Dear Concordia faculty and staff colleagues,
The leaves are still green but on the weekend it smelled to me like fall. As August marches on, the pace of life on our two beautiful campuses is beginning to pick up as we all get ready for the 2014-15 academic year.
I hope you’ve had a great summer, some time with family, some time for yourself, and are recharged and ready (or almost ready!) to go.
Last year, Concordians had a banner year. Not just the Olympic gold medals brought home by athletes in our midst, but major academic victories like the Prix du Quebec, a Guggenheim and a Trudeau fellowship.
Indeed 2013-14 was the strongest year ever for research funding at Concordia, and there were numerous successes in research, teaching and community engagement to celebrate. For the first time we hosted Acfas, the largest French-speaking academic gathering in the world, bringing more than 5,000 researchers to campus.
Over the summer we learned that Concordia will house one of five global hubs for Future Earth. This agency of the United Nations will be an international site devoted to research on a broad range of scientific and policy questions focused on sustainability. Hosting Future Earth is a coup for Concordia and Montreal.
I am optimistic about the year to come. We begin the year with some very good signs: record numbers of applications, acceptances and registrations from prospective Concordia students; strengthened funding for undergraduate and graduate students; the success of the Grey Nuns project, our most recent building project that is just opening; and the arrival of many new students, post-docs and members of staff and faculty, including two new academic leaders, deans Amir Asif in Engineering and Computer Science and André Roy in Arts and Science.
Like every year, of course, 2014-15 will bring us some challenges and opportunities.
One looming challenge is the fiscal situation in Quebec and its impact on the university sector. Following the Quebec budget released this past June, we will need to reduce the university’s budget, and I expect to take a proposal to the Board of Governors next month. Other challenges ahead include the prospect of new regulations by Quebec of university-sector pension plans, the expiry of some 13 collective agreements here at Concordia next May, and the expectation that the 2015-16 Quebec budget will also be a lean one, as signalled by Premier Couillard.
Looking down the road and across the planet, there are bigger signs of change in university education that Concordia, like all successful universities that seek a bright future, must grapple with. So over the course of the year we will embark on a period of reflection and planning for the future, and I will be inviting you to join me and others in that important process.
For more than a century the faculty and staff who came before us at Loyola and Sir George Williams and then Concordia University in 1974 embraced the future, took risks, built something special. Today the university is strong, resilient, smart, successful and distinctive. It continues to have a very bright future. And I hope you will join me and our students in working out what risks we need to take, what programs we need to build, to make it so.
Thank you for your commitment to Concordia.