Although many Red River programs run through the summer, the influx of students before the Labour Day weekend marks the start of a new cycle at the College. On Monday morning I was out with members of our Senior Leadership Team to greet students as they arrived at the Notre Dame bus loop. Of course, most only wanted directions to their classrooms (or Tim’s), but for us “greeters” seeing the mix of new learners and hearing what programs they were starting was a good reminder of what we’re here for.
Another reminder came later that afternoon when I joined a crew of RRC staff and student leaders at the Winnipeg Airport to welcome this year’s Refugee student, Wasim Alkabani. Wasim must have been tired (he arrived from Syria via Toronto) but he flashed a big smile when he saw our home-made banner. The welcoming committee included last year’s refugee student, Yves Ngendahimana, and one of our strongest supporters from business, Albert El Tassi, who took out a felt marker while we were waiting and wrote Wasim’s name on the banner in Arabic.
For those who were away from the Notre Dame Campus over the summer months there are some new developments to note. The steel skeleton of the Skilled Trades and Technology Building is now in place, giving a clear idea of its scale. I remember meeting with faculty a year ago at the South Gym barbecue, and hearing that, in their view, STTC couldn’t open soon enough. Well, we are still a year away from the scheduled opening – and RRC faculty who were involved in the design of the building design will soon be engaged in the long process of outfitting the labs and classrooms. But everything is going according to plan and once the building shell is enclosed (sometime in November) RRC’s Project Lead, Pat Kuzyk, will be arranging ‘hard hat’ tours for interested staff.
Another development over the summer was the construction of two change rooms near the Medicine Wheel garden that will allow Sweat Lodge ceremonies to be held on campus. The project was initiated by our College Elders, Mae Louise Campbell and Jules Lavallee, and the buildings were put up by RRC staff and students. The Sweat Lodge itself is always a temporary structure, raised under the Elders’ supervision, and the ceremonies will not just be for Indigenous students and staff but for any members of the College community who wish to participate.
A different kind of project that was brought to completion over the summer (after being announced last spring) was the restructuring of our Senior Leadership Team. The new team is made up of three Vice Presidents and six Executive Directors. The Vice Presidents are: Debbie Frankel (Administration & Finance); Mark Hoddenbaugh (Strategic Partnerships); and Christine Watson (Academic).
The Executive Directors are: Tracy Cappello (Finance); Lori Grandmont (Chief Human Resource Officer); Ray Hoemsen (Research Partnerships & Innovation); Riva Harrison (Strategy & Communications); Arnold Boldt (Academic); and Aileen Najduch (Community & Student Services).
I look forward to working with this team and introducing them throughout the College. They are a mix of new and familiar faces, and each brings a depth of experience and talent to their role. To see the new organization chart go to http://rrc.ca/index.php?pid=8920 , bios for the new executive members can be found at http://blogs.rrc.ca/hr/news/.
A second step in restructuring, that will begin this fall, is intended to give College Chairs the time and decision-making authority to play a more strategic role in program development. This is a significant change and we won’t try to rush it. Consultations will be held first and suggested actions will be aired for comment before they are implemented.
Streamlining the executive and bolstering the strategic role of faculty are necessary steps, I believe, to achieve the goals that were identified in last year’s planning dialogues. While those who participated brought forward many ideas for how we can build on our strengths and pursue excellence, a common thread was that Red River must be responsive, in real time, to the needs of students and employers and the opportunities opened up by new ways of teaching.
This week we will be posting our new five-year Academic and Strategic Plans, which lay out our long term goals. And over the next month we will begin identifying some of the concrete steps we can take (starting this year) to achieve those goals. In both cases we will be drawing extensively from the “bank” of ideas that came out of last year’s dialogue – and will seek to keep the dialogue going.
There are many other reasons to be excited about the coming year, including our new capital plans and the 2017 National Skills Competition, but I will save those for next time. I would, however, like to thank our Regional Campus leaders, for holding a spirited joint planning retreat last week and inviting me to drop by. And Chef Anton, who let me ‘assist’ one morning as he prepared the day’s soups – including my personal favourite, cream of mushroom and wild rice.
President & CEO, Red River College