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Address to convocation, Grenfell Campus session

Dr. Holly Pike

Oct. 8, 2010

We are very privileged to be here at the first session of convocation presided over by President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Gary Kachanoski. Dr. Kachanoski’s appointment is the first in a series of leadership changes at Memorial University that will also see a new Vice-President (Academic) and a new Vice-President for this campus appointed in the coming months. I share Dr. Kachanoski’s confidence that the relationships amongst the new senior executive members of the university will be fruitful both for this campus and for the university as a whole. A significant change has already taken place in the renaming of this campus as Grenfell Campus, Memorial University of Newfoundland, a change which respects the traditions built over the last 30 years and also allows us to move forward as we need to in publicly identifying ourselves as a university campus. Along with the additional support positions we are currently in the process of filling, the leadership and structural changes underway put us in an excellent position to develop as an ever more vital part of this community and the post-secondary system of the province. We are also marking Grenfell’s traditions of the last 35 years today by the designation of Dr. Adrian Fowler, one of the original members of our faculty and a former vice-principal and principal, as professor emeritus, recognizing his significant academic and administrative contributions to the campus and to the university as a whole.

The Grenfell Campus of Memorial University of Newfoundland has for nearly 20 years identified itself as a liberal arts and sciences institution, but within that designation we have included programs that many would think of as professional programs – education, nursing, and business, for instance. There is no contradiction in this, since the aim of the liberal education is to develop well-rounded citizens, prepared for a variety of endeavours and occupations, and while a professional program may prepare graduates specifically for a particular occupation, it also, through opportunities to interact with a range of students and faculty and to take part in a variety of extracurricular activities, and through course work and professional guidance, prepares graduates for full participation in the public world. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, “Let everyone sweep in front of his own door and the whole world will be clean.”

The sense of responsibility he refers to and that understanding of the global impact of individual action is precisely what we want out students to learn through their university programs. Today’s graduates in nursing, education, and other disciplines have the opportunity to demonstrate through their professional lives and in their individual actions that they can take responsibility for their own little part of the world. Similarly, as a university campus, Grenfell is taking responsibility by trying to operate more sustainably under the guidance of us advisory committee on sustainability, by connecting to the community through initiatives such as the Green Books program, and by encouraging students to be fully engaged in the life of the campus.

Today’s graduates have learned both general principles and particular actions from instructors who have both the thorough grounding in their fields that comes from scholarly activity and the hands-on knowledge that comes from practice. Goethe’s observation clearly links local actions with global effects and the activities of our faculty members in their research and scholarly work certainly operate both locally and globally. Researchers on our campus are funded by national bodies such as the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council and work with partners and collaborators at other universities and organizations.

Some of our researchers effectively sweep in front of their own front door by focusing on topics of local importance such as the social and economic history of the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery, the properties of wood fibre in Newfoundland forests, regional avalanche mapping, the provincial wellness plan, the development of a centre on healthy aging, and the expression of Newfoundland and Labrador cultural identity through literature. Others examine topics with both local and general significance, such as effective succession planning in family businesses, children’s understanding of and use of the internet, and problem gambling and women. Both these researchers and those who study such things as the formation of massive stars, treason trials in ancient Macedonia, the combination of traditional printing processes with digital technology, and the environmental impact of different methods of oil extraction, pursue knowledge for its own sake primarily, but also with the belief that every advance in knowledge of any sort improves the world.

Just as our faculty interact with various communities on a number of fronts, we encourage our students to take part in activities outside the class room that enrich their own experience and further prepare them for their lives and careers. Students on our campus have taken part in activities involving everything from board games and animation to sports and recreation to social causes such as literacy, Rotaract, and Oxfam. All of these activities bring our students in contact with each other, creating opportunities for growth and understanding that will return significant dividends in the future. These activities are not necessarily tied to the future professions of our graduates, but they show the range of causes that our students feel responsibility for and the range of interests that they will be sharing with the various communities they interact with in the future.

We are also working to improve how we sweep in front of our own door through the development of our campus. The addition to our original academic building, scheduled for completion in 2011, is being built according to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards, as is appropriate for a campus that is strengthening its focus on environmental programming. The extension will provide much-needed lab space, classrooms, and offices and we are very pleased that the project has received the support of both the provincial and federal governments. This building will also give us a unique feature--the largest astronomical telescope in Eastern Canada, a research-quality instrument that will serve our community both within and outside the university for many years. As well, the provincial government recently announced funding for a 200 bed residence building that will help us continue our commitment to provide first-year students from outside the region with a guaranteed place in residence for that important first year away from home. The new residence will also help cement our ties with the College of the North Atlantic, since a quarter of the beds will be available to CNA students. We expect soon to begin planning the development of space for the Nursing program currently offered partly on this campus and partly at Western Memorial Regional Hospital. The laboratories, offices, and classrooms needed for the nursing program parallel the additional research laboratory space we will need to support our current researchers and as we move forward with the development of graduate programs. Our first graduate program, a Master’s degree in Environmental Policy, is currently moving through the University’s approval processes and this week received formal approval by our academic council. We are also planning the completion of our research space in the Long Term Care Facility adjacent to campus, both to support our ongoing research activities and in anticipation of our planned Centre for Healthy Aging, an initiative which will be of particular interest to today’s honorary graduand, Mrs. Minnie Vallis.

To the students graduating here today I want to reiterate Goethe’s advice. As you pursue further education or start a career, you may well look around you and feel overwhelmed by the needs you see that should be addressed. Just remember that if you take responsibility for what is immediately before you, you are, as well as accomplishing something yourself, setting an example for others through your actions. We congratulate you on your achievement and look forward to the changes you will effect as you move further and further from your own doors.