Sir Wilfred Grenfell College Graduation Ceremony - Convocation Address
Dr. Axel Meisen, President and Vice-Chancellor
Corner Brook - May 11, 2001
First of all, I wish to congratulate you, the members of the graduating class. I also wish to extend warm congratulations to your families and friends, many of who have joined us today. Your hard and dedicated work has come to a successful conclusion and we celebrate it with great joy.
Today, your convocation day, is very special since it marks not only your success, but also the beginning of a new phase in your life. You are about to start working or to embark on further studies. The education provided by Memorial University and Sir Wilfred Grenfell College has enabled you to face all future challenges. Without doubt, there will be many challenges.
Just think about the impact of modern technology, which affects almost every aspect of our lives. Even though you may not be a technology expert, you have learnt to cope with it and harness its power. All of you know how to use databases, how to search for library materials and how to communicate by e-mail.
You also know how to use the web. In fact, this year marks the first time graduating students could register for convocation on the web and I hope that this was convenient for you. This use of the web also demonstrates the university’s commitment to using technology so that we can provide better services to our students.
As members of this year’s convocation, you are becoming alumni of Memorial University and Sir Wilfred Grenfell College. This makes you very special.
It was less than 10 years ago, in 1992, that Memorial University started conferring degrees at Grenfell College and there were just a few bachelor of fine arts graduates. Since then, we have seen a major expansion in the number of College programs and today we are awarding more than 150 degrees in Fine Arts, Arts, Science and Nursing. This is the largest number of graduates we have ever had at convocation at the college. We are also joined today by 10 students from the West Coast region, who studied at the St. John's campus of Memorial University but who decided to receive their degrees at Convocation of Sir Wilfred Grenfell College. We also warmly welcome these graduates and their families.
As you leave Sir Wilfred Grenfell College, your new employers, your friends and your acquaintances will likely ask you about it. You may also have family members who are interested in coming to the College. Let me therefore give you just a few facts and foreshadow some important developments regarding the College.
Sir Wilfred Grenfell College was started by a dedicated group of Memorial University faculty and staff in 1975. Initially, the College offered just entry-level university programs and students transferred to the St. John’s campus of Memorial University to complete their degrees. In 1992, the college became a degree granting institution. Today, the College employs about 70 faculty and 125 staff members. Its annual budget is $9 million, with $7.5 million for salaries. The remainder pays for academic and administrative expenditures.
After today’s ceremony, there will be over 600 students who completed their entire degree programs at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College. That number is expected to increase significantly as we expand enrolment from the present 1,200 to 1,500 students. There are two basic reasons for this expansion:
- First, there is a strong actual and potential demand for our programs in Fine Arts, Psychology, Environmental Science, Nursing and other areas;
- Second, there is strong demand for the personal, "small school" environment, which is typified by Sir Wilfred Grenfell College.
Unfortunately, many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are still unaware of the College and we are therefore engaged in vigorous recruitment throughout the Province. We also plan to recruit outside the Province since we believe that it is beneficial for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to study alongside students from other areas of Canada and the world.
Until now, our ability to provide students with residential facilities on the Campus has been very limited. This is about to change. To accommodate more students, we are about to construct new residences. The value of this project is $7.5 million, with $3 million being provided by the provincial government. The construction tender has been called and will close at the end of May, with construction beginning this summer. Some modules are expected to be completed for the 2002 Winter semester. The remainder will open in time for the fall of 2002.
The new residence project comprises eight modules on two Grenfell campus sites – one adjacent to the Forest Centre, and the other behind the Fine Arts Building. The residence will accommodate up to 232 students. The majority of the units will be four-bedroom apartments. There will also be some family apartments for students with children and two units for persons with disabilities.
You may ask, why I am I telling you this now that you are just about to leave the College. I wanted you to know the commitment which the university and government are making to the college and that the College will therefore continue to flourish. I also want you to know about the development of the residences because it is our intention to use them for special conferences and workshops. Many of these events will be designed to meet the professional needs of our alumni. We therefore hope to have you back on the Campus from time to time and I wanted you to know about our new facilities.
There are two further projects with which I like to acquaint you.
The first one is a new Exhibition Centre for works of art and cultural artifacts from the region and the world. The provincial government is providing $4 million for the Centre, which will be located on the College campus and will be managed by the College.
The Exhibition Centre will be a showcase but, equally important, it will serve as a centre of artistic and cultural activity with a strong educational outreach component. The Centre will provide studio and workshop space for students and visiting artists alike. It is also expected to have a high-quality multimedia lecture theatre with broadcast capabilities so that other communities in Newfoundland and Labrador can be connected. The Centre will provide our fine arts students and graduates enhanced opportunities for exposing their work to the community.
The second project I like to mention relates to program changes and expansion. We are examining the introduction of co-operative education programs at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College. In co-op programs, students alternate between academic study at the College with practical work experience in Government or industry. These programs prepare the students well for work after graduation and they provide students with valuable income during the work-terms. As you develop your careers and rise to senior positions, I hope that you will bear in mind the possibility of employing Co-op students from Sir Wilfred Grenfell College.
Another area we are starting to think about is the development of new programs in filmmaking and film studies. Such programs should fit nicely into the current offerings of the College and could support the development of the film industry in our province.
The construction and academic plans demonstrate that I am very confident about the future of Sir Wilfred Grenfell College. As you go forward developing your careers, you can be certain that the reputation of the College will grow and that it will become even better recognized nationally and internationally. This should also help you with the development of your career and it should make you even more proud of having graduated from Sir Wilfred Grenfell College.
Although you, the graduates, are leaving us today, we plan to keep in touch with you as our newest alumni. We will endeavor to serve your ongoing professional needs and we hope to see you frequently on the Campus.
Again, I offer my congratulations to you and to your families. Sincere best wishes for your future.
© Copyright 2002 Memorial University of Newfoundland