Three weeks after delivering his annual Fiat Lux Address to the University community, University of Lethbridge president Dr. Mike Mahon addressed southern Albertans, Wednesday evening, sharing key future directions for the University.
In his address, delivered at the University’s Dr. Foster James Penny Building in downtown Lethbridge, Mahon spoke about the U of L’s impact on the City of Lethbridge both economically and in terms of community engagement.
In addition to sharing that the U of L has an economic impact of $1.7 billion annually in the province and $801 million within the city of Lethbridge, Mahon also addressed new community initiatives, such as the collaboration with Volunteer Lethbridge.
“This partnership (with Volunteer Lethbridge) will create opportunities for an enhanced connection to the community and greater opportunities for our students to engage in volunteer activity,” said Mahon. “We believe this type of community engagement greatly benefits a student’s academic experience. Despite funding issues, we continue to move forward on ensuring our programs are of the highest quality and on the development of innovative, new degree pathways at the undergraduate and graduate levels.”
Mahon took the opportunity to thank the community for its advocacy on behalf of the University since the U of L had its Campus Alberta operating grant cut in March.
“I think it is fitting that today the Alberta government made a significant reinvestment in our sector - a 2.6 per cent in-year increase to the U of L - the same day this speech was scheduled,” said Mahon. “I am incredibly grateful to the many members of senior administration, our faculty, students, Board of Governors, Senate and the public who advocated so passionately on the importance of post-secondary education to the future of our province.”
Mahon added that while uncertainty remains in its budget landscape, the University could take solace in positive enrolment numbers, which reinforce the tremendous national and international reputation earned by the U of L.
This fall, more than 8,300 students are enrolled at the U of L’s Lethbridge, Calgary and Edmonton campuses. That number includes more than 1,100 first-year high school graduates, an increase of 11.3% over last year. In addition, the U of L is quickly becoming a university of choice for graduate students from across the country and around the world as demonstrated by an increase of 16.4% in graduate student enrolment.
Despite an uncertain budget landscape, Mahon said it was important for the U of L to remain forward-looking to ensure the future success of the institution. He said the U of L is currently revising its strategic plan to help guide the university in the future.
The draft strategic plan outlines five familiar priorities, shared Mahon. They are to excel as a comprehensive university, continue enhancing the student experience, promote access to quality post-secondary education, build our internal community while enhancing those valuable, productive relationships with external communities and enhance the sustainability of the University.
In looking to the future, Mahon spoke about how the Destination Project, which includes the construction of new science facilities, will be transformational for the U of L, and also for the city.
“We have considered the concept of the new science facility as more than a teaching and research space but a place for community engagement and outreach,” said Mahon. “A research incubator, a place where undergraduate and graduate research opportunities flourish, where knowledge transfer and commercialization happen; a place the next generation of researchers, scientists and scholars credit for the start of their science careers.”
Making an address to the community is an important activity said Mahon, recognizing the important role that community leaders have played in establishing and ensuring the growth of the U of L.
“The U of L was founded in 1967 thanks to the persistence of a forward-thinking group of citizens who believed southern Alberta merited its own university. While a lot has changed in 46 years, I’m happy to say that the commitment of this community to the U of L has remained a constant,” said Mahon. “Your unwavering support has enabled the U of L to become one of Canada’s most outstanding universities and for that we are incredibly grateful.”