After four months on the job, serving as both President of Aurora College and Associate Deputy Minister, Post-Secondary Education Renewal, I’m just beginning to get my feet wet. And while there’s still much for me to learn, I’m excited to see us moving forward on the journey of polytechnic transformation.me to Aurora College
Communicating with Staff
It is my plan to start communicating more regularly to faculty and staff through a variety of venues. One of those venues will be a President’s Message newsletter (such as this one) which will be distributed to all staff via email. I will implement a President’s Blog where we can discuss and debate various post-secondary issues in a dialectical manner. I also plan to hold regular polytechnic transformation workshops on each campus when I’m on-site.
Having now been to each campus at least a couple of times, I have a number of initial observations which I’d like to discuss in this newsletter, including the following:
-The transformation process has been established, so we need to begin putting a Transformation Steering Committee in place
-Strategic Planning will begin in the Fall.
-We need to fill some of the vacant positions at the College (and I’d like to give an update on two searches); and
-We need to consider putting in place an Education Council or Academic Senate (sometimes referred to as an Academic Council at other colleges)
Transformation Process Update
We finally had the opportunity to undertake a two-day Senior Leadership Team (SLT) meeting to discuss both the transformation process and the significant strategic planning process we plan to undertake in October through December (using an Appreciative Inquiry methodology which uses a SOAR [Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Results] planning framework). The SLT provided important feedback, asked some really hard questions, and I’m very pleased to say that we’re now all “on the same page” within our leadership team on how we plan to implement strategic planning. I am excited to begin communicating to faculty and staff about both the transformation process and the strategic planning framework.
I’d like to develop a more formal presentation to faculty and staff about the transformation process. This presentation will outline the transformation structure, talk about the three phases we see Aurora College moving through as it transforms to a polytechnic university (so it’s not an “all-or-none” process), and demonstrate how faculty and staff will be fully informed as we move through the transformation process.
I’d like to begin these presentations on each campus in September. The presentations will be scheduled at various times so that if faculty and staff miss one presentation on their campus, they will be able to attend the other.
Starting in October 2019, Aurora College will engage in a full strategic planning process using an Appreciative Inquiry methodology. This process will be highly consultative and collaborative and will involve reaching out to communities, Indigenous governments, faculty, staff, students, and various stakeholder groups (e.g., Chambers of Commerce, Chamber
of Mines, health employers, etc.).
We will engage with numerous NWT communities including three remote Community Learning Centre communities, three larger/regional centre communities, and the three campus communities. The goal is to develop a three-year strategic plan which will take Aurora College to the point at which the College once again becomes Board-governed. To do this, the Aurora College Act must be rewritten.
As part of the strategic planning process, we will also engage in “New Program Development Workshops” where faculty and staff can begin addressing the question, “What new programs do we want in the near future and what shall be each campus’ Centre of Specialization?” These are important questions as we move forward and will help us define which programs will begin to define our new polytechnic university.
Filling Vacant Positions and Search Update
Aurora College has a number of key positions currently vacant. Some of these positions include Chair positions, while others are Senior Leadership. Although I find myself a bit reserved to fill all of the vacant positions which the College has (some staffing requirements may shift or change as a result of our Strategic Planning in the Fall – it becomes a bit of a “chicken and egg” scenario [which should come first – filling much-needed positions or determining what our directions are going to be?]), I do recognize the need to fill some positions as we move forward on our polytechnic journey.
We have been actively engaged in a search process for two Senior Leadership positions – a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for a leave replacement, and a Vice-President, Education and Training. We undertook a CFO search a few weeks ago, and regrettably, we ended up with a failed search (we had a couple of good candidates, but they were picked up by other search processes before we were able to make an offer). We are reconvening our Selection Committee and beginning the search anew for a CFO this summer.
The Vice-President, Education and Training search process is currently ongoing. We interviewed candidates on June 18 & June 19. Our goal is to attempt to have a VP, E&T in place by early fall 2019.
Education Council or Senate
Since I come from an academic background, I quickly recognized that the College does not have an Education Council (sometimes called an Academic Council). Education Councils are typically composed of primarily faculty (from a variety of departments and program areas) but also support staff, administrators, and students.
Education Councils are important to post-secondary institutions. They are the mechanism by which colleges review and approve all courses, programs, and academic products. For many colleges, Education Councils are the college equivalent of an Academic Senate at a university. In many ways, these academic entities are a solid quality-control mechanism of colleges – they help ensure courses and programs are of a high standard, that they have a high level of transferability to other institutions, that they meet the employment needs of industry, and that they meet the needs of students.
Aurora College needs to establish its own Education Council. To do so, we will develop our own academic and Education Council policies which may be based on policies from other colleges. As well, we will develop our own framework of Education Council etiquette, practices, and procedures. Ideally, I’d like to put this framework in place soon with the intent to have an Education Council in place by the end of this calendar year. More to come on this shortly – stay tuned!
The past four months have been incredibly busy, and while we’ve made significant progress on the foundational aspects of the transformation journey, I believe the really exciting pieces of the journey lie ahead of us as we begin to determine what this new polytechnic university will look like through our strategic planning process in the fall.
I’d also like to acknowledge it’s been a challenging few years for many of you as Aurora College has undergone the Foundational Review and the government response, and you encounter the uncertainties of moving into a significant change process.
I have loved getting to know our campuses and Community Learning Centres a bit better. I look forward to getting out to more of our CLCs and I look forward to engaging faculty, staff, and students about our journey of transformation.
Summer has officially arrived! I hope you all have a wonderful and restful summer season and I look forward to seeing you in later August when you return. Thanks for your attention and please contact me should you have any questions at all about the items I’ve discussed in this newsletter. Happy Summer, everyone!