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Concordia’s strategic directions: 4 consultations are under way

Working groups explore how the university can double its research, teach for tomorrow, embrace the city / embrace the world and grow smartly
October 21, 2015
By Karen McCarthy

As part of the second phase of Concordia’s Strategic Directions Initiative, working groups are now exploring how to develop cross-institutional strategies to double our research, teach for tomorrow, grow smartly, and embrace the city, embrace the world.

These are four of nine strategic directions that were the result of the first phase of the process, which included thoughtful conversations and consultations on how Concordia can thrive in the decade ahead as a next-generation urban research university.

The work of articulating cross-university strategies in four key areas complements the planning efforts being undertaken by the Faculties, libraries and administrative sectors.

“Planning within our key units, like our Faculties, is critical to our success,” says Benoit-Antoine Bacon, provost and vice-president of Academic Affairs. “But we also need ‘horizontal’ planning across units to ensure that we avoid silos and are well coordinated on key issues.”

In addition to developing cross-institutional strategies, second-phase activities include planning by Faculties, libraries and sectors to determine how best to align their priorities with the nine directions, improving administrative processes and organizing participatory design exercises that create opportunities for collective problem solving.

In November, there are are several public consultation events planned to explore how to double our research (November 3 and 4), embrace the city / embrace the world and grow smartly (November 18). For the teach for tomorrow direction, the university has planned a series of teaching values sessions on October 23 and November 3, 9 and 23 that are open to students, faculty and staff.

We spoke with the leaders of the cross-institutional strategy development groups about their work.

Double our research

What does it mean to double our research?

For Graham Carr, it’s about more than just increasing the research funding that Concordia receives. It is about “further enhancing the research of the university as an expression of what our university is … including intensifying research experiences at the undergraduate and graduate levels.”

The vice-president of Research and Graduate Studies is leading a working group that will develop a university-wide strategy to double research at Concordia. Members include faculty and undergraduate and graduate students from the Senate Research Committee and the University Research Committee.

Consultations are now taking place with a broad cross-section of faculty, staff and students, including members of the university’s research community, deans, undergraduate research award recipients, graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and staff members from the Services Sector.

“People see this strategic direction as a tangible expression that the university is serious about research,” says Carr. “For our researchers, this direction sends a hugely positive message about the aspirations of the university and our commitment to graduate training as a core part of our academic mission. This is both encouraging and exciting.”

One topic that is coming up in discussions so far, Carr says, is the need to continue to facilitate research that crosses disciplinary boundaries.

“How can we support trans-disciplinarity in ways that put us ahead of the curve when it comes to tackling challenges facing society? There is an appetite to be imaginative and creative about trans-disciplinarity, and a desire to do research with impact.”

Carr also points out that “double our research” links to “teach for tomorrow,” as we develop new training opportunities for students to “get their hands dirty” through experiential learning opportunities such as internships and co-op placements, and to “embrace the city and the world” in developing partnerships and collaborations.”

You can provide your feedback on how Concordia can double its research by completing a short questionnaire. Submit your answers before November 30.

You can also participate in one of two public “idea cafés” to discuss how we can double our research on Tuesday, November 3, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. in Room FB 620 of the Faubourg Building, or on Wednesday, November 4, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. in the Refectory, Room 110 on the Loyola Campus.

Teach for tomorrow

Catherine Bolton, vice-provost of Teaching and Learning, is working to develop a strategy that will position Concordia as a distinctive place for receiving a connected, transformative education.

This strategy will address the university’s priorities in digital learning, our approaches to facilitating active and experiential learning, the flexibility of our program offerings, and the kinds of professional skill development that students receive as part of their education.

Alongside the development of this strategy, Bolton has started a conversation about the values that inform teaching practices and the qualities that can show how Concordia’s are different from those of other institutions.

“We want to hear from as many people as possible to help us develop a good definition of good teaching, and this begins by talking about our values,” says Bolton. This is a foundational piece of work that will help inform the university in developing its teach for tomorrow strategy.

The Teaching Values Initiative features a series of sessions that are open to students, faculty and staff. These are scheduled for October 23 and November 3, 9 and 23. “We’re asking people to think about the relationship between values and curriculum and teaching practices,” she says.

In February/March, the plan is to showcase models of selected values in action at the annual Teaching and Learning Festival, says Bolton.

Attend one of the Teaching Values sessions being offered on October 23, November 3, 9 and 23.

You can provide your feedback on how Concordia can teach for tomorrow by completing a short questionnaire. Submit your answers before November 30.

Grow smartly

Concordia has essentially tripled its size in the last 25 years, and will continue to grow.

We need to ensure that we grow in a way that is sustainable and in line with the world of tomorrow, says Bacon, with regards to developing a strategy for how the grow smartly.

“The most interesting and important question of our direction grow smartly, in my view, is ‘What new research and academic fields could we develop at Concordia?’,” he says.

“Certainly health-related fields need to be on the radar, and conversations are also emerging around other fields like architecture and chemical engineering. Some people are even talking about law. We are a place in constant evolution and we need to be in control of our destiny.”

Bacon says that whatever your role is at the university, you contribute to defining who we are and what we do on a daily basis. “This process is a chance for everyone in our community to propose and discuss ambitious and interesting ideas about our common future.”

The Senate’s Academic Planning and Priorities Committee is steering the discussion to develop a university-wide strategy for growing smartly, and this will include wide consultations. For example, survey questions will be circulated to the community, key groups will be consulted and at least one public forum is being organized for November.

“I’m hoping that we will be able to propose both fundamental principles and a number of big ideas that will contribute to our smart growth over the next five to 10 years,” says Bacon.

You can provide your feedback on how Concordia can grow smartly by completing a short questionnaire. Submit your answers before November 30.

There will be a public consultation, open to students, faculty and staff on November 18 at the Centre for Teaching and Learning, Room FB 620 in the Faubourg Building from 9 to 10:30 a.m.

Photo by T.E.A Photography (courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons) Photo by T.E.A Photography (Flickr Creative Commons)

Embrace the city, embrace the world

This direction is two-fold, with Lisa Ostiguy, deputy provost, leading the discussion on how Concordia can embrace the city, and William Cheaib, associate vice-president, International, tackling how the university can embrace the world.

“Concordia has long been very involved in many successful community engagement activities,” says Ostiguy.

Her goal is to bring together the community work of staff, students and faculty to create a cohesive and strategic approach to engagement — one that is based on consultation with members from across the university and representatives from organizations in the city.

She will be collaborating with Janis Timm-Bottos, the newly appointed provost fellow for Community Engagement. An assistant professor of art therapy in Concordia’s Creative Arts Therapies program, Timm-Bottos established La Ruche d'Art: Community Studio and Science Shop in St. Henri — a good example of community engagement in action.

Ostiguy also highlights the work of Susan Edey of Concordia’s Office of Community Engagement, which has resulted in stronger partnerships between the university and community groups. The embrace the city strategy will build on the ongoing work of the Office of Community Engagement.

On a recent trip to Arizona State University, Ostiguy was struck by how the university mapped out where it was involved and not involved in the city of Phoenix. The university then zeroes in on where they can make a small impact, and grow that to make an even bigger impact.

“It’s exciting to explore how we — at Concordia — can take a critical look at what Montreal needs and how we can support the city, while offering great research and valuable learning opportunities to both our undergraduate and graduate students,” she says.

Ostiguy says it will be important to build on the good work that has already been done across the university in terms of engaging the community and the city, and finding a way to build a model where city staff work alongside students on joint projects.

“I think Montrealers recognize that Concordia is a community school, and I’ll be consulting with people to bring our initiatives together to create a focused strategy, including a way to identify courses and curriculum that incorporate a city engagement component,” says Ostiguy.

She echoes the same sentiment as Carr that the embrace the city direction also links up with teach for tomorrow and get your hands dirty.

For Cheaib, who is heading up the work to develop the embrace the world strategy, there are two aspects to this direction.

“First, it is about leveraging international networks and building strategic partnerships that will benefit both students and faculty,” he says. “It also means continuing to integrate an international dimension into our research and academic programs, and supporting diversity on our campuses.”

Part of this direction “is making sure our research and academic initiatives are relevant within an increasingly interconnected world, as well as preparing our students to be global citizens,” he says.

He is also looking at how the university can leverage its assets.

“We have a lot of strengths. Our faculty members have solid international connections in research and our diverse student body is eager to discover the world. Concordia’s 200,000 alumni, in Canada and worldwide, act as great ambassadors,” he says.

You can provide your feedback on how Concordia can embrace the city by completing a short questionnaire. Submit your answers before November 30.

Find out more about Concordia’s Strategic Directions Initiative


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