Citing growth in enrolment and programming, infrastructure renewal and the long-anticipated development of new core sciences facilities, Dr. Gary Kachanoski provided an upbeat message in an address to Rotary on Thursday, Feb. 7.
Memorial Universitys president and vice-chancellor used the opportunity to unveil the institutions formal annual report, this year titled Dare or Truth. The 80-page compendium highlights stories about activities in teaching, research and public engagement and many of the accomplishments of Memorials students, faculty, staff and alumni.
Memorial University continues to distinguish itself as a nationally competitive, flagship, teaching-research institution a university unequivocally committed to the public good and to fulfilling our special obligation to the people of this great province, Dr. Kachanoski told the crowd of about 150 Rotarians and guests.
He outlined noteworthy happenings from the past year, as well as new initiatives and the direction the university will take over the next year and in the years to come.
Among the highlights he cited were accomplishments by members of the Faculty of Arts, the overwhelming success of the recent Dare To fundraising campaign and alumni reunion and changes which saw a new chancellor, vice-president (research) and deans of arts and engineering and applied science added to Memorials leadership team.
Dr. Kachanoski explained that overall graduate student enrolment had increased by six per cent in the last year, while undergraduate enrolment had remained stable. He also noted that plans are already underway to double the size of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. He said these and other measures are addressing a major challenge facing the province.
All of this enrolment is great news for the university and, of course, also for the province since we are simply not now producing the number of high school graduates, let alone those qualified to attend Memorial, to keep this province running, he said. The province and the country face a shortage of skilled workers, so recruitment and retention of highly qualified people must be a priority.
He indicated that Memorial and Newfoundland and Labrador are not unique in this regard.
We are in a competition. We are fighting with every other jurisdiction in Canada and beyond for brain power. Universities everywhere are all vying for high-quality students, faculty and staff, he said. Over the next five to 10 years we can reasonably expect a faculty turnover rate at Memorial of approximately 40 per cent. So in addition to student recruitment demands, well also be looking to hire, and we need to have what it takes to attract and retain the highest quality people.
Dr. Kachanoski linked the recruitment challenges to the needs for infrastructure renewal at Memorial and the need for development and operation of 21st-century teaching and R&D infrastructure, which will attract the best and the brightest faculty and staff, and provide students with access to the programs and education they need and deserve, he said.
Given our significant growth in research activity, increased enrolment and planned growth, and the age of many of our buildings, it should come as no surprise that infrastructure renewal has become the number one priority at Memorial.
In terms of facilities development, Dr. Kachanoski talked about the significance of capital projects currently underway at Memorials campuses in St. Johns and Corner Brook, at the Oceans Sciences Centre and the Holyrood Marine Base.
But he described last years announcement of provincial government funding support for the development of new core sciences facilities at the university as, perhaps the biggest infrastructure announcement to come since the creation of Memorials Elizabeth Avenue campus.
Premier Dunderdale identified this as a priority project, said Dr. Kachanoski. I said it at the time of the announcement, and it bears repeating, this is a game changer for the university. And just as importantly, it will pay a dividend to Newfoundland and Labrador for decades to come.
He also reported on the progress of the purchase of the Battery Hotel in downtown St. Johns.
Were just concluding due diligence before we, hopefully, complete the sale, and we are developing a comprehensive usage plan for the facility.
He explained that the plan would focus on using the facility to enhance Memorials public engagement activities, including community partnerships and for graduate student housing, among other uses.
In closing, Dr. Kachanoski announced the launch of Memorials long-anticipated Public Engagement Framework as he reasserted what he views as the essential mandate of the university.
Memorial is committed to fulfilling its special obligation to the people of this province. Connecting to our communities is not just a standard university aspiration its a core value that distinguishes your university.