Vision for Mount Allison’s future discussed among faculty, students and staff
Last week, Dr. Jean-Paul Boudreau held two strategic roadmap forums where he discussed the future of Mount Allison.
The first forum, held in the library, was almost exclusively attended by professors. The second forum, in the Windsor Grand Room, had a larger turnout that included more students.
Calling the event a “roadmap” was important to Boudreau. “It’s not a plan per se – language matters. I’m thinking more of a roadmap to evoke the concept that we are already there, we’re moving towards something,” he said.
At the beginning of the conversations, Boudreau shared the four pillars that he is currently focusing on: academic differentiation, student experience, bringing Mt. A into the 21st century and community mindedness.
First, Boudreau spoke about the possibility of adding new programs. “It could be a brand-new program, it could be a whole new swathe of programs, or it could be the developing of new minors, new certificates, new diplomas,” said Boudreau.
“If we’re going to develop new programs, they have to be sufficiently different from what were already offering,” said Dr. Joshua Kurek of the geography and environment department in response. “Several of the new programs that have been developed in recent years are very similar to things that we already offer. We’re probably not attracting new students here.”
Boudreau stressed that the goal of Mt. A is not to just create programs that will be able to fit one specific job. “Are we in the business of developing degrees just to meet these jobs? No,” he said. “Are we able to help create core competencies that might make you flexible and fluid for a wide range of jobs which frankly probably don’t exist yet? Yes.”
Boudreau said it was important to create resilient employees: “We’re building resilient, 21st-century thinkers. I think that is the pathway of avoiding the rabbit hole of building a pathway to certain jobs.”
Dr. Robbie Moser, the head of the philosophy department, added that it is important to make sure not to make specific programs for the labour market: “If you tie what the university does to the demands of the labour market, with time it seems like you might narrow yourself, but you don’t have to because there are certainly ways to create innovative creative thinkers that then go into the labour market.”
Boudreau also mentioned plans to renovate the library. “It is a very important building on our campus. It’s the heartbeat of our campus,” he said. Boudreau wants to re-imagine it so that it can be used by everyone: “When I go to the library I want to see faculty, I want to see staff, I want to see all of us working together.”
Geography professor Dr. Michael Fox responded to this, saying, “This should be a community learning facility, everyone seems to agree with that. We’ve got three very old, tired schools and school libraries with volunteer librarians, we’ve got a town library with mould and asbestos, and we’ve got our own library. Why not bring all of these people together?”
Lastly, Boudreau spoke about the community aspect of Mt. A. Boudreau mentioned wanting more collaboration with the town of Sackville.
Fox agreed, saying, “We can’t have just an extraordinary student experience. We have to have an extraordinary community experience.” Fox believes that working with the town on projects would be beneficial for Mt. A: “We’re stronger together and I think we’re smarter together.”
“I don’t think we should talk about liberal education. We should talk about integrated education,” added retired French professor Alex Fancy. “Liberal suggests dispersion, whereas integrated suggests links, connections, pathways. I really think we should change the vocabulary and that might change the conversation.”
Emma Chase, a first-year student attending the event, said that she liked that the ideas suggested, especially regarding updating the library. “I think that for such an awesome university, the library could be updated to fit the students’ needs.” Chase enjoyed the event and said, “It was interesting to get an insight about what the president and the profs were thinking.”
“It is very important to have student opinions,” said Boudreau, who will be meeting the student council this Sunday to discuss ideas further.