Dr. Jeff Keshen presentation is as follows:
Thank you for the opportunity to visit today
I’ve have been travelling around the region to share some of the terrific work Grenfell Campus is doing, the positive impact that we are having here, in Corner Brook and in our surrounding communities, and also to hear how we might better serve the region.
Today, I am joined by Mr. Ken Carter, the Director of our Engagement Office, who has played a leading role in many of our recent successes, some of which I’ll touch on today –
And those stories of success underlines the major theme of my talk: that is the need of post-secondary institutions, both universities and colleges, to be responsive to and deeply immersed in their communities –
Whether through the degrees provided, the skills imparted, the research its faculty and students undertake, and the funding it pursues.
Now, this does not preclude the need to explore great ideas, history, English –
I’m a graduate and a professor in the Liberal Arts –
Namely in the area of modern Canadian history –
As I’ll discuss a little later, those areas of study also provides students with critically important skills – including eminently marketable ones.
But there is also the requirement that we forge strong and practical links to concretely meet local and regional need – this is fundamental to Grenfell’s success and that of its students.
I am eager to hear about the issues and concerns you and others in this area have, and how we at Grenfell Campus might collaborate with you to help you develop new or better pursue current initiatives.
I’ve long been committed to the idea of universities being fully immersed in their communities.
Before starting as VP at Grenfell, I worked for 16 years at the University of Ottawa.
There, besides being a professor of history and the department Chair–
I started something called the Experiential Learning Service.
It had students take their disciplinary expertise to volunteer – for credits – with community groups –
They undertook numerous projects, including writing reports, conducting research, building stuff – all types of things.
It was a program that grew to involve some 1500 students annually, who, together, provided some 50,000 hours of volunteer work.
Soon after arriving at Mount Royal University, in Calgary, I was asked to create a similar initiative while serving as Dean of Arts.
There, I also became involved in establishing a program where community leaders acted as mentors for students interested in pursuing a career in the domain that employed the mentor.
I also established a community strategic advisory board comprised of prominent local figures which was of great benefit to the Faculty of Arts, and it is something I’m also establishing at Grenfell.
Universities have had a long record of community involvement
In the late 19th century, several British and American universities established urban settlement houses to assist the poor ..
Older Canadian universities were once affiliated with churches, and undertook social service work
St. Francis Xavier started – under the direction of Moses Cody – was heavily involved in providing free adult education during the Great Depression
Memorial University was established in 1925 with a strong sense of social mission/purpose –
Namely, to serve the needs of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, as it was created as a memorial to those from the island who lost their lives while on active service during the First World War –
As its charter states that MUN “draws inspiration from these shattering sacrifices of the past as we help to build a better future for our province, our country and our world.”
We started small – initially as a teachers’ training school.
But now we are one of Canada’s leading comprehensive universities, the largest in Atlantic Canada, with over 100 undergraduate and graduate degrees, and 18,000 plus students.
Today, MUN is comprised of four campuses, each with distinct qualities and mandates; together, they serve the needs of the entire province
Our largest campus is in St. John’s as is the Marine Institute, the university’s centre for marine education and applied research.
We also have a campus in Harlow, in the United Kingdom, where students experience learning in a European context as part of field courses, which, for Grenfell students, involves those in the Fine Arts
Grenfell Campus in Corner Brook offers undergraduate degree programs in arts, business, education, fine arts, nursing, resource management and science, as well as graduate programs in Environmental Science and Environmental Policy.
Presently, we have 126 students registered at Grenfell from the Stephenville area: 92 undergraduates, 1 graduate student, 1 distance student, and 32 nursing students
About a month ago, I had the pleasure of visiting Stephenville High with our recruiters – hoping to reinforce the message that we are thrilled to have your young people study with us.
As you know, many of these students who have attended Grenfell have gone off to do great things, as well as contributing to this community in numerous capacities
For instance, this summer, just like in past ones, many of those in our Threatre program will be performing in the Stephenville Theatre Festivalm which is about to mark its 40th anniversary
On behalf of Grenfell, I’d like to congratulate its Artistic director, Heather Braaten, and all those involved.
Reflecting a rapidly growing area of expertise, we are about to embark on plans to create a PhD program in Environmental Sustainability, which is so important given nearby national treasures like Gros Morne.
We are also in the final stages of establishing a Master of Fine Arts, focusing on painting and sculpture, which reflects the incredible talent in these domains in Western Newfoundland
A new degree that is truly unique by virtue of the fact that it has a significant on-line component, thus allowing students to take it from across the province, including in remote areas
There are other major parts making up Memorial –
One being the Labrador Institute –
Located in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, it was established to stimulate, coordinate, and support major University projects and programs and to expand the Labrador knowledge base.
Closer by Grenfell is the Bonne Bay Marine Station.
Co-managed with the Gros Morne Co-operating Association, it provides an infrastructure and environment supportive of first-class teaching and research in marine science, and engages in public education among many of the some 200,000 visitors to the park annually.
The need for universities to connect to and to demonstrate relevance is more important than ever.
As all of you know, recent years has brought very significant budgetary challenges to the province.
For Memorial, this has translated into major reductions in operating grants over the past four years –
This is not unique to Canadian post-secondary scene.
The first year I started at Mount Royal University in Calgary, that institution faced a 7.2 percent cut in its government operating grant –
Indeed, I’d challenge anyone in this room to find a university in Canada that has not encountered tough times over the past few years –
So, there is good reason why universities, including MUN, not only needs to be more efficient in its operations, but also more innovative and responsive –
Including by building partnerships to provide students with more opportunities to enhance experiences, skills and eventual success following graduation –
That a major priority for me –
To underline the fact that we are open for business –
That our students and researchers have tremendous capacity, as well as the desire, to work with businesses, associations, not-for profits, the artistic community and myriad other sectors.
Please think of the university as a resource –
Think of Grenfell’s 120 professors, 200 staff and 1300 students, spread across the Arts, Social Sciences, Science, Business, Nursing, Education, and the many disciplines and specializations falling within these areas as having incredible potential to help –
Whether in increasing social capital, building more inclusive and resilient communities, or enhancing economic activity.
I think this resonates well here in Stephenville
I know that your Mayor, Mayor Tom Rose, is quoted as saying: “I see our future direction in a strategy where we can grow the population and position Stephenville as an economic force in this province…”
I think Grenfell can help in this regard
Indeed, already we’ve seen opportunities through extremely beneficial discussions with Mark Felix, the province’s Economic Development Officer for this region.
Now, people often will point to the high costs of education, especially post-secondary education, which only a minority of our population access.
Next to Health and servicing the provincial debt, education is the most significant provincial expenditure; MUN costs the province some $350 million annually, and of that figure, Grenfell runs just over $30 million.
But counterbalancing against this are incredible benefits – including very direct and quantifiable ones.
In 2017, activities at the Grenfell accounted for just under $40 million in salaries and benefits paid annually to NL workers.
$75.5 million per year in provincial GDP was linked to Grenfell.
Municipal governments benefitted by $1.9 million because of Grenfell; in Corner Brook, this translated into just under 6% of the city’s budget.
Grenfell provided the provincial government with over $10 million in revenue, and another $6.6 million to the federal government.
A whopping $150 million in annual inter‐firm sales came about from activities undertaken at Grenfell.
Hundreds of students rent rooms in Corner Brook, and each year they spend an estimated $13 million.
And the visitors they receive – who stay in hotels, eat out, take cabs and so forth – brings in an estimated $7 million annually.
Beyond this are the myriad benefits that result from a more educated population –
From people with more earning potential –
Who bring a wider range of skills and knowledge
Who may be more inclined to support the Arts –
Who may want a greater range of services, activities, restaurants, and other things that contribute towards making for a more vibrant community.
Benefits also derive from the fact that at Grenfell we are not only a place of teaching and learning, but also one where advanced research occurs
We possess the capacity, desire and drive to make major contributions to our economy, society and culture
We are attracting more graduate students and post-doctoral fellows who are undertaking incredibly valuable, sophisticated and highly applicable analysis – for example, through our Boreal Ecosystem Research Initiative – or what we call the BERI lab –
From which is coming valuable data on climate change, forestry, and fisheries – each of which have attracted major government, agency and foundation grants
Building upon what I’ve mentioned before, we are now in the midst of putting together a major initiative to make Grenfell a centre for Agricultural research, which accords with provincial and federal government priorities to increase food production, as currently only 10% of what we consume is produced on the Island.
To our rapidly expanding graduate programs we are attracting students from around the world – nearly 10% of our students now come from outside Canada, who are making Grenfell an increasingly diverse and cosmopolitan campus.
No matter the area, we seek to educate students who will succeed after graduation, both in the workforce and as engaged citizens committed to improving society.
Certainly the Liberal Arts still labours under the long-established image of being impractical
But, at Grenfell, in that area – and through what we call the Grenfell Core compelling all students to take courses stressing literacy, writing, and basic math abilities – we instill fundamental, critically important skills that underlines success in all aspects of life –
Namely, the ability to critically analyze, to communicate effectively, to appreciate the complexity of issues –
A recent study released by the Association of American Colleges and Universities found that 93 percent of employers agreed that a “demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than [a job candidate’s] undergraduate major.”
In today’s rapidly-changing, technologically complex and increasingly globalized polity and economy, employers are seeking those who are intellectually nimble, curious and innovative.
In a June 2016 article in the Atlantic magazine entitled “Why America’s Business Majors are in Desperate Need of a Liberal Arts Education,” Business Deans commented that besides the many skills and attributes students attain through a BBA or even an MBA, they also need “an education that allows them to grow, adapt, and contribute as citizens.”
Professor Ross Finnie of the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa showed – empirically – that whereas Arts students initially struggled in starting careers after graduation, and initially were paid less than those educated in more technical/professional domains, after about 5 years on the job – when their adaptability, flexible thinking, and strong written and oral communication skills became evident –
Well, they generally caught up on earnings and did arguably better with respect to promotion.
Even during the recent economic meltdown in the United States, Arts graduates did not fare badly
An analysis from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce found that in 2011 and 2012, the unemployment rate for recently graduated Liberal Arts majors at 8.4 percent compared well to those in computer science and math at 8.3 percent.
Although we at Grenfell are experiencing rapidly growing demand – and are seeking to expand our capacity – in areas like Business and Environmental Sciences and Environmental Policy –
Arts and Social Sciences still constitute our largest domain –
I encourage you to think of the skills these students can bring to your organization.
Now to help link Grenfell with external partners, we have established an Office of Engagement, expertly headed by Mr. Ken Carter.
It has arranged hundreds of volunteer placements, including relating to course work that deepens student learning and enhances the capacity of community partners.
One example is our city studio program, where faculty, students and city staff co-create, design and launch real projects that have a positive impact in our community, such as to develop plans to make Corner Brook’s port area a more dynamic spot, including for cruise ships –
It is a program that our new, and tremendously helpful, Mayor (and the municipal council) strongly supports and with whom we are collaborating to expand its scope
Grenfell has also sought to position itself to better connect with and support the business community to make the city and region more sustainable and dynamic.
Faculty members like Dr. Jacqui Walsh of our business administration program are experts in the fields of entrepreneurship and innovation.
Last year Dr. Walsh was appointed vice-chair of InnovateNL, an initiative of the provincial government to foster innovation and accelerate business growth in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Jacqui is also on the board of Grenfell’s Navigate Entrepreneurship Centre – which, in partnership with CNA, helps student entrepreneurs with business advise and seed funding —
And recently, the Centre received some very exciting news that will also benefit the region immensely:
Namely that with nearly $1.5 million support from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, and the Provincial Ministries of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation and Advanced Education we are creating create – along with our friends at the College of the North Atlantic – a Maker Space and Innovation Incubator —
Namely to create spaces where entrepreneurs can meet to exchange ideas, engage researchers, and develop and test products –
Currently, this is being housed on our two campuses, but, in partnership with the Corner Brook Pulp and Paper Mill, we have larger ambitions; working together, we believe we can have a transformational impact on this community, as we are starting plans to relocate the Maker Space and Incubation Incubator into a refurbished, remodelled and long-vacant administrative building adjacent to the mill –
There, we can also provide employee training, as well as house major research projects, including to reimagine some of the products the mill produces, including its waste and excess heat, thus making for a more profitable, stable and sustainable operation that will provide good jobs well into the future.
Given the presence of the Abitibi mill here until 2005, there may be local expertise, here, to enrich this emerging partnership
It is indeed such partnerships that will provide the basis for richer education, student and grandaunt success, more funding opportunities, and in establishing – even during a time of decreased government funding – a more dynamic campus that will attract more students to the West Coast of Newfoundland –
which we must do to counter the declining numbers of young people in this area –
So, again the message I want to leave you with today is that Grenfell is open for business
We do not aspire to be Newfoundland’s best kept secret –
Or seen as the distant place literarily perched at the top of the hill
Myself: well, I’m a phone call or an email away
Anytime you wish to visit, let me know
Thank you all for coming today – for taking time out of your busy schedules
I look forward to making meaningful connections, and I’ll be happy to answer any questions.
He then spoke with Mayors Tom Rose of Stephenville, Debbie Brake-Patten of Kippens and Cynthia Downey from Keyin College/and the town of Stephenville Crossing.
After the question period with him President Dave Walsh announced the Chamber is planning some “Lunch & Learn Sessions ” for our General Membership within the near future.
Janice Kennedy won the 50/50 scholarship draw. The meeting adjourned at 1:15 p.m.