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President's Fall Address - Aug. 28, 2013

Well, it has been a heck of a year since my last Fall Address — definitely not what any of us had anticipated or would ever have asked for. That said, it was also a year that forced us to think hard about what Mount Royal University does and where we are going.

More about that later, but first, thank you all for being here today. I’d like to begin by formally introducing Mount Royal’s new Provost and Vice-President Academic, Kathryn Shailer. Kathy, would you please stand so people can put a face to the name? As most of you know, Kathy joins us from OCAD University in Ontario, but she also brings experience in BC, Manitoba and Alberta. Despite our present challenges, we know we have a tremendous future at Mount Royal and I know Kathy is looking forward to being a big part of that future.

I’d also like to welcome our new Dean of the Faculty of Continuing Education and Extension, Charles Webber. Charles comes to us from Thompson Rivers University and, prior to that, the University of Calgary. Charles, will you also stand? Welcome to Mount Royal!

There are a number of areas I want to cover today and I want to leave plenty of time for your questions and for discussion. So I’ll begin with a brief recap of last year’s highlights and challenges, and then talk about the current post-secondary environment. I’ll conclude with how I see Mount Royal in this environment and talk about some initiatives we might engage in over the next year.

One highlight from last year was the record number of students who graduated in Spring 2013 — more than 1,570. Another was the launch of the new Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science. We are also moving forward in our proposals for several new degrees.

Faculty of Arts student Tristan Symth was selected as one of 10 3M National Student Fellows – a first for Mount Royal University and one of the first Albertan students to receive this award.

Cougar Athletics teams were tremendously successful in their first full year of competition in the Canada West and Canadian Interuniversity Sport conferences. Just one example is our women’s volleyball team: they finished with a 14 – 8 regular season record; a post-season berth; and the naming of Carolyn O’Dwyer as Rookie of the Year. And for the first time, we also had Colton de Man from Men’s Volleyball represent Team Canada at the FISU World University games.

It was the inaugural year for the Crowchild Classic, which pitted the MRU Cougars against the University of Calgary Dinos in 17 regular season games in basketball, volleyball, hockey and soccer. The Dinos captured the first Crowchild Classic and the annual challenge returns in September One of the highlights of the challenge again this year will be men’s and women’s hockey at the Saddledome on February 6th.

Other firsts include the creation of the Talisman Chair for Sustainability and the Environment and the opening of the Institute for Sustainability and the Environment; the launch of the Talisman Energy Centennial Scholarship, which supports Aboriginal students in the Faculty of Science and Technology; and the creation of the Harry G. Schaefer Mentorship Program.

As well, Mount Royal students, faculty, staff and administrators participated in Mo-vember and raised more than $40,000 towards men’s health and mental health. And, more than 75 members of the Mount Royal community marched for the first time in Calgary’s Pride Parade — and of course I invite you to join me for this year’s parade on September 1.

In last year’s address, I named General Faculties Council as one of the highlights of the 2011/2012 academic year, and it was a highlight in 2012/2013 as well. Not only is it the forum for academic discussion at Mount Royal, it is also maturing as a very positive parliament where important questions on academic freedom were raised and will continue to be discussed. Last year saw great debate by GFC on continuance and many other issues.

All of these debates have demonstrated that GFC does not have to be a matter of one side versus the other, but rather people bringing a variety of respectful views to the table that help determine the best academic interest of the University.

I believe GFC was probably at its best when it debated the suspension of intake to eight academic programs as part of Mount Royal’s response to the provincial budget cuts. For me, GFC’s discussion highlighted two things: first, the thoughtfulness and understanding of faculty members in debating this very difficult issue and second, that we need to re-examine our policies in light of the responsibilities of our bi-cameral system. This is because members of GFC voted in the only way they believed they could, based on interpreting our policies. But this could potentially handcuff future program changes, even if those changes are only temporary suspensions to allow larger changes to be made. In my capacity as Chair of GFC, I will suggest that this is something GFC could look at this fall.

On a more personal note, I was pleased to see great participation in my monthly informal meetings with faculty, staff, and managers. The president of the Students’ Association and I also held four town halls with students, and all of these meetings were a great opportunity for me to have face-to-face conversations with people from across the campus community on all sorts of issues and questions.

Not only did I learn a great deal, but some of the best sessions involved sharing of information among staff, or managers, or faculty — especially among people who might not see each other on a day-to-day basis. I certainly look forward to continuing those meetings.

In terms of my own work, I was able to fulfill my goal of returning to teaching and I really enjoyed my class. As it turned out, it was more of a reading course with only a few students, but it allowed me to keep my hand in teaching, and that’s something I will continue this year.

As well, I was thrilled to acknowledge the research assistance of two of our Policy Studies students recently when I sent off a chapter for an edited book. I am trying to stay involved in research, but I would not be able to do so without excellent student RA’s.

Last year I also struck two presidential task forces.

The Task Force on Student Mental Health met regularly over the year and produced an excellent document that prioritizes many recommendations for improving student mental health, decreasing stigma, and building a support system for students with mental health struggles. I have asked Brian Fleming to coordinate an implementation committee to develop a multi-year plan that will address the findings and recommendations of the Task Force -- more about this in the coming weeks and months. But today, I want to thank the Director of Wellness Services, Kandi McElary, who chaired the Task Force, and each of the faculty, students, staff, managers, deans and directors who contributed as part of the Task Force and its working groups, action groups and focus groups.

When I established the Task Force, I also indicated the next step would be to examine a similar task force on faculty and staff mental health. I remain committed to this and I will be meeting with the task force leaders and Human Resources to discuss the best approach to achieving this goal, using the great work done by the Student Mental health Task Force as a starting point.

In the meantime, let’s use the report of the Task Force on Student Mental Health as a reminder that each of us shares responsibility for creating a healthy and safe environment at Mount Royal. In the near future, you’ll be able to find the Task Force report and recommendations posted on the President’s page of Mount Royal’s website, and I encourage you to use it as a check list for every new Mount Royal initiative.

Let’s keep student mental health top-of-mind as we work to support the success of our students, and let’s continue to help students find ways to manage stress, address anxiety and depression, and live well. Let’s continue to lobby the government to make sure they understand that the mental health of Mount Royal students is every bit as important as students at other Alberta universities; and let us make sure that students can talk about their mental health challenges in a forum devoid of stigma and full of compassion.

The second presidential task force examined campus sustainability. This task force also met several times during the academic year and reached out to the campus community for input. I anticipate their report in early October and will update you later this fall. We continue to want to “green” our campus and to lessen our own environmental footprint — not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because there are significant savings that can be netted from thinking about the environment and from striving for sustainable development in all we do.

One question I know is on a lot of people’s minds is about changes to our food service operations on campus. Let me spend a couple of minutes on this because these changes will impact many of us.
Mount Royal had a food services contract with Sodexo that was set to expire in 2015. Within that contract, Sodexo had the option to extricate themselves from their contractual obligations and, as Mount Royal’s Associate Vice President, Business and Retail Services, Mike Reed, outlined in his recent emails to all staff, Sodexo is leaving Mount Royal.

This was their decision, not ours, and it is an amicable parting. Sodexo and Mount Royal are working closely to make the transition as smooth as possible, and I do want to acknowledge the contribution that Sodexo has made to Mount Royal over nearly a quarter of a century. It is rare that an external food service provider has such a long and consistent relationship with a post-secondary, and I want to thank them for the service they have provided.

One result of Sodexo’s departure is that we made the decision to close Herb’n Market. In the short term, we are bringing in another food service operator, Chartwell’s, to run the Tim Horton’s, the Starbucks and the Garrison Café in the Roderick Mah Centre for Continuous Learning. The two Jugo Juice locations on campus will remain open, and will be run by a Jugo Juice operator who is effectively renting space from us.

As a result of Sodexo’s decision, there will be some inconvenience to members of the Mount Royal community for the upcoming academic year. For most of us, on a day-to-day basis, it will not be too great an impact. We will miss Herb’n Market, and we will miss the many Sodexo employees who were like family. Some may be leaving with Sodexo; others may be staying here and working in different capacities.

The biggest impact will be catered services. Through the Students’ Association, Wyckham House will be able to meet some, but not all, of the demand for catering, so it may be that — for the next eight months — there are fewer catered lunches and fewer meetings with coffee. At the same time, Supply Chain is working with Events and Conference Services to create a preferred list of external caterers for larger meetings, conferences and external bookings in Mount Royal spaces. But, bottom line, if your department or unit plans catered events, they may be a bit more expensive than in the past.

Another impact will be felt in ordering and serving liquor at institutional events, which was another service provided by Sodexo. Once again, however, this gives us an opportunity to consider whether we need liquor service for specific events. In fact, I have been told that there were 63 Mount Royal events last year where alcohol was served and, of these, 23 events sold fewer than 10 drinks.

I would like to thank Mike Reed and his team for their hard work in finding catering solutions for this academic year. That team has now begun preparations for engaging a new service provider for the long term. Mike will be leading an examination of Mount Royal’s food service and catering needs, and he’ll be leading research into best practice at other universities. In the coming months, there will be broad consultation across campus as we explore current catering requirements and consider how better to integrate our hospitality-related services.

Another hard-working group I want to acknowledge is the Budget Advisory Committee, which is a standing committee made up of the Executive and representatives from faculty, staff, students and management. The Committee meets as required during the annual budget process and they did a wonderful job this past year. It was constructive; it was positive and it came up with many initiatives that all but dealt with our original challenge of finding $3 million in savings while miminizing the impact on the campus community.

A number of the ideas from BAC were long term revenue generating initiatives. We will be pursuing some of these long-term recommendations such as exploring how we can expand our conferences and events activity on campus to increase revenue and ensure maximum use of our campus facilities during the academic year and summer months when more space is available.

Yet, as I’m sure you may remember from numerous presentations that our Vice-President of Administrative Services, Duane Anderson and I gave at town halls leading up to the provincial budget last March — we knew we would be facing some difficult choices. For one thing, the compounding impact of the 2010 funding freeze hit Mount Royal harder than any other post-secondary in Alberta because it came just as we were due to receive the bulk of funding committed by the government for the implementation of our new degrees. I don’t need to tell most of you the impact of trying to provide quality university-level programming on college-level funding. We have been living it for three plus years. Still, the sizeable budget challenge we had anticipated was nowhere near the actual challenge that faced us when, on March 7, the provincial government announced its cuts of 7.3% to base operating grants.

Of the many unfortunate changes those cuts have brought about, one of the very first was our ability to continue working on the budget in the same consultative manner we had been following prior to the budget announcement.

As I’m sure you remember, the months following that budget announcement were awful months. I heard from many of you that my commitment to communicating decisions about the budget first to the Mount Royal community was an important one — and I am renewing that commitment to you today.

Let me spend a few minutes on the present state of our budgetary affairs and what we will be facing in the coming months.

First, it is worth remembering that we did achieve a balanced budget for 2013/14. But we do continue to face challenges in 2014/15 and beyond, though this may change if the support from government changes in a positive way.

It’s also important to remind ourselves of the impacts to our day-to-day work as a direct result of the budget cuts. We have made adjustments on campus to reduce utility costs, and we have introduced austerity measures for various university expenses, such as reducing per diems for meals while on university-approved business.

Unfortunately, some areas were forced to cut staff, and every single faculty, department and division within the University will be looking at how we will accomplish what we need to accomplish with the resources we have.

Services that we have come to depend on in our daily routine may take longer than before. For example, when you call ITS to set up accounts or help with computer issues, it is very likely that your request will not be resolved that day – you will have to wait. While we anticipated reduced levels of service with the cuts, now that the budget decisions have been implemented, we are experiencing some unanticipated challenges. We are aware of issues resulting from the cutbacks to the custodial contract, particularly with respect to room set-ups and the resulting impact on booking space. We are working to resolve the issues where we can, but we all need to understand that the same level of service cannot be provided with less support.

The most important message and request I can make to everyone is …… BE PATIENT with one another. Things are not as they once were. Things will take longer to get done; there will be new procedures for requesting some services; there will be new charges for other services; and we will all need to change our expectations.

So please, whether you are requesting a service or providing a service, be considerate of each other as we all adjust to these new ways of working.

During the budget discussions to determine how we were going to deal with the 7.3% reduction to our Campus Alberta grant, we knew that we would not be the only institution facing fiscal challenges. As we started to discuss our proposed actions, we also realized we were first out of the gate and much media attention was focused on us. Many of you have probably seen recent stories in the media with respect to the fiscal challenges at other post-secondary institutions in Alberta. The U of A circulated a notice to students and staff last week indicating that the university plans to cut $56 million from their budget over the next two years. This is in addition to the $28 million in reductions set to take place this fall. Although the U of C was able to forego major cuts in 2013-14, they announced a number of program suspensions in the Faculty of Arts and will be making major cuts over the next two years. The U of L announced plans for 11 furlough days and administration is currently working through the process for implementation.

So – as you can see, higher education in Alberta has been hit hard and our challenges are not over. Based on current assumptions, Mount Royal will be facing a $3.6 million budget shortfall next year. Fortunately, the hard work by BAC last year will provide a good framework and preliminary recommendations to help us address this challenge. As before, I am committed to keeping you apprised as we move forward.

You should also be aware that all post-secondary institutions in Alberta, including Mount Royal, were required to change our method of financial reporting, thanks to a legislated change in accounting standards.

These changes in accounting rules will be reflected in the June 30, 2013 Audited Financial Statement. The changes use new terminology, such as “accumulated operating surplus,” which joins several stand-alone categories of the University’s operations into one combined amount. What this means is we have to show certain non-cash, internally funded investments in items such as furniture, equipment and facilities as part of the University’s newly categorized “accumulated operating surplus.” As a result, when Mount Royal releases our audited financial statements in October, it will look like we are sitting on tens of millions of dollars in surplus funds. But, of course, we do not have tens of millions of surplus dollars.

Now, like many of you, when talk of amortization comes up, I begin to play a great game of baseball in my head. But, as we communicated earlier this year, the change in accounting practices will make us look like we have an operating surplus of approximately 8.9 million dollars for the June 30 2013 fiscal year.

However, the majority of that amount is the direct result of how the Board directed the University to invest our long-term and restricted investment funds. This change creates a one-time realization of an investment gain which shows up as an operating surplus.

Duane can provide more information on this change in accounting practices at a later town hall, or in today’s Q and A, but I wanted to let you know that this one-time change in our restricted investments does not provide us with any ongoing funds to address future budget challenges. But it does provide us some one-time dollars which we can use in two ways. First, to add to our restricted funds, which we need for critical or unforeseen capital needs for the University, such as fixing or replacing equipment that is not functioning properly.

The second way is to make strategic one-time investments that will save money in the longer term or generate future ongoing operating revenue for the University.
I also want to spend a couple of minutes of reflection on the June flood and the impact that it had on the Mount Royal community.

While our campus itself was not directly impacted by flood waters, we all know people, some in this hall, whose homes were damaged. We also know people, some in this hall, who volunteered countless hours to help neighbours and strangers alike. It truly was a demonstration of the worst of Calgary weather and the best of Alberta citizenship.

If there was one silver lining to the flood, it was timing — the fact that it occurred after our students had left residence. That meant we had plenty of space to help evacuees. And help we did, offering shelter to many vulnerable Calgarians who had nowhere else to turn to for assistance.

Many were evacuated without a change of clothes, without their medication, and without other necessities, and I want to particularly thank Chad London, the Nursing faculty and many others who stepped into the immediate breach and made sure that those that needed their medication and other supports received them as soon as possible.

In fact, there are so many people I want to acknowledge for their heroic work in responding to the flood. Thanks to Mount Royal’s Emergency Operations Centre team which worked closely with the Calgary Emergency Management Agency throughout the entire state of emergency.

Thanks also to Steve Fitterer and the Residence staff, many of whom are our students. Not only did they work their tails off to house as many people as possible, but they also dealt with people humanely, assisted those who had mobility and medical issues, and were compassionate throughout.

Facilities and ITS worked across the institution to find space and to mobilize space for many external organizations including the Alberta Emergency Management Agency and the Red Cross, as well as our colleagues from Bow Valley College, who were unable to operate out of their downtown campus.

And, when Prince’s Island was flooded, Doug Rathbun, Acting Chair of the Theatre program and other members of the department worked to make it possible for Shakespeare in the Park to move its performances to our campus.

Our Recreation team did a great job both on the ground and on standby in case additional space was required.

And, last but not least, Sodexo deserves a great deal of thanks for their work in supplying food for hundreds. The first 48 hours were chaotic, but Sodexo handled it so professionally that an outsider would have thought this was just another day at the office. One story that hit the heartstrings of many of us was the unique way Sodexo dealt with the problem of people taking extra food away with them after eating a provided meal. Sodexo immediately posted menus for two days of meals — breakfast, lunch and dinner — and the amount of food taken decreased dramatically. But what a message. Sodexo recognized that many of those people staying with us were not used to having three nutritious meals a day.

Overall, this crisis in our community enabled Mount Royal to test our Emergency Response Plan in a live event. The members of that team worked very long days and nights to show the broader Calgary community that we are here to help when we are needed. To all who were part of Mount Royal’s response to this devastating event, again I say, thank you.

This was the beginning to an extremely busy and eventful summer at Mount Royal. While many may think the summer is a time that the campus slows down, in actual fact the institution is in full gear working on many key aspects of ensuring the ongoing smooth operations of the institution. All of the service areas were extremely busy over the summer working on the behind the scene activity to gear up for the upcoming academic year. It is impossible for me to capture all of the activity in the time available so I will highlight just a few to demonstrate the type of work that occurs in these areas.

There has been a change in the reporting structure of the Iniskim Centre. It will now become a part of Student Affairs and Campus Life. This change is the result of some discussions that began last year, recognizing that the primary inter-campus relationships within Iniskim are with areas in the SACL group – housing, wellness, counselling, career services. Of course, there will remain close ties with the Registrar’s office, etc. but we see this as an opportunity to increase student success within Iniskim.

Physical Resources undertook a number of renovations and facilities upgrades throughout campus. They also planned and coordinated the massive task of moving faculty and staff from the Westmount campus to the Lincoln Park campus, and they were involved in the ongoing construction of the new home for the Conservatory and The Bella Concert Hall.

Information Technology Services planned and completed renewals and replacements for faculty, staff and student computers as well as the network backbone/infrastructure to support University operations.

In mid-August, I was proud to attend an event as students from Mount Royal and the University of Calgary celebrated the completion of their solar house, Borealis. They are now ready to enter it in the 2013 Solar Decathlon competition, a prestigious international competition that pits 20 student teams against each other to design a solar-powered home — then build it from scratch — then demonstrate how it operates comfortably and efficiently. I think Team Alberta has created a solid contender.

So after all that happened this past year, what do we have to look forward to this year? Externally, there are a number of issues we need to prepare for.

It’s clear that post-secondary education in Alberta will remain on the front burner for the foreseeable future. The budget decisions were just a piece of the jigsaw puzzle that it still being put together. In July, Alberta’s Auditor General released his annual report, in which he raised questions about Campus Alberta, its past results, and the government’s seeming lack of a strategic approach. This report has served as a catalyst among post-secondary Presidents and the Ministry of Enterprise & Advanced Education for future actions.

The Auditor General also noted a lack of academic and financial oversight in Medicine Hat College’s International Education Division, and this has made the public re-examine the role of international education and has raised governance issues with college and university boards.

Plus, the aftermath of the flood has provoked the government to increase enrolment at PSI’s, but only within a restricted set of programs. The future budgetary situation is up in the air and, while the province has requested three years of zero per cent increases, it is also talking about finding more resources for our sector.

Add all of this up, and the next year looks like it could be as eventful as this past one, and these events could well foreshadow a number of potential upsides for Mount Royal.

First, the budget cuts brought the Presidents of all post-secondaries together in a common cause — namely to stress the importance of post-secondary education. We have had several meetings with each other and several meetings with the Minister of Enterprise Advanced Education. There are some areas that the government hopes to re-examine, with the understanding that strong consultation with the community is important. The presidents have emphasized the need to review the funding model for the system and the Government continues to talk about moving to results-based budgeting. It is uncertain at this point how the discussions on key issues for the system will progress or how consultation may occur, but we have been assured that there will be further discussions.

As far as the funding formula goes, I think it is critical that Mount Royal gets the point across about a formula that sees our university receive only 4.5% of Alberta post-secondary funding but produce 6.5% of the graduates needs to be changed. I am not sure if there is appetite beyond Mount Royal gates to revisit past decisions — namely, that 2010 funding freeze — but the differential must be recognized going forward.

I mentioned earlier that the government is providing some funding for increased enrolment in particular programs as a result of the June floods. There are two categories: high demand programs and programs which reflect institutional priorities. High demand programs are those that address critical labour force pressures identified in the Alberta Short-Term Employment Forecast that is prepared in consultation with industry groups. Many of the programs listed are engineering related.

Institutional priority programs are those that have been identified in recent Comprehensive Institutional Plans and align with Enterprise and Advanced Education priorities described in the 2012 Campus Alberta Planning Resource. Ideally, proposals in this category will respond to documented employer needs, demonstrate collaboration, promote transferability and student mobility, and leverage existing investments in instructional resources and facilities.

Unfortunately, we were given very little notice of this program and the timeline to submit proposals to the ministry is very short. We will be putting in two proposals, though I can guarantee that there will be many more proposals from across the province than there will be funding.

Our proposal is a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science at Keyano College in Fort McMurray. Well before the government’s announcement of the new funding, our Faculty of Science and Technology had been working with Keyano on a transfer agreement in Environmental Science. We are exploring innovative options such as state-of-the-art video lab conferencing and six-week intensive courses on either campus.

We are also moving forward on our fourth year for Interior Design. This is a one-of-a-kind program in Alberta; it is a highly skilled program; and its graduates are in great demand across the province. We are hopeful that we will soon add it as another four-year degree program to our present offerings.

Other items on the front burner this academic year?

I know I sound like the movie Groundhog Day, but I am absolutely convinced that we will see construction commence on the Library and Learning Centre this spring. The process has felt been frustratingly slow, but we have made progress at every turn. Three years ago we had nothing. A year and a half ago we had an election promise. With the spring budget we had a timetable — albeit not the one we desired. Now we are in very serious discussions with the province on upping the timetable. I am confident that we will begin construction during this academic year.

When that construction begins, it will essentially wrap up Phase I of a Campus Master Plan that is quickly becoming outdated. Not only has our campus changed since the plan was updated four years ago, but the community around us has changed as well. Canada Lands is moving forward quickly with their Currie Barracks development, and the ATCO lands and WestMount developments are also rapidly moving forward.

So, this fall, we will be re-examining our Campus Master Plan. We will consider the best use of our land and what opportunities there are for partnerships, mixed use buildings, planned new buildings and better people flow across campus.

There’s one critical consultation that I believe is important for Mount Royal’s future. Last fall, we held back-to-back town halls to introduce a draft institutional strategic plan. For those in attendance at either one, you will recall it was an instant hit — a shining example of how top-down planning can truly work.

But in all seriousness, both sessions were incredibly instructive, and we actually went away and spent a great deal of time making changes to the document.

And then, of course, the budget came; our strategic plan was put on the back burner; and our university changed. Today we are doing things differently in our day-to-day operations. We have fewer certificate and diploma programs. Our campus is changing. Our faculty are changing as a result of both growth and change.

Some of that change was expected; for example, we introduced new programs on our campus and took existing programs to other campuses.

Other changes were not expected, and were forced by the need to meet last year’s budget challenges. With this new academic year comes the need — and the opportunity — to be more reflective — to slow down and really think about what we do, and how we do it. And that is the role of an institutional strategic plan.

In most universities, an institutional strategic plan sets the stage for academic and services that follow. It sets an aspirational tone that speaks to both an external and internal community. At Mount Royal, the process of building an institutional strategic plan provides us the opportunity to talk about where we see Mount Royal in the future. What type of new programming will we want? What type of campus environment do we want to create? What is our vision of Mount Royal and what type of student do we want to graduate? What type of services do we offer, both internally and externally? How do we want to be known?

Many of you will recognize similar questions were asked when we created our Academic Plan for 2012 through 2017 and, indeed, the new institutional strategic plan will expand on our Academic Plan, our Strategic Research Plan, and our Student Services plan, expand the timeframe to 2020, and set the direction for the next versions of these plans. It will serve as an umbrella and under that umbrella will be academic programs, student service programs, administrative services and development, each with their own strategic plans within the broader context.

So today, I am announcing that we will form a cross-campus strategic planning steering committee to be made up of faculty, staff, managers and students. I will chair the committee, tentatively called Foresight is 2020, and I will be making a call for representation from the Mount Royal campus community.

Together, the committee will start from the ground up and begin forming an institution-wide strategic planning process that speaks to where we want to be in the year 2020. At the very first meeting of the steering committee, we will examine how other universities engaged in a campus wide strategic plan and then determine our process.

As you may recall, I concluded last year’s Fall Address by sharing my vision for Mount Royal University. That vision is of a legacy of citizens — a network of Mount Royal alumni who are recognized as true community leaders. As we work towards becoming Canada’s premier undergraduate university based on the satisfaction and success of our students, I see Mount Royal’s reputation being built on the excellence of our faculty, the commitment of our staff, and the long-term achievements of our graduates.

So I have my views on what is important to Mount Royal, and now it’s time to hear from the campus community and from the external community. That consultation will begin as soon as September 19, when all members of the Mount Royal community are invited to a Town Hall meeting that will help kick off our strategic planning.

The town hall will feature a keynote address by Carl Honoré, who is author of a book called The Slow Fix. His talk will be followed by a discussion led by our new Provost, Kathy Shailer. Seats are still available and you have until Friday to RSVP by contacting Ameline Guillot.

There will, of course, be more consultations over the next academic year, and I invite and encourage you each to get involved; to bring an open mind; and to share your thoughts and aspirations for Mount Royal University in the year 2020.

So now I’ll close this address and officially launch this academic year. Welcome back, thank you for coming today and thanks to each of you for your hard work and for your dedication to Mount Royal University; to your colleagues; and to our students.

To continue with the practice I started last year, I like to conclude all of my meetings and public addresses to the community with one or two good news stories. I have taken a lot of your time already and I do want to leave plenty of time for questions, so I will conclude with just one good news item:

This fall, for the first time, we will have applicants for a Rhodes Scholarship. We have had Rhodes Scholar worthy students before, but this is the first time we will have students apply who meet the qualifications. I know that their records are also a testament to the tremendous teaching we provide and the campus environment that places student success first and foremost.

This is a truly significant step for us and one more indicator that we are truly Canada’s Premier Undergraduate University.

Thank you.