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President’s Message: Preparing future leaders at Laurier

At Laurier, we pride ourselves on inspiring lives of leadership and purpose. Each day we live out this proposition through our excellence in teaching and research and our commitment to preparing students to live in an increasingly complex world.

In this issue of Campus, you will meet alumni who inspire others through their passion and commitment to their communities and careers. From the profile of Wayne Zronik (BBA ’98) who has parlayed his love for music into a successful business career, to the stories of Golden Hawks turned gold-medal Olympians, the accomplishments of our alumni are proof that Laurier prepares our students to rise to any challenge.

Deborah MacLatchy

Universities have a significant role in educating our future leaders. At Laurier, this is not a responsibility we take lightly. Cultivating students to leave campus as informed and engaged citizens does not happen by chance. It is the result of thoughtful planning, intentionality and a culture that encourages the development of the whole person.

In February, I attended the Universities Canada Univation forum with two of our Master of Education students: Sharline Doss and Adam Rooke. University leaders, business executives, students and entrepreneurs gathered in Ottawa to examine how universities can best prepare our youth to succeed in a rapidly changing world.

The message from this forum was clear: the pace of change will continue to be disruptive for individuals and societies. Strong partnerships inside the university and with the wider community are critical to both student success and research that will have a positive impact on our world.

Laurier already shows leadership in these areas. We have prioritized experiential learning to ensure our students are equipped with skills that will help them excel when they graduate. Laurier has the largest undergraduate business degree co-op program in Canada. We offer opportunities for experiential learning at the graduate and undergraduate levels in disciplines spanning education, music, science, social sciences and humanities and social work.

Our researchers leverage community and international partnerships to solve real-world problems. In January, the federal Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Partnership Engage Grants program awarded 10 of our researchers grants to conduct research in cooperation with community partners. One of these researchers is Alex Latta, an associate professor in Laurier’s Department of Global Studies, who will collaborate with the Dehcho First Nations in the Northwest Territories to develop best practices for strategic planning for land and water stewardship, rooted in Indigenous language, culture and livelihoods.

It is exciting to watch our research areas grow at a strong pace. Laurier research funding increased 40 per cent in 2016-2017, compared to 2015-2016. We are in a strong position to take advantage of the historic $925-million investment in researchers announced in the federal budget as we are nationally the No. 1 research growth university in our category.

Finally, I’d like to address an issue that has thrust Laurier into the news recently. Not only Laurier, but campuses across North America have been struggling with conflicting interpretations of freedom of expression and academic freedom. Laurier firmly supports the civil discussion of competing ideas and complex topics. To that end, the university has struck a Task Force on Freedom of Expression.

The task force has spent the past few months researching the topic and seeking input from the public and the Laurier community, including alumni. The mandate of the task force is to develop a statement on freedom of expression that will guide the university going forward. A draft version will be circulated for comment this spring and will then be considered for approval by the university Senate.

Many of you have contributed to this process through your comments to the task force and through your emails and phone calls on related matters. I want you to know that I deeply appreciate the engagement you have shown. As alumni, you know better than anyone the quality of education we strive to deliver and the excellence of the overall Laurier student experience.

Laurier continues to evolve and innovate to meet the needs of today’s students and the challenges of a rapidly changing world. It is a privilege to lead our university into this exciting new frontier. I am confident that as we continue to position our students for success I will be reading more stories about alumni who are shaping the world with the values and skills they learned at Laurier.

Deborah MacLatchy, PhD
President and Vice-Chancellor
Wilfrid Laurier University