As we approach the holiday season, I can’t help but look back on the year that was 2016 and ahead to what 2017 may hold for the University of Lethbridge.
Excitement is the word I most associate with this past year, because it speaks to the energy and enthusiasm around so much of what took place.
The Destination Project is surely one of the most exciting undertakings in the history of the University and it marked a number of milestones in 2016, namely its final approval, groundbreaking and recently the announcement of its first major sponsor in BMO Financial Group.
We have spoken often about how this project will be transformational for the U of L and a lot of work went into reaching this stage of its development. What is so exciting now is that we are finally able to begin showcasing what all the hard work was about. By putting shovels in the ground, beginning construction and welcoming BMO on board as a major sponsor, a signal has been communicated.
That signal reflects the extent to which the provincial government is supportive of the University of Lethbridge, by funding a monumental project that promises to shape post-secondary learning in both southern Alberta and the province for years to come.
It is also a signal to our community about how we continue to evolve and grow, and about how we are creating even more opportunities for engagement with young minds, through expanded science-on-display initiatives, and support for industry through an entrepreneurship and innovation focus that will percolate throughout the building.
Finally, through BMO Financial’s outstanding support, the signal is sent to the corporate sector that the Destination Project is a valued development that will benefit all of southern Alberta.
The year offered several other highlights, including the many teaching and research successes of our outstanding faculty, and in turn, by many of their accomplished students. I particularly want to congratulate five of our faculty members who were elected to royal societies around the world. Drs. Louise Barrett, Joe Rasmussen and Bruce McNaughton earned election into the Fellowship of the Royal Society of Canada, while Dr. Paul Hayes became the first U of L faculty member elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry and Dr. Artur Luczak was elected to the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists.
It is no wonder the University earned yet another top ranking by Maclean’s, the fifth consecutive year that we have achieved a top-three standing in the country’s primarily undergraduate classification.
The year did not come without its challenges, as we continue to deal with an unstable fiscal landscape. While this has forced all of us to examine where our province is headed economically, and has reiterated the need to be mindful of how we operate on a daily basis, the reality is that this is the new normal. Operating with fiscal constraint and maximizing our resources has necessitated a creative approach to reaching our goals and planning for our future.
We are fortunate in many ways that we are located in southern Alberta, an area with a uniquely diversified economy, in part thanks to our contributions, that continues to garner investment and growth. It is up to us to harness that energy and to seek further engagement with these sectors.
I am extremely excited to look ahead to 2017 and the celebration of our 50th anniversary. While we will spend time looking back on the last 50 years and how we came to be, we’ll also start imagining the next 50 years and how we will push ourselves in terms of a new academic programming perspective. Even within the context of fiscal constraints, we need to challenge ourselves to continue to grow. This is a subject that Drs. Andy Hakin and Erasmus Okine will explore in the new year at our annual Fiat Lux address.
Please, take some time over the holidays to enjoy your families and all the holiday season has to offer, and I look forward to seeing you next year at one of the many 50th anniversary events that will undoubtedly make 2017 a year to remember.