|Please click here to download the Director General's remarks with accompanying slides as a PDF|
Good morning everyone and welcome to the Academic Year 2012-13. Thank you for having accepted my invitation to meet to salute the start of this new year.
Once again this year, we are welcoming an unprecedented number of students.
In the day division, we are anticipating over 8,200 students, due to a higher rate of retention in most of our programs and a greater attractiveness of Dawson as a college of choice, as a place to come when one looks for an education that stimulates and offers real opportunities for a fulfilling life.
A similar phenomenon is seen in Continuing Education with a considerable increase in enrolment in most of our activities.
Cet état de fait n’est pas le fruit du hasard. We have not reached this point randomly. It comes from years of intensive work and attention to our students, it comes from a tradition of strong dedication to quality in education that Dawson can be proud of.
I can say we, as a community, have learned our lessons the hard way after the tragedy of 2006. At that moment, and in the time since, we have learned that education is more than the delivery of instructional curricula.
We understood more than ever that education is not only about knowledge and skills, but also about values and attitudes. September 2006 came as a shock, no doubt, with all the suffering and questions that it raised.
But we were able to turn this tragedy into an opportunity to confirm values we cherish as educators and to reaffirm what we think is the fundamental meaning of our educational mission: to educate the student as a whole person.
This is what we have tried to express in the notion of the Graduate Profile that lies at the heart of our Strategic Plan 2010-2015. The 9 key learning outcomes outlined in the Graduate Profile aim to provide a framework for the development of our students and to foster greater collaboration among ourselves.
In brief, this Graduate Profile sets the goals that we as educators are trying to achieve, no matter where we are situated in this College.
This year, under the auspices of the Academic Administration, actions will be undertaken to set up benchmarks that will serve us to better understand how the Graduate Profile manifests itself through our academic and para-academic achievements.
Last semester, the Office of Instructional Development under the leadership of Barbara Freedman and at the urging of Tina Romeo challenged Chris Adam of CRLT to let his students define goodwill. They produced a short video I would like to show you that encompasses not only their vision of compassion and good will, but takes a survey across the disciplines throughout the College, without saying a word. Please watch.
Since 2006, when students take it upon themselves to lead the way, we listen. One of their major concerns is the environment they will inherit.
Nearly a year ago, we inaugurated the Peace Garden and participated in the drawing of a mural that now hangs in the de Maisonneuve entrance with the view of providing a tangible sign of our commitment to a vision that promotes sustainability, peace and non-violence education as a way to counterbalance trends that are threatening our very existence on this planet.
This is why in recent years we have put so much effort and commitment in sustainable development. Sustainability is not only a concern about nature preservation, it goes beyond. It has to do with being preoccupied with the wholeness of our presence in this world.
So sustainability development encompasses social and economic issues. It has everything to do with what ecology means and that was summarized in this motto: Think globally, act locally.
At Dawson, we take this motto to heart ...because of the dedication of the Dawson community, we are increasingly being used as a model for meaningful change:
Last Fall's successful and stimulating conference organized by Mary Hlywa and Pat Romano: Violence and Youth and the Role of Education: Inspiring Solutions has led to the creation of a website so that the dialogue may continue.
You can go to that website, which is still growing and changing as we pursue the ideal of non-violent education, at http://inspire.dawsoncollege.qc.ca.
All these initiatives will soon be regrouped under one virtual roof when we create Dawson's Centre for Studies in Peace and Non-Violence Education that will serve as a hub to unite our efforts in sustainability, non-violent education, awareness building and fundraising activities, and responsible entrepreneurship.
Madeleine Bazerghi, from Program Services Office, has spearheaded this last endeavor about responsible entrepreneurship. You can see how it is progressing by consulting the website. The address is here on the screen (/entrepreneurship).
We are freeing ourselves of the past and through the goodwill of so many, creating a momentum of change that inspires us, but is inspiring to others as well.
Two years ago, the exercise of developing a new strategic plan gave us the opportunity to take a look at ourselves and to measure the nature of the challenges we are currently facing as a College providing English instruction in Quebec.
Bearing in mind these various challenges – some are related to demographic trends, some are stemming from political agendas – we struck a Vision Statement that is bold and inspirational.
As we gaze at what is coming, we want to make sure that Dawson will continue to be a college of choice for a wide diversity of students and we commit ourselves to the pursuit of excellence in education through innovation, anticipation and responsiveness to society`s needs.
Dawson`s sense of innovation has always served us well and it is what makes this college a dynamic place to work and study. It is a fertile environment where life renews itself every year with a new cohort of students, and new faculty and staff.
And as it is with the cycle of life, we must also bid farewell to colleagues whose loss we feel profoundly.
Over the summer, three long serving faculty members passed away, Gary Zarta from Computer Science, Matlub Hussein from Economics and Holly Bockus from CRLT.
This year, we reinforce Dawson`s capacity to develop research and innovation by adding resources that will provide increased support to our current and forthcoming researchers.
In our midst are those teachers who were celebrated for outstanding achievement. Chris Whittaker of the Physics department this year took the teaching award from the Association québécoise de pédagogie collégiale (AQPC).
At Convocation last June, we celebrated the graduation of 2,800 students, of which some 400 were in attendance at Place des Arts with their families, and we paid tribute to the four recipients of the Teaching Excellence awards: Alyson Grant, Anick Legault, Brian Mader and Janet Wyman.
Elizabeth Charles received an award from the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE) for being one of the best in college teaching excellence and peer mentoring.
Last year, in the wake of an applied research conducted by Liz Charles, we made interesting progress in the domain of active learning. This groundbreaking project is giving us indications of what a 21st century classroom can offer to the teaching and learning activity.
We are committed to pursuing this project further by building a second active learning classroom before the end of this year and by supporting teachers involved in that initiative.
In that regard,– thanks to all those who have been involved in that development, faculty and staff from IST Department and from OID -- the significant progress we are making in the use of Information and Communication Technologies – the increased use of Moodle and Lea, the addition of 5 Compu-classes, the upgrading of our WIFI network, the development of on-line courses – goes along with our intent to lead the way in terms of innovative pedagogy and to remain at the edge of the development of educational methodologies.
To give you an idea, we purchased more than 550 new computers and installed them over the summer to equip new labs or upgrade existing ones.
It took an enormous effort to have everything up and running, and thanks go to François Paradis, Kieran Huxley and their team for the good work they do to make sure we are ready for the start of classes.
Key to any learning process is the need for our students and their success to master the basic linguistic skills. In the continuation of a very promising project we had undertaken last year in the domain of French as a second language, we will this year undertake a similar development related to the mastery of basic skills In English.
In conjunction with the Writing Into the Disciplines (WID) project which already mobilizes several teachers, the hiring of a specialist in the domain of learning processes, the development of meta-cognitive skills and the implementation of a “learning to learn” approach should help us to enhance our capacity to efficiently intervene beside all these students that may present some lacuna in this regard.
Je viens tout juste de mentionner le projet d’intervention dans le domaine de l’apprentissage du français langue seconde que nous avons entrepris l’an dernier.
Ce projet est important à plusieurs égards car il vise un grand nombre de nos étudiants. Pour se réaliser, ce projet compte sur la collaboration de plusieurs intervenants, dont les membres du département de français et le personnel professionnel du Student Services et du AccessAbility Center.
Ce projet est la pierre angulaire d’un plan d’action plus vaste qui cherche à mettre en œuvre des mesures visant à renforcer notre action en matière d’apprentissage du français. Considérant certains agendas politiques, Il est essentiel que la communauté de Dawson comprenne bien le sens de ce plan d’action et le soutienne au mieux de ses capacités.
This year will also see the development of tools and devices associated with the ongoing evaluation of our activities. Already five programs and two departments are engaged in testing processes aiming at providing timely feedback for continuous improvement of our actions and, ultimately, providing ground for building a better work environment.
We hope that, by next year, all programs and academic departments will be in a position of using ongoing evaluation for their own purposes.
This Fall, Ped Day will offer us all the opportunity to go a little deeper in the understanding of this notion of Graduate Profile. Our keynote address will be made by Karen Ridd, who will speak on the importance of the "whole student"; a key component of Dawson College’s educational philosophy.
I heard Karen Ridd speak at our conference last year and I was impressed. I hope you will find her talk to be as powerful as I did. Karen Ridd is a faculty member at Menno Simons College, Winnipeg, and a consultant on varied mediation and peace initiatives across the globe.
We are also looking forward to the thoughtful and inspiring contributions of the faculty and staff at the College – making Ped Day a unique College academic community event.
By the way, please note that Ped Day shall be held on Friday, October 12, as per the date change announced to the Academic Calendar late last week.
I would like to turn to something that has preoccupied us all summer: there is no question that we were dealt a big blow on May 29 – I would even call it a disaster – when water flooded some areas of the College, causing major damage and handing P&F a number of difficult challenges.
To this date, the insurance claim will exceed $3M, which gives an idea of the magnitude of the disaster. For those who were not here, we have produced this video from footage from our surveillance cameras to show you how extensive the damage was.
Evaluation of damages, decontamination of some areas, planning of repairs, hiring of contractors, all this had to be done in a tight time period, in addition to the scheduled summer renovations.
For the time being, repairs are well underway and the most visible areas of the College are reinstated. I want to extend my thanks to the P&F staff, to our director Elizabeth McDonough, her coordinators, Wai Bong Shum, Jorge Sanchez, Daniel Deschênes and Vincent Mansueto and to our Building Maintenance professional Fanny Fung for the hard work they`ve been doing under difficult conditions.
I also want to thank those departments affected by the flood repairs for their patience and understanding, particularly Physical Education, Electronics Engineering Technology, Mechanical Engineering Technology, Students Services and Registrar`s Office.
In addition to these unforeseen repairs, P&F also oversaw extensive projects, such as the refurbishment of the water infiltration system and soil decontamination around the daycare, Phase II of the chemistry labs, as well as totally new spaces for our new program, Physical Rehabilitation in the 3C wing and our new CALL profile, Interactive Media Arts, in the 3A and B wings.
We are working hard to deliver a healthy working environment as there is no question that this is needed to engage in successful activities. During the coming year, we intend to develop and to submit for adoption a code of ethics for both faculty and staff.
This code of conduct will serve as a guide for all members of the Dawson community to practice professional behaviours that reflect our educational mission.
On the academic side, the Policy on Academic Integrity adopted by the Board last spring will find its way into specific and tangible practices through some modifications to the Institutional Student Evaluation Policy.
In the same perspective, an interesting project developed from the task force on the Policy to Stem Violence, Discrimination, Harassment and the Abuse of Power. A poster contest was launched among graduating students in Illustration & Design led by their teacher Pauline Fresco, to capture in images the values expressed in the policy.
Four winning designs were selected by a blue-ribbon panel of Greta Nemiroff, Dominique Ehrhardt and Donna Varrica. The posters by students Woo Ri Bong, Melanie Doyon, Hasan Khan, and Laurie Kleiderman, can be seen here. The message is identical on all four: "Dawson College is a non-violent environment. Let your words and actions support mutual respect."
These posters will be placed throughout the school in high traffic areas and anyone can put one in their own area. In parallel, Student Services will also begin to investigate ways of promoting and implementing devices geared toward the development of competencies related to healthy behaviours, these competencies being part of what we could call a « healthy school ».
In conclusion, I trust we are undertaking this year in good spirits. The student enrolment is buoyant, our financial situation is healthy and despite the cutbacks we managed last year, we were able to preserve the integrity of our staffing plan.
Our vision of the future is clear, our action plan is consistent and our will to make our efforts converge is growing stronger.
I hope these remarks are informative enough and help you to better understand where we are heading as a college.
2015 is a target date where I want Dawson to still act as a leading institution in college education. I know this is what you want and I trust that the positive actions within the community and upcoming projects and directions of the college will serve as an inspiration for the future and the world we will live in and help create.
Now, we know the pitfalls that are lying ahead and we intend not to rest on our laurels.
If ever the outcome of the forthcoming election brings on the table a political agenda that might be harmful to our students, let me tell you one thing: Dawson will stand loud and firm to preserve what should be the outstanding rule for post-secondary education: freedom of choice.
Before I invite you to partake of the luncheon that has been prepared for you, let me ask you to join me in welcoming our new food services provider Excelso to Dawson. Together with the College, they will work to provide healthy, affordable and tasty meal and snack options for the entire community.
Thank you and have a great semester!