pressing issues of our time can be freely pursued.
The radical transformation of our economy and society has beset us with unprecedented challenges and opportunities, and our post-secondary institutions need to answer the call to action.
Answering this call will require the courage to disrupt the status quo and to recognize that we must change as institutions in order to lead by example. Above all, we must ensure our sustainability and resiliency to enable us to address these issues, and to remain focused on the needs of our students and learners for what they will need to succeed in the future.
To do so, we must balance our respect for academic tradition with the need to challenge the convention of how post-secondary institutions have historically operated.
We recognize this will not be easy. There are hard decisions to be made but all with a mind to what GPRC looks like a decade from now, not today, and how it can best serve the needs of both its current and future students.
Ultimately, we have a moral and ethical obligation for GPRC to live up to the responsibility it has to the students and communities it serves by accepting the challenge to reinvent itself to accommodate our economic realities but still fulfilling its role as a centre of post-secondary excellence.
Our faculty and students are already rising to the challenge through the work being done at our campuses each and every day across all of our programs. Whether it is training the trades people and apprentices for Industry 4.0 and the future economy, the strides we are making in research, or providing opportunities for lifelong learning in upgrading or continuing education, GPRC has demonstrated itself as both a facilitator and enabler of economic and community success in the Peace Country and in Alberta.
As we look to the path before us, we must be focused and disciplined as an institution, if we hope to deliver on our call to action. I have been clear since my first day here at GPRC on how we will live up to our promise and the priorities that will guide our college through these tumultuous times.
The first priority is Modernization and Efficiency:
- To navigate our fiscal and social climate, we must lead by example – we will embrace the opportunities and challenges ahead for GPRC, and chart a path forward that respects our rich institutional history while adapting to the changing world around us.
- Circumstances require that we reinvent ourselves - reinventing ourselves now means investing in what GPRC will look like in 20 years.
- We must all do our part for GPRC to be a sustainable and resilient institution - planning is well underway to meet financial targets while protecting what makes GPRC great – we have already introduced new budget, planning, and internal governance processes designed specifically to meet the needs of the new reality.
- We will plan for the needs of learners and students, not for administration – this will mean less bricks and mortar, and more opportunity for all to access and leverage our platform – this requires both the modernization of our learning platforms but also our institutional business model, to truly become a 21st century institution.
- We must see the current reality as an opportunity to embrace change, be open to doing things differently, and innovate.
The second priority is Academic Excellence and Degree Granting:
- It is important that we redefine what we mean by ‘academic’. This means encouraging an approach to academics reflecting a broad spectrum of programming that respects traditional post-secondary academics but that also allows us to innovate for industry’s immediate needs and challenges.
- As we look to GPRC’s future, we must balance our traditional programming including trades, upgrading and apprenticeships with the opportunity to offer degrees. And make no mistake – we will offer degrees.
- The degrees that GPRC offers must be aligned to the economic needs of our region and province, and must be high quality degrees.
- We have heard loud and clear that our region’s economy requires us to be a strong centre for trades and apprenticeship programming, and we will continue to play an active role in those areas to ensure that our region and province have the skilled labour we need to develop our economy.
- As a post-secondary institution, we encourage our students to strive for excellence in their educational and life pursuits – we must model that quest for excellence as an institution.
The third priority is Economic and Community Development:
- We recognize that our responsibility as an institution does not end at the curb of our campus – our obligation starts at the curb of our campus when our faculty and students take the knowledge they have gained at the college into the community each and every day.
- Post-secondary institutions play an essential role in economic growth and development - innovation, research and development, talent attraction and retention, helping to develop local and regional brand and value propositions, and the contributions we make to overall quality of life are just some of the examples of how post-secondary institutions contribute to local, regional, provincial and federal economic development.
- Make no mistake - the future of this region’s economy is inextricably linked to GPRC, and we will play our part.
- We are more than just a college – we are a community builder, and we will step up where we can for the overall good of the communities we serve.
The fourth priority is Inclusion and Student Experience:
- GPRC must be a place where everyone can learn, work, and thrive. We want an unparalleled student experience for our learners, regardless of program or duration – an experience grounded in being safe, welcoming, rigorous, and rewarding for all; an experience where students can pursue multiple pathways to realize their dreams; and an experience that complements the academic with key areas of College culture such as Sport, Fitness and Wellness.
- This includes taking seriously our call to action on indigenous engagement and reconciliation – we will continue to work with our Friendship Centre and indigenous partners to ensure we are doing all we can to support and engage our indigenous communities.
- We will continue work on expanding mental health supports for students and staff, and integrate wellness into all that we do.
- A significant part of our modernization agenda that directly aligns with our inclusion agenda, is the intention to increase access to our programming through the expansion of our digital platform to reach all of the communities that we serve. This will allow us to reach more learners in our region, especially in northern and indigenous communities.
The fifth priority is Innovation and Partnerships:
- Disruption is coming to our post-secondary education sector and GPRC must lead the way in innovation across the region and be a leader provincially.
- Innovation applies to everything that we do at GPRC in all areas of our programming, research and work.
- We see innovation as constructive disruption - thinking and doing things differently, but with a purpose - to reach new levels of excellence by challenging the status quo, setting ambitious goals, and meeting them.
- We emphasize the role of applied research in translating innovation to industry and solving real-world problems. We embrace the role that colleges play as the intermediary between traditional research and practical application.
- It is imperative for us to form partnerships and strengthen our relationships with all orders of government, our K-12 education system, indigenous communities, business and industry to support our work and create unique opportunities for our students.
- Industry is made stronger when our faculty and learners collaborate with industry to innovate collectively.
I recognize there is a lot to do, but I look forward to working together to achieve what is possible for GPRC and realizing the vast potential we all know exists for the college.
I am here because I believe in the role that post-secondary institutions play in our overall human development, and I believe in the potential of GPRC in helping to advance our region and province.
I will close today with a Call to Action – I ask that you join us in working to advance our common interests and goals; help us inspire through collaboration and partnership – we are up to the challenges that lay ahead, but we cannot succeed alone – lifting the college means lifting our communities; investing in the college means investing in our future; remember that our success is interconnected and interdependent – be part of our team and join us.
Thank you and go Wolves!