Well the New Year has started with the usual rush of activity (and blast of arctic air!) which is sort of the way the past year ended.
While looking ahead to the tasks we are setting for ourselves in 2018 it’s good to take a moment and reflect on what was accomplished in 2017 – the milestones achieved and the many things that were done throughout the College to set the stage for future achievements.
There are a couple moments that stand out for me – different achievements but with a similar theme.
One was a celebration in September of our 30-year partnership with Shenyang Institute of Engineering. It was attended by a large delegation from China as well as RRC staff and faculty (some now retired) who began the partnership and built it to the point that it is now one of the most highly-regarded models of PSE collaboration in China.
There are over a thousand SIE students taking RRC programs every year in Shenyang. There are also many graduates of the program (including some who attended the celebration) who completed their education in Manitoba and started careers here. And discussions are well-underway on a “next stage” in the partnership that will include collaboration on energy- and food-related research.
Leaving the event that fall evening I reflected on how it demonstrated Red River’s global reach and the benefits of global connections for own institution. It also reminded me of the impact individual efforts can have – in this case, faculty and staff travelling all the way to northern China, many times alone or in pairs, over a period of three decades.
Another moment came when I was up on the roof of our new STTC building this summer, checking out the very cool solar light ‘tunnels’ that will be used to bring natural light into the interior. Gazing out over the NDC campus I took note of the canopy of mature trees dotting the campus – a nice change from the barren landscape I remember 30 years ago (when my wife was a student here).
Later that week I came across our dedicated NDC Gardener, Schivcharan Sandhu, and asked him about the trees. It turns out that Sandhu himself planted most of them back in the 80’s, taking saplings from a river bank in Beaudry Park. He explained that RRC used to employ inmates from Headingley Jail to help maintain our grounds, and it was in the course of driving them back to Headingley one day that he spotted some promising plants – then asked the provincial parks people if he could transplant a few.
It struck me that many of the developments that have shaped our College – programs and industry partnerships – came about in the same way, from initiatives taken by individual staff or small groups of staff that grew over time into something bigger.
Our network of regional campuses, for example, has been developed by carefully responding to local needs and opportunities, one program at a time. Our international student population has grown from a few hundred just 8 or 9 years ago to 1,500 today – recruited by a small but energetic International Office. And our applied research program, recently ranked number one in Western Canada, is the outcome of initiatives launched across a range of departments – often as the outgrowth of instructors’ passions and partnerships.
From that perspective, some of the most significant accomplishments of 2017 will turn out to be modest first steps, or new seeds planted. Yes, we have a big new building about to open at NDC and another in the works for EDC (and not to worry, I’ll have lots more to say about those – stay tuned!), but I am thinking now of the opening of ACE space last spring, which demonstrated, in a smaller format, the possibilities of a completely new approach to education. And, along the same lines, I am thinking of the group of faculty who have launched a cross-College dialogue about teaching methods, including the new “Faculty Fridays” blog.
I am also thinking of the Level One Carpentry program delivered on-site at Lake Manitoba FN this fall and the Plumbing program delivered at Sakgeeng FN. There are bigger changes coming in Indigenous Education, including new programs we are introducing this fall and a new approach to student supports. In the meantime, Red River’s on-the-ground presence in those communities makes a strong statement about our commitment to providing opportunities for Indigenous learners.
Finally, I am thinking of the Construction Trades program developed specifically for refugees, which took one cohort last spring and then another in the fall. While that was happening, the Language Training Centre was undergoing a much larger change, welcoming hundreds more EAL students and some 20 new instructors (a change that was handled very adeptly, though at the cost of many long and frantic workdays). But for me visits to the Construction Trades class really brought home the impact and spirit of LTC.
The past year was full of initiatives like these – too many to mention in one place. Our new RRC ads turned a lot of heads; it seemed RRC students were winning awards locally and internationally every time I looked; many RRC faculty also won special recognition and some found new ways to honour their present and former colleagues; and we made a new commitment to safety and health across the College that is already making a difference.
A sincere thank you to all who made the kinds of contributions that will resonate and be built upon for years to come.
And I don’t want to leave 2017 behind without giving a shout out to our food services staff and all those who helped with the year-end celebrations. Not that I needed any of it, but the butter chicken stations at our NDC and EDC parties and the chocolate donuts at our regional campuses should take their place among our College traditions!
Best wishes for the New Year,
Paul Vogt | President & CEO
Red River College of Applied Arts, Science and Technology