University continues to welcome government guests

The Alberta Water and Environmental Science Building (AWESB) has been a popular tour for elected and non-elected government members over the past few months. Considering the magnitude of environmental challenges facing governments around the world, it should not be surprising that decision makers are taking time to learn more about the important research taking place here at the U of L.

In October, Alberta's Minister of Environment Rob Renner spent a full day at the U of L, with the AWESB serving as a primary focus. Minister Renner engaged with researchers and graduate students. The minister is acting on a mandate letter from Premier Stelmach that includes implementing the renewed Water for Life strategy to "ensure the province has the quality and quantity of water needed now and into the future to support environmental, economic and social needs of Albertans".

It provides a background for Minister Renner, who is now taking the time to understand the expertise that can be found at Alberta's universities.

Renner's visit occurred a week after his deputy minister, Jim Ellis, also toured the AWESB. Deputy Premier of the Northwest Territories Michael Miltenberger (BASc '75) spent two days on campus near the beginning of October, while Alberta's Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Sustainable Resource Development, Evan Berger, took the tour and spoke to researchers in September.

The expertise housed in the AWESB is well known. Certainly it was the quality of research here at the University that led to the building being funded by the Alberta government in the first place.

It is essential that government officials and University researchers continue to dialogue and maintain positive working relationships. There is little doubt that the discoveries and ideas shaped at the U of L are informing good public policy as well as helping governments balance economic growth with environmental stewardship.

On Oct. 23, Provost Andy Hakin and I met with a number of Calgary MLAs. The message we delivered was that the U of L plays a big part of the solution when it comes to addressing Calgary students' access to post-secondary education.

The numbers are impressive. Thirty-five percent of our total enrolment comes from Calgary, with enrolment at the U of L's Calgary campus at an all-time high of 538 students. Not only is the U of L providing access for traditional students, whether they are right out of high school or transfer students, but the program in Calgary also offers access to students who might not otherwise be able to achieve a post-secondary education. Every Calgary MLA we spoke to in Calgary was appreciative of our efforts.

The U of L needs to be focused on Calgary because the demographics inform us that future student demand is going to come from this market.

While the number of 18 to 24 year-olds is expected to drop in southern Alberta (south of Calgary) in the coming decade, this segment of the population will continue to grow in the Calgary area. More and more these Calgary students will be looking for an educational experience that is personal and of the highest quality. We believe these Calgary students will be looking at the options the U of L can provide.

Therefore it is critical that the Alberta government understands the U of L is a pan-Alberta institution that educates students from all corners of the province, from across the country and indeed the world as a whole.