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Holly Pike, acting principal

Address to convocation

Sir Wilfred Grenfell College

When we titled our new strategic plan “Our Place” we did so to acknowledge our location in a particular geographical region and to define the communities to which we belong. The strategic directions we identified in the plan all link to the idea of our place in the world and our place in the region and how we can ensure that we develop our strengths to be effective members of every community we belong to. We are part of the municipal and regional community. Faculty, staff, and students are part of the community of scholars on our own campus and are members of the Memorial University community, but also members of the international community of scholars. As part of Memorial University, we are part of the community of provincial post-secondary institutions. What we try to teach our students, by example and by precept, is to be good citizens of and to contribute to the communities to which they belong.

The first of the four strategic directions we identified was to strengthen our identity as a university. We call this “knowing place”, and this direction addresses our primary functions – education and research. In support of this direction our community of scholars here in Corner Brook continues to reach new levels of success in all endeavours. In the past year, Grenfell College researchers have received more than $1 million in research funding. Among these researchers are Angela Carter, whose research interests lie in the oil and gas sector, and Murray Rudd, our Canada Research Chair in ecological economics, who is working on sustainability and species valuation, both engaged in work supported by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council. Mathematicians Rob Gallant and Yevgeniy Vasilyev, and physicist Aleksandrs Aleksejevs continue to broaden the research agenda at Grenfell through work supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, as does Sandra Wright of psychology, who received a five-year grant that will allow her to continue to explore the concept of spatial cognition. Other faculty members, such as Marlene MacCallum, David Morrish, and Pierre LeBlanc of Visual Arts have ongoing funded research projects, and there are more scholarly and creative activities undertaken by our faculty than I can possibly cover, though I am particularly pleased to note that Randall Maggs’ collection of poems, Night Work: The Sawchuk Poems, has received both the Winterset Award and the Newfoundland and Labrador Book Award. Our continuing focus on excellence in teaching also helps define what we are as an institution. Our teaching committee offers a workshop each semester, often working with the Instructional Development Office on the St. John’s campus, and we are always pleased with the quality of the nominations for the Grenfell teaching award. The challenge for the College is to provide enough support for the many innovative approaches our faculty members want to try as they pursue effective teaching methods. In this context, the planned extension to our academic space, which will provide new labs and a variety of classroom space, will be very important to our development. Our commitment to excellent undergraduate teaching is one of the most valuable supports we can give to our students as they prepare to enter the broader community.

Our second strategic direction, which we call “discovering place”, focuses on strengthening Grenfell’s regional, national and international profile. In support of this direction, faculty members from three of our academic divisions, staff members, and partners from Natural Resources Canada will travel to Turkey this summer to take part in a Global Warming Conference where they will present information on the Humber River Basin project, a major interdisciplinary research project, in a special session hosted by Grenfell. All the research and scholarly and creative activity carried out by our faculty members enriches each community it touches, and we are pleased that we have continued to develop research partnerships with local and national organizations and agencies, and links with institutions internationally. In the years since former principal Dr. Adrian Fowler made the strategic decision to create the position of Associate Vice-Principal (Research), Dr. Wade Bowers has used the position to support and promote research on our campus, and we have seen a ten-fold increase in research funding generated—from two hundred thousand to about/two million dollars. As Dr. Bowers leaves this position to take up faculty duties, we look forward to further achievements under the leadership of Dr. Ivan Emke, who replaces Dr. Bowers.

In pursuit of “discovering place”, the activities of our students are a central part of our developing community and international profile. For instance, Katelyn Turner, this year’s winner of the Sullivan Cup, our award for outstanding student, was involved in a range of activities including Rotaract, I Fell for Grenfell, Spread the Net fundraising to provide protective sleeping nets for children in Africa, and the Ghana Project to provide school uniforms and materials for children in Ghana. Ms. Turner also worked at the college pool, as a peer tutor, and as a chalet adviser this year, and took part in Grenfell’s first ever Student Leadership Program. Her level of engagement in this community augurs well for the other communities she will belong to. Graduating visual arts student Allen Walbourne joined a broader community last year when he sold a sculpture titled “Penance of Time” to the Rooms Provincial Art Gallery and a group of third-year theatre students brought their production of Creon to the City of Wine festival in Toronto earlier this month and displayed their talent to a national audience. As usual, a number of our students were involved in this year’s April Rabbit, the tenth anniversary of this event showcasing student poetry and music. This year’s event was linked to the launch of How the Light Gets In, an anthology of poetry including Grenfell poets and illustrated with works by Grenfell students in an international mix. As well, Grenfell’s very new Students in Free Enterprise group won the spirit award at the recent national competition in Toronto in recognition of their ambitious projects in support of community development here in Corner Brook. These students are representative of the range of activity and achievement we see among our students every day and we are proud of our association with them.

In support of our third strategic direction, “building place,” we will build capacity through the strengthening of our community. In this vein, we are planning the construction of the long-awaited addition to our Arts and Science building and have begun work on a new residence, both of which will provide new opportunities for members of the college community. The projected movement of Western Regional School of Nursing to our campus will also require new infrastructure and we remain committed to pursuing the full integration of the School of Nursing into Grenfell’s structures. We are also looking forward to occupying our research space in the Long Term Care Facility soon to be completed adjacent to campus. This space will support ongoing research activities and provide opportunities for developing research activities of significance for an aging population. It is important that Grenfell have a physical presence that supports our activities and that reflects our importance in the communities we inhabit. The planned additions to our campus will help create a physical presence appropriate to our role.

Our fourth strategic direction is “protecting place,” which we will achieve by becoming a leader in environmental issues. The establishment of an Environmental Policy Unit which will provide research-based advice to academic audiences and the broader community supports this direction. Our students are already leaders in this area. Graduating student Kim Olson placed first in a national essay contest sponsored by the International Water Secretariat and represented Canadian youth at the triennial World Water Forum in Istanbul in March. Just last week a small group of our students were presented with the Harvey Bishop Award by the Salmon Preservation Association for the Waters of Newfoundland for their spring clean-up initiative last year. Students have also been active in identifying campus initiatives in support of environmental protection and will continue to play an important role as we pursue sustainability of campus structures and activities.

These four strategic directions will keep us focused on what is important as we deal with the changes that are coming. Government’s announcement of funds for Grenfell “transition issues” in the spring budget indicates one of the major changes the University will face. As well, in the last year we have lost two important people with the passing of Principal John Ashton and of Judge Lloyd Soper, a sincere and generous friend of Sir Wilfred Grenfell College. We are also losing our Acting President and former Vice-President (Academic) Dr. Eddy Campbell, who spent more time on this campus than any of his predecessors did. Dr. Campbell will soon become President of the University of New Brunswick, a role in which we wish him every success. However, our ties to the past remain strong. We are very pleased to be the first session of convocation graced with the new compositions of our retired colleague, Dr. Michael Parker and honoured that the Chancellor, General Rick Hillier, is able to be present on this very significant occasion. As we send our newest alumni out into the world, we know that they will find their own places, believe that they leave with the power to change whatever place they occupy, and hope that they will always remember and come back to this place.