2019-2020 Welcome Back Assembly Remarks by Director General Richard Filion
“Ensuring the right education system that develops our full humanity is more important than everything else we might do.”
Sir Anthony Seldon
Vice-Chancellor, University of Buckingham
Historian and Author
Welcome to the 2019-2020 Academic Year!
As always, it is good to see you back.
I trust you all had a great summer break. You have recharged your batteries and you are all ready to kick off a new year filled with accomplishments and successful endeavours.
Before going any further, let’s watch a short video produced by our Communications Office. Fifty years ago, Dawson welcomed its first cohort of students. Beaucoup de chemin parcouru depuis ce temps ! We thought it would be a good idea to look forward and imagine what the future may look like for Dawson.
VIDEO: #DAW50N – Celebrating our Past and Embracing our Future
I would like to take the opportunity to thank our Communications team. They have worked hard over the past months to enhance our communication strategies and they will keep seeking ways to improve.
The 19-20 Academic Year should be on many fronts an interesting one since it will bring us through the end of the second decade of our century, a period where challenges are not fading, to say the least.
Those among us who are still showing scepticism about the environmental crisis may now have to revisit their position. The month of July, according to recent reports of climate experts, has been recorded as the warmest month ever on the surface of the Earth. We have even witnessed an unprecedented melting of ice in the Arctic and concerns about climate change and warnings are coming from everywhere, loud and clear.
Meanwhile, on the world stage, politics are leaning toward protectionism and populism is on the rise, creating a stronger sense of division and disarray throughout the planet.
As I have previously mentioned, these unforeseen forces currently at play are shattering our most familiar points of reference and values bringing various daunting challenges which, for educators, can be overwhelming.
The question stands as sharp and clear as ever: what is the basic thrust of our mission and how do we manage to achieve it?
A question that must be answered
At Dawson, our answer is contained in the words that shape our core strategic vision: educate, engage, enrich. We seek to develop and offer a bold educational project to each of our students that goes over and above the delivery of instructional competencies that define our various disciplines and programs. This added value is expressed through the nine Graduate Profile outcomes encompassing our overarching educational undertaking, outcomes we seek to develop through intentional and coordinated approaches.
To put it succinctly, we seek to develop informed and engaged citizens who will be able to exercise and apply critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and demonstrate creativity in every aspect of their lives, citizens who can play an active role in making the world a better place.
A strategic vision for education, to remain relevant, has to be a living one, one that integrates trends that are influencing our societies. It means that we must become aware of these forces, do our due diligence in thoroughly and steadily scanning our environment and striving to offer educational opportunities that prepare the coming generations to cope with these forces to the best of their abilities by developing their true potential.
Our Dawson DNA: providing innovative academic offerings
At Dawson, we committed ourselves years ago – it is part of our DNA so to speak – to provide our students with innovative academic offerings and transformational learning experiences. Educating, enriching and engaging our students through bold and innovative learning processes is not only about transmitting knowledge and developing skills, it is also – and it is certainly the most difficult aspect of our mission – about transmitting values.
In order to stand by this commitment, over the years we have initiated and supported many groundbreaking initiatives aimed at enhancing our educational offering. Support had been provided to the Communities of Practice that are currently active in various fields: DALC (Dawson Active Learning Community); WID (Writing in the Disciplines); Dawson E-Learning; UDL@Dawson (Universal Design for Learning), to name a few. We also gave birth to innovative modes of instructional delivery, starting a while ago with Reflections and New School, as well as creating pathways and certificates related to specific themes. More recently, we launched new modes of course delivery with the Learning Community initiative. Last semester, we committed to a three-year plan designed to tackle the major upheavals that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is already producing in several sectors of human activity.
This plan is not only a way to prepare our students to cope with technological changes in the industry or the workforce. Changes in the very structure of employment affect every sector and, yes, even the teaching profession will have to deal with the need to adapt and change.
These changes are inevitable. The question is how are we coping with these changes? How are we preparing ourselves to manage the emerging and challenging relation between humans and robot-led activities, especially in the light of ongoing development of Deep Learning machines? How can we ensure that by setting up these automated technologies that we will preserve our humanity?
These are daunting questions!
Managing and adapting to change
In a recent book called The Fourth Education Revolution, Sir Anthony Seldon, a British educator and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Buckingham, reflected on the impact of AI and called for a “holistic education centred on independent thinking, emotional intelligence and creativity.”
According to his views, Artificial Intelligence will soon concretize itself in education through the availability of intelligent machines that will adapt to suit the learning styles of individuals, therefore shaking up traditional teaching approaches. This robot-led teaching possibility is at our doorstep. We surely have to take the exact measure of this forthcoming revolution, if we don’t want to be caught by surprise.
The Board of Governors approved the plan launched last semester for a clear purpose. Our AI Initiative will help us better understand these changes and set up learning opportunities that will foster students’ capabilities. This is important because of the scientific and technological challenges AI presents. And it is also important to develop a critical understanding of the transformations AI is generating in our daily lives. It means ethics, sociology, economics, and other social science disciplines should feel concerned, as well as arts and design related disciplines. It is my wish that the community of practice that is currently forming will soon include representatives of these disciplines and engage into an interdisciplinary conversation that will permeate our various educational undertakings.
The inclusion of AI within the updated environmental scan may also mean we will have to better contextualize our Graduate Profile scheme and maybe fine-tune some of its current outcomes. More will follow on this matter during the course of the year.
Green agenda for September
Now let’s have a look at the upcoming agenda. Many events will occur in September that may put Dawson in the spotlight. On September 5, Dawson will be hosting the annual gathering of Environnement Jeunesse. On this occasion, Dawson will be awarded with a “mention d’excellence” pertaining to the certification by Cégep Vert du Québec. This recognition comes with highly appreciative comments:
« Le comité d’analyse de votre dossier tient à vous féliciter pour l’excellent travail que vous avez accompli. Votre établissement fait preuve de leadership et d’une proactivité impressionnante. Le comité tient à souligner la qualité et l’exhaustivité du rapport ainsi que la pertinence des différentes annexes. Votre collège se positionne comme un établissement exemplaire et inspirant pour l’ensemble du réseau Cégep vert du Québec. Vos nombreuses actions et mesures ambitieuses méritent d’être partagées et reproduites dans le milieu collégial. Nous applaudissons l’engagement de votre établissement à atteindre la carboneutralité : Dawson Carbon Neutral forever et les actions entreprises afin d’atteindre cet objectif ».
This is a tremendous acknowledgment that we are doing the right thing in promoting and fostering Éducation relative à l’environnement (ERE) in our community. Kudos to all those involved in that project.
On September 27, we have decided to cancel all classes to encourage Dawson students, faculty and staff to participate in Dawson’s Earth Action Day and the broader movement around the Global Climate Strike. The college will remain open on that day. We kindly ask our staff to advise their supervisors ahead of time if they intend to participate or if they will work as usual.
On September 24, in the context of Dawson’s Earth Action Day, we will have a press conference to express our commitment to sustainability and environmentally sound actions. We will then plant a tree as a symbolic gesture.
Party time and the close of our 50th
On a more playful aspect, on September 20, our 50th Anniversary celebrations will come to a close with a Party for Faculty and Staff. You may have already RSVP’d online and you’ll receive an email reminder today, because we have an amazing night planned. Along these 50 years, you and many others have dedicated your time to enriching the daily life of students. In celebrating our anniversary, we are also saying thank you to all for your hard work and commitment. It will be a big celebration with live music and it will feature many of the talented musicians from our own faculty & staff.
I am also excited to announce that we will be giving away a big prize: an all-inclusive Club Med seven-night stay* for two! But you must RSVP and be at the party to win! I hope to see you there.
*includes accommodations, meals and activities; flight not included.
Last June, the annual Dawson Foundation Golf Tournament presented by Alexis-Nihon raised a total of $38,000 thanks to everyone who participated. This upcoming edition in June 2020 will be our 15th tournament.
To continue with this spirit of celebration, over the coming days, keep a close eye on your emails because we will be giving away two other prizes: a Foursome at Summerlea Golf and Country Club worth over $500 and two parking passes at the Forum for the semester. Best of luck to everyone. Prizes were given Friday, August 23.
We have now been part of the landscape for 50 years and the best is yet to come!
On September 1, the Policy on Sexual Violence will come into force. Adopted last spring, this policy is a legal requirement. It sets up obligations that will apply to everybody, students, staff and faculty. In the wake of this policy’s implementation, sensitization and mandatory training activities will be provided to staff and students. A thorough review of the current Code of Conduct will be undertaken under the leadership of the Director of Student Services and the Director of Human Resources. The goal of this revision is two-fold: updating the current code and extending it to all employees, which is not the case now.
New appointments in Students Services and Continuing Education
Last year, with the purpose of enhancing student services and providing students with a better college life experience, we set up a First-Year Students’ Office, which has already proven its relevance. In 19-20, we will continue in that direction. First, I am happy to introduce our newly appointed Coordinator of Students Services, Mr. Jason Annahatak. Jason has a Master of Education in Counselling Psychology from Columbia University and a Master of Business Administration granted jointly by McGill and HEC. Jason will be responsible for all the support services to students, ranging from counselling to specialized services offered by the AccessAbility Centre. His experience and expertise will certainly help enhance the quality of the services provided, at a time when learning difficulties and mental health issues are on the rise.
To that effect, this year we will develop a policy related to inclusion that will seek to clarify roles and responsibilities of all in regard to our legal and ethical obligations.
I am also happy to introduce to the community our new ombudperson, Ms Louise Schiller, who holds a Master’s degree in Education, Psychology and Counselling from McGill University. Until recently, Louise was Director of the Office of Rights and Responsibilities at Concordia University. She brings to Dawson a wealth of experience that will certainly help in the updating of the current Ombudsperson Services Policy of the College, with a view of giving this office a more proactive role.
So welcome to Dawson to both of you! Let me wish you a pleasant and long-standing contribution to the well-being of our students and employees.
I would also like to mention the recent appointment of Maeve Muldowney as Dean of Continuing Education and Community Services. Maeve began her career as a teacher in Continuing Education at CEGEP Marie Victorin. While at Marie Victorin, her career evolved into that of a non-teaching professional, specifically as an Education Advisor in various departments. Maeve began her career at Dawson in 2008 as Coordinator of Professional Development & Research in the Office of Instructional Development.
In 2013 as Coordinator of RAC Services, she developed and implemented the first Recognition of Acquired Competencies (RAC) service at Dawson. Over the past four years, Maeve has occupied the role of Manager of the Centre for Training and Development (CTD) and more recently as Coordinator in Continuing Education and Community Services (CECS).
In this latter role, Maeve, in collaboration with the Dean of CECS, initiated a review of all the administrative processes pertaining to the Attestation d’Études Collégiales (AEC) Programs. She also improved the efficiency and quality of non-credit courses offered through CTD resulting in a 30 per cent increase in revenue. Maeve’s knowledge of the College and her vision for the future of Continuing Education align with Dawson’s priorities in the strategic plan and will enable her to respond to the challenges in the next phase of the department’s development.
We wish her every success in her new position.
Professional development for Faculty and Staff
Education is a transformational activity. This is our deep belief and the reason why we stand by a strategic vision that intends to make Dawson a leader in the delivery of innovative academic offerings and transformational learning experiences. To be faithful to this vision, we must see ourselves engaged in an ongoing process of professional development. In 19-20, we are setting the focus upon the reinforcement of our professional development programs. The development of competencies must stand at the forefront of our HR development strategy. Coming from the Academic Administration and the Human Resources Department, renewed opportunities for professional development will be offered to both faculty and staff. The development of such programs will go along with the revision and reactivation of our performance evaluation procedures.
Being committed to deliver a transformational learning experience to our students means that we must be ready to engage ourselves in the transformation of some of our practices through appropriate and constructive feedback, making sure these practices are as efficient and relevant as possible.
This also means we have to keep transforming the learning and teaching environment. In 19-20, the department of Plant and Facilities will continue its efforts to redesign the classrooms according to the data we gathered from a recent survey.
Along these lines, the IST Department will keep going with the experimentation and implementation of devices and equipment that are dealing with the digital era to favour a better use of digital technologies in the delivery of our services. The IST Department will also contribute to the development of a policy framing the use of on-line modes of instructional delivery while tackling the growing issue of cybersecurity. The same department will participate in a feasibility study related to an upcoming renovation of our library. This project is being led by the Director of Student Services in close collaboration with the Director of the Plant & Facilities Department.
New infrastructure and funding formula
This year we will be operating under a new government funding formula that is responsible for resource allocation throughout the college network. Since this new formula is not exactly to our advantage, the Director of Finance will keep a close eye on it and monitor its impact on the college’s overall funding. It may lead the college in the short term to advocate for some modifications to this new formula.
Finally, with respect to the Foundation, the recent departure of the Director is opening the way for a realignment of its activities. We are currently looking at restructuring the staffing and looking at how to maintain the Foundation’s activities. At the same time, Foundation Board members have been actively working on files and I am pleased to announce that $150,000 in pledges have come in since July 1.
I can’t end this presentation without saying a few words about the status of our infrastructure dossier. The goal of this project is to recover a 10,000-square-metre space deficit. It is is moving forward according to schedule. It is complex as it involves several stakeholders. I remain confident we will get to the last phase, which is designing a business case, in the early winter as planned.
Voilà in a nutshell the core agenda we will pursue this year.
I thank you for your kind attention and wish all of you an excellent academic year.
August 21, 2019