With a year at the helm under his belt, Mount Royal University President David Docherty reflected on the past year and outlined his vision for the University at the annual fall address on Aug. 24.
“Last year at my fall address, I indicated that I would not be engaging in a slew of quick changes my first year here. I wanted to first get a better sense of the culture of Mount Royal. I wanted to listen and learn,” says Docherty. “I feel that I have learned and have a much better sense of the culture now than I did 12 months ago.”
Vision for the year ahead
In keeping with Mount Royal’s goal of becoming Canada’s premiere undergraduate university, Docherty stated that Mount Royal will maintain the strong teaching focus that the Institution is known for with a concentration on undergraduate programs.
“Mount Royal is, and will be, an undergraduate university. It will do so by continuing to emphasize teaching first and foremost. We are, and will be, a teaching university,” says Docherty.
“This places us in a very different category than most other Canadian universities who too often ignore how to integrate teaching and research, and instead leave undergraduates without the type of small class instruction and high-impact experiences that make their experience exceptional. We will not make that mistake.”
Docherty feels so strongly about the importance of teaching that this year you will also find the president in the classroom teaching a fourth year policy studies class.
An eventful year behind
While looking ahead, Docherty also reflected on the past year and highlighted a number of successes that the University enjoyed including: centennial celebrations, Convocation ceremonies, the introduction of full professorships and the work of the General Faculties Council, to name a few.
The first draft of the University Strategic Plan was presented at the last town hall in the spring and Docherty announced that a series of consultations on the strategic plan are scheduled, with the first occurring on Aug. 28. This will ensure the University community has plenty of opportunities to participate before the plan goes to the Board of Governors for approval.
Plans for the new Library and Learning Centre are moving forward with the government’s commitment confirmed. Docherty is optimistic that significant progress will occur in 2013.
As Docherty pointed out, this past academic year also saw some challenges, namely the controversy surrounding the former SAMRU student president, delays to construction of the Conservatory building (which is now scheduled to proceed over the next few weeks), and no doubt the biggest challenge to affect the University — budget cuts.
“I can tell you that no one wants to greet their first year in a leadership position by laying off staff. Personally, it was the worst day of my time at Mount Royal,” says Docherty. “And let’s be clear, the impacts are real and the community has a right to know what they are.”
In total, 24 positions were impacted by the budget cuts. The workload of several full-time staff positions was reduced, one retirement created a vacant position that will not be filled, five vacant positions were abolished (two faculty and three staff), and 10 people (nine staff and one faculty) left Mount Royal as a result of position abolishments.
“Although we tried to minimize the impact on individuals by eliminating vacant positions, there is still an impact to the University when we lose positions whether it was filled or not,” explains Docherty.
Several innovative measures were also employed to help keep costs down, such as converting empty residence rooms into apartment style units to be used as chargeable hotel rooms.
“With tuition increases capped by the province at 1.45 per cent, post-secondary institutions across Alberta will continue to face budgetary challenges over the next two years,” says Docherty, who forecasts that this year Mount Royal will need to find at least another $3 million in savings.
“We may not like the final decisions we have to make, and not everyone will emerge from this painful exercise pleased with the results, but I am committed to having more transparency so that no one will be able to say they were not consulted as part of the process.”
To close, Docherty emphasized the importance of what we do at Mount Royal — not only produce graduates, but citizens who will actively engage in society and act as ambassadors of our institution.
Docherty stressed the need to focus on student engagement by providing more opportunities for students to come to campus for class and engage in research opportunities and extracurricular activities that build citizenship.
“Mount Royal should be a community of citizens. And when we undertake initiatives, we need to ask ourselves — does this engender a sense of citizenship?” says Docherty.
“In 20 years time there will be a network of Mount Royal alumni across the province and the country that are recognized as true community leaders — that will be our legacy. They will be doing well financially, but just as critically, they will be giving back to the community.”
— Jondrea De Ruyter, Aug. 30, 2012