Campus congress

Congress

Discussing implementation of our big ideas 

Good afternoon.

And welcome.

I first want to acknowledge the traditional territories of the people of the Treaty Seven region in southern Alberta.

The city of Calgary is also home to Métis Nation of Alberta, Region Three.

Over the last two weeks we’ve come together as a community.

And taken the opportunity to discuss how the university can adapt and thrive in the face of a changing world.

Not just a changing world, but also a challenging one.

I know those challenges are weighing on many of us.

Which is why I am so appreciative of the discussions we’ve had.

Some of it, together, in plenary sessions.

Or smaller breakout groups.

More still, individually, through email or surveys.

Like any congress, opinions have varied.

I chose the term congress for this event because, as an academic, congresses are exciting.

They are where we bring our ideas to the world, and where our ideas are strengthened.

Through critical feedback and constructive discussions.

So I want to thank the hundreds of people who took part.

Not everyone, I know, was able to participate in every session.

But I hope those who were will agree that the more the discussion continued…

…the more people experienced being heard…

…the more we converged on how to improve Growth through Focus.

That’s how we’re going to build a framework together – and I will return later in these closing comments to discuss the framework.

I also want to thank the chairs and the working groups.

In particular, the Chairs Florentine Strzelczyk, Leslie Reid, Dianne Gereluk, Janaka Ruwanpura and Rob Thompson.

They’ve put in long hours.

As have many members of faculty and staff.

I’d like to thank everyone who helped create the products to discuss.

Those who facilitated the discussion.

And again, I’d like to thank the 340 people who joined that discussion.

As well as the many more who took the time to fill out the feedback forms or send an email .

That’s how we’re going to build a framework together, too.

Universities aren’t places conducive to unanimity.

As I mentioned in my opening video to congress, I’d be worried indeed if everyone agreed.

Spirited debate and constructive criticism are good.

It’s welcome.

Because that’s what great research universities are about.

They’re also about changing the world around them.

They impact their local community…

…and far beyond.

That’s why we’re here.

All of us.

We all agree that a stronger University of Calgary is a good thing.

Because it will help us bring about more change for the better.

Create more knowledge.

Just like universities have done since the first ones began.

Another thing that we can all surely agree on is that the status quo is not an option.

We’re not living in the land of $110 barrels of oil anymore.

The government is reducing our funding.

We don’t have to like this reality to accept it.

It is in large part why we need to change.

And even if this wasn’t the case, post-secondary institutions everywhere are facing massive disruption.

In our congress, the question hasn’t been if we will change.

That’s already been decided for us.

By a recession entering its sixth year.

By budget reductions.

By a changing post-secondary landscape.

And most recently, of course, by a global health emergency.

No, the question is how we will change.

One option, which I know is a concern on many of your minds, is to shrink.

Shrink our workforce.

Shrink our staff.

And shrink our ambitions.

To reduce the scope of our work.

And reduce the number of people who do it.

I think it’s important to name that fear head on.

And address it.

The purpose of Growth through Focus is not to shrink.

The purpose of Growth Through Focus is found in the name itself.

Growth.

It’s not a plan for less.

It’s a plan for more.

To build on the successes of our faculty and our faculties and find new ways of working.

Growth through focus is, to me, a framework.

One to be filled with individual passions.

And individual ambitions.

As such, to be successful and to be sustainable it must be driven by scholars…

…not administrators…

…and engage our staff who work everyday to support our students and our faculty to achieve their ambitions.

Because the foundation of the University of Calgary is our students, faculty and staff.

And our foundations are strong.

But we need to build on that foundation.

When I presented the initial big ideas in Growth through focus last June, after consultations with every Faculty and unit…

…along with requested feedback from every Dean of every faculty and school…

…I presented a graphic that showed how Growth through focus was built on the strong foundation of our existing Schools and Faculties.

This is where excellence in disciplines thrives.

This is where life-long trajectories for students are launched.

And this is where staff bring their hard work and creative ideas to support our institution.

Everything in Growth through focus is enabled by this strong foundation

The university’s role is to remove what is in your way and give you what you need.

To erect scaffolding.

And scaffolding is always built from the bottom up.

But it’s also how we reach up.

Towards new heights through a transdisciplinary approach…

through deeper partnerships…

and through programming that’s there for students today, tomorrow, and the day after that.

With specifics that are created by us all.

Together.

Because by working together, we will increase our impact…

…first in Calgary and more broadly across the country.

And in so doing, we can replace the revenue we are losing through a diversity of sources.

Replacing this revenue will take time – it is important we start now.

This was true when we released the initial version of Growth Through Focus last June.

It is even more true today.

So what are the next steps based on what we’ve heard over the last two weeks?

First, we’re going to continue the discussion for a while longer yet.

Surveys will remain open.

We’ll still take feedback via email or submissions online.

Already, we’ve received hundreds of submissions.

Thousands of visits to the webpage.

And we’ll encourage everyone in our community to keep sending us their thoughts.

It’s also why we will directly engage with students and offer them more opportunities to participate in the process.

They are the core of our university’s mission.

In the weeks to come, we will engage directly with both the students’ union and the GSA.

Also in the weeks to come, we will release a fulsome report about what this Congress said.

Our “what we heard report” will be unvarnished.

It will include the sometimes blunt objections to this plan – respectful critique and critical thinking are a vital part of our University.

It will also include the many constructive suggestions on how it may be refined and implemented.

I believe we owe it to the university community to release as raw a form of the discussion as we can.

And then incorporate this into the next iteration of Growth Through Focus, which we will also release in its entirety.

There’s no doubt that the conversation we’ve had…

…in sessions and through written responses…

will advance our work.

In the weeks to come, we will clearly outline how we propose to address deficiencies and better reflect the core values of our community.

And our community itself.

We heard, loudly and clearly, that there is work to be done on equity, diversity, and inclusion

We were told that a better job should have been done including Indigenous and EDI perspectives in this process.

We also heard that the content of our work matters.

And the words we use to describe it matter, too.

Both the words we use.

And the words we omit.

Such feedback has already improved our framework.

And it will continue to improve it.

Feedback has already been hugely important for deeper community partnerships.

The feedback I heard wasn’t that the desire for deeper partnerships with institutions, organizations, and businesses in Calgary was bad.

Quite the contrary.

The feedback was that they were hugely important.

The critique wasn’t about Growth Through Focus’s desire for stronger partnerships.

It was that people didn’t see the value of existing partnerships, many of them small in nature, in the material.

These grass-root partnerships are vital.

As the sessions went on, updated materials ensured the value of all partnerships was woven throughout our thinking.

I want to thank the chairs and working group for their responsiveness.

In a similar vein, we again heard concerns that a focus on four key areas diminished others.

Let me again reiterate that we are a comprehensive research university.

And that we must continue to be one – but one that is greater than the sum of its excellent parts.

The purpose of focus is not to reduce…

…either in scope or the value attached to it…

…any of the work we do.

Rather, the purpose of focus is to anticipate how we might forge partnerships and collaborations that will help this university grow.

Collaborations that will lift us all.

This has always been in our DNA.

The energy sector in our province in large part developed because of the minds we fostered.

Not just in STEM disciplines but in impacting policy and law.

The prosperity it generated for our city and province in turn helped our university grow…

…and we cannot abandon creating ideas and approaches that will influence all sectors of our economy.

Now our challenge is to find new areas where we think growth is most likely.

And where as a university we can turn those challenges into opportunities to improve the world and societies around us,

In areas named and defined by our scholars.

In the digital world.

In health,

Energy transformation.

And cities.

Because when cities are built, societies are built.

And because we heard that some don’t see themselves…

…or their work…

…covered in these areas of focus, we should be open to re-examining our framework to make it more inclusive.

We heard we need to do a better job of incorporating the important work being done to advance social and environmental justice.

Our revised framework will enable our scholars and our community partners to engage in deep discussions in these areas.

The “in-person” sessions of Congress have only just concluded.

And to be honest, I don’t know what form recommendations we’ll make.

That will require an honest look at all of your feedback delivered through all channels.

But what I will commit to is coming back with a revised proposal driven by this feedback.

Because saying you’ll listen is only halfway there.

Acting on what you heard gets you to a better framework.

And that’s how we’ll focus on our areas of strength.

So we can grow together.

Because what links our areas of focus is that each enable stronger collaborations.

It is our ability to mobilize our collective scholarship drawn from the disciplinary strength and contributions of our individual Faculty and Schools…

…and supported by the creativity and dedication of our staff…

…that creates focus.

Very simply, will not grow as a university unless we help Calgary grow.

I cannot state this more plainly.

The funds we once received from Edmonton…

…we must now find in Calgary…

…and beyond.

And so we must…

…and we will…

…forge even stronger bonds with the community we call home.

By having a bigger impact in how its economy transforms.

On the health of its people.

And the very fabric of urban life and our societies.

In addition, how we teach and how we credential will continue to evolve.

It’s always evolved.

But embracing more transdisciplinary scholarship doesn’t mean abandoning traditional disciplines.

It’s about building environments where more people…

…more of our faculty…

…and more of our students…

can thrive.

Adapting to the needs of the workforce to help people personalize their learning doesn’t mean the end of the traditional four-year degree.

The printing press didn’t end lectures.

Neither did the laptop.

Because universities evolve.

We are both shaped by the times we live in as we shape them ourselves.

That’s what great research universities do.

And why we are engaging in this conversation.

About how we will change.

Not whether we will.

In closing, I’d like to give you a sense of timelines.

As I mentioned, in the very near future we will release a document recapping what we’ve heard.

And we will release an updated version of the plan and an updated path forward.

This will be done in April and serve as the foundation of discussions with representative bodies…

…at GFC and with the Board of Governors.

In April will have been almost a year since the initial plan was released.

Over that year, we’ve incorporated feedback and changes.

We will incorporate more.

Also over that year, we’ve heard positive feedback.

That the thrust of the plan is right.

And that the need for change is clear.

I am heartened by our community’s acknowledgement that the status quo is off the table.

That would only mean change being imposed from outside.

We’ve instead decided to lead change from within.

So we can keep doing what’s made us a great university.

While focusing on those things that will make us even greater.

Thank you for your participation so far.

I look forward to more over the next couple of weeks as more feedback comes in online.

And from students.

Your thoughts are welcome.

Your critiques are welcome.

Because we all want a better University of Calgary.

So we can change the world around us.

That’s why we get up in the morning.

Change can be good.

Or it can be bad.

I prefer to see it as positive.

As an opportunity.

This isn’t pretending there are no problems.

I know there’s angst.

Angst about jobs.

Angst about Calgary’s economy.

And angst about Covid.

But I believe we can overcome them.

The essence of a great research university is turning problems into solutions.

We do that through critical thinking, creativity, and balanced evaluation of ideas.

We can do that as a community now.

Through the framework we’re building together.

That’s our opportunity.

Let’s seize it.

We didn’t become one of the highest-rated universities of our age by not seizing opportunity.

So let’s use this moment…

…to continue our evolution.

And continue to grow.

I’ve enjoyed our conversation so far.

I Invite you to give feedback and ask questions by emailing me at president@ucalgary.ca.

Or by using the anonymous question tool on ucalgary.ca/congress

Change is not an event.

It’s a journey.

One I’m glad we’re taking together.

Thank you and stay safe.

REGISTRATION BELOW

The University of Calgary has enjoyed an extraordinary decade. Student satisfaction has never measured higher. The research impact of our scholars has never been greater. Every day, our staff change the world. 

And while we now face unprecedented headwinds, a more interconnected world provides us unparalleled opportunities. The status quo may no longer be an option, but we remain determined to keep our Eyes High.  

We’ll do that by working together. Building a University that better connects scholars to each other. Better connects students to opportunities. And better connects our University to the broader community we serve. 

Connection is at the heart of this congress and the implementation plans that we’ll be discussing over the next two weeks. Over the past several months, three working groups have built proposals that we will now discuss as a University: 

Proposals for how we can incentivize – and knock down the barriers in the way of – joint effort across disciplines on “grand challenges”

Proposals for how we can collaborate to provide more learning options and richer learning experiences

Proposals for developing deeper, mutually-beneficial partnerships with industries, social enterprises and society as a whole 

These proposals represent a bold plan to future-proof our university – to build an institution not just protected from the changing world but able to thrive within it. 

Starting Monday, we will discuss these implementation plans as a group: their strengths and ways in which they can be improved. 

We’ll do this through a combination of Zoom meetings and online engagement platforms that will allow us to probe, discuss, debate and deliberate. 

I hope you’ll read the work of the groups and register in one or more sessions, give your feedback and otherwise engage in the online discussion. 

Working together, we can build a university that allows us to achieve the things we are all here to do – a university rooted in collaboration, dedicated to broad-based academic excellence and known for being able to deliver for its students and its community. Known for bettering the world around us and our futures. 

Working together we can be greater than the sum of our parts. 

That work begins Monday at noon. 

 

Ed McCauley 

President and Vice-Chancellor 

 

Ways you can participate

 

 

The Table Stakes

In all our discussions, we must keep our eyes on our fundamental obligations.

 

ii' taa'poh'to'p

Our commitment to reconciliation and ii' taa'poh'to'p

Equity, diversity and inclusion

Our commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion

Online experiences

Our commitment to students and the student experience


Documents submitted for consideration by Congress

 

 

Report from the Working Group On Transdisciplinary Scholarship and Areas of Focus 

Proposals for how transdisciplinary scholarship can be governed and an update to the “Areas of Focus” first presented in October, 2020.  

View the full report (PDF)

Give feedback on discussion questions

Report from the Working Group on Future-Focused Program Delivery 

A definition of four streams of activity to future-focus University of Calgary program delivery and five proposals within those streams of activity. 

View the report (PDF) 

Give feedback on discussion questions

Report from the Working Group on Deeper Community Connections

Development of the “Purposeful Mega Partnerships” concept and the framework through which such partnerships can be established.  

View the full report (PDF)

Give feedback on discussion questions

Previous Presentation Materials

Congress is the culmination of a journey that began last June, with the description of the “imperatives for change”, opportunities and a framework for continuing our University’s incredible growth. Task teams took these ideas and community feedback to further developed this framework into “three big ideas” and “four areas of focus”. 

Three Big Ideas: October Presentation Materials (Archived)


Congress is about hearing from you, our UCalgary community.

Many of you are already incorporating our big ideas into your work. Take a moment to listen as some of your colleagues, friends and students share their experiences with transdisciplinary scholarship, deeper community connections and future-focused program delivery.

(More videos to come)

UCalgary's partnerships benefit our university community and Calgary

Jessica O'Connell, Account Manager, Partnerships, United Way of Calgary and Area, shares some highlights of the many benefits of the partnership with UCalgary and enthusiastically states "we're just getting started."

Transdisciplinary approach to energy research best hope to accelerate advancements

Schulich School of Engineering's Dr. Steven Bryant shares how he has worked with several faculties to come up with a proposal to address the climate energy challenge.

Concussion MOOC enables vital learning opportunities 

Kinesiology's Dr. Kathryn Schneider and two MOOC student participants share how the course's innovative and accessible format delivers important information to the community.
 

Haskayne Career Development Centre develops students into career professionals

Kimberley Dart shares how the centre is an innovative, collaborative, and community-minded resource for students to reach their career goals

Drama students gain hands-on experience entertaining city youth

For 50 years, Wagonstage Children's Theatre has inspired audiences, giving drama students in the Faculty of Arts' School of Creative and Performing Arts the chance to write and perform original works to foster a vibrant community. 

Legal researcher helps boost financial literacy

Faculty of Law assistant professor Dr. Ryan Clements, SJD, is investigating barriers some Canadians face in accessing basic banking services, to help the most vulnerable achieve greater financial security.


Schedule

Let’s get into it! You can register to attend some, or all of the sessions listed below. It is not necessary to register for the first session to attend the second session. Video of presentations will be uploaded after the session has concluded. 

Future-focused Program Delivery 1 

Wednesday, February 10 
2:00pm – 4:00pm 
 

  • Introduction (~10 min) 

  • Presentation from Working Group and group questions (~40 min) 

  • Breakout sessions and discussion (~50 min) 

  • Discussion will focus around the question: What are the most substantial shifts necessary to revolutionize program delivery at the University of Calgary?

  • Wrap-up (~10 min) 

 

Registration now closed

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The recording from the session will be available to watch after the session.


Transdisciplinary Scholarship and Areas of Focus 1 

Thursday, February 11 
10:00am – 12:00pm 
 

  • Introduction (~10 min) 

  • Presentation from Working Group and group questions (~40 min) 

  • Breakout sessions and discussion (~50 min) 

  • Discussion will focus around the question: What are the most substantial shifts necessary to build knowledge between, across and beyond traditional academic disciplines?

  • Wrap-up (~10 min) 
     

Registration now closed

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Session presentation

The Working Group presentation during this Transdisciplinary Scholarship session has been recorded and is now available. 


Deeper Community Partnerships 1 

Friday, February 12 
2:00pm – 4:00pm 
 

  • Introduction (~10 min) 

  • Presentation from Working Group and group questions (~40 min) 

  • Breakout sessions and discussion (~50 min) 

  • Discussion will focus around the question: What are the most substantial shifts necessary to identify trusted partners and create thriving ‘mega partnerships’ as we have defined them?

  • Wrap-up (~10 min) 

 

Registration now closed

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Session presentation

The Working Group presentation during this Deeper Community Partnerships session has been recorded and is now available. 


Transdisciplinary Scholarship and Areas of Focus 2 

Tuesday, February 16 
12:00pm – 2:00pm 
 

  • Introduction (~10 min) 

  • Refresher presentation, reflections from previous session and group questions (~25 min) 

  • Breakout sessions and discussion (~50 min) 

  • Discussion will focus around the questions:

    • What supports or reallocated resources must UCalgary have in place in order to support the diverse work of a diverse set of scholars?
    • What are the strongest existing assets UCalgary can leverage to make immediate progress on Transdisciplinary Scholarship?  
  • Wrap-up and “what we’ve heard” (~25 min) 

 

Registration now closed

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Session presentation

The Working Group presentation during this Transdisciplinary Scholarship session has been recorded and is now available. 


Future-Focused Program Delivery 2 

Wednesday, February 17 
12:00pm – 2:00pm 

 

  • Introduction (~10 min) 

  • Refresher presentation, reflections from previous session and group questions (~25 min) 

  • Breakout sessions and discussion (~50 min) 

  • Discussion will focus around the questions:

    • With such fundamental planned changes in the approach to program development and delivery, how will we maintain the real and perceived quality of our current and future programs?
    • What are the strongest existing assets UCalgary can leverage to make immediate progress on Future Focused Program Delivery?  
  • Wrap-up and “what we’ve heard” (~25 min)

 

Registration now closed

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Session presentation

The Working Group presentation during this Future-Focused Program Delivery session has been recorded and is now available. 


Deeper Community Partnerships 2

Thursday, February 18 
12:00pm – 2:00pm 

 

  • Introduction (~10 min) 

  • Refresher presentation, reflections from previous session and group questions (~25 min) 

  • Breakout sessions and discussion (~50 min) 

  • Discussion will focus around the questions:

    • How do we make contributing to successful partnerships the work of our entire academic community?
    • What are the strongest existing assets or opportunities the U of C can leverage to make immediate progress on building Deeper Community Partnerships?
  • Wrap-up and “what we’ve heard” (~25 min) 


    Registration now closed

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The recording from the session will be available to watch after the session.


Closing Session 

Friday, March 5
12:00pm – 1:00pm 

 

Feedback to congress has been extended to March 5, 2021. 

PLACEHOLDER

The recording from the session will be available to watch after the session.