Nobody can predict what will happen in and around the University of Alberta in the coming year. Despite this, several events and announcements from last year will probably make the news again in 2016. Here’s what to watch for on campus in the next year.
Lister’s changing face
A lot has happened to the U of A’s main undergraduate residence in the past year, and more changes are promised from university leadership.
With approximately 15 per cent of students currently in residence, the U of A has set the goal of housing 25 per cent of students in residence. With the fifth Lister Tower under construction, President David Turpin’s pledge of giving all first year students a place in residence is beginning to materialize.
In these proposed changes to student demographics in Lister, there has been some controversy surrounding the creation of a new representative body for students in the residence.
With the now-disbanded Lister Hall Student Association out of the picture, the Students’ Union is leading the implementation of a replacement representative body for students in Lister.
Reintroduction of the STEP program
In a November press conference in the Students’ Union Building, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and Minister of Advanced Education Lori Sigurdson pledged $10 million to restore the previously cut Summer Temporary Employment Program (STEP).
The money will help fund 3,000 jobs, beginning in 2016-17. The return of STEP was significant lobbying point for the Council of Alberta University Students, and the program will work with municipalities, non-profits, and other organizations to put students to work.
“It was really great to hear,” SU Vice-President (External) Dylan Hanwell said at the press conference last year. “This is something we’ve been lobbying for since STEP was cut. It’s really great to hear that not only is the government bringing the program back, but it’s more money than was originally in it.”
Prior to Notley and Sigurdson’s announcement, Alberta was the only province in Canada to not offer an employment program for post-secondary students.
STEP, which was initially established in 1972 by then-Premier Peter Lougheed, aims to better the summer job market for students, providing the experience so necessary in today’s job market.
Peter Lougheed Leadership College Residence
In another step to bring more residence spaces to campus, the Peter Lougheed Leadership College welcomed its inaugural cohort of students this year.
With the goal of bringing together students into a cohort based on “exemplary” leadership and academic experience, the first class of 60 third-year students from a variety of faculties was announced in September.
U of A VP (Academic) Fahim Rahman has drawn attention to a lack of student consultation and accountability in the creation of the college.
The initiative has been heavily criticized for perceived elitism and exclusivity, and it remains to be seen the impact the College will have on student culture at the U of A.
The Parkland Institute, office spaces and campus residences such as EcoHouse were all given notice over the summer of 2013 to vacate the land surrounding Saskatchewan Drive for construction of the building.
Turpin, University admin developing new strategic institutional plan
Since November, University of Alberta President David Turpin and Vice-President (Academic) Steven Dew have been formulating a new strategic institutional plan.
Serving to “establish concrete, achievable and measureable goals and strategies that will support (the U of A’s) vision,” the plan will serve as a guiding document for the future of the university.
As a president still fairly new to the office, Turpin pointed to “defining the U of A as a leading national and international university” as the main goal of the document.
The Students’ Union has made recommendations in four areas: affordability, teaching and learning quality, opportunities in transformative learning and campus culture that will provdie context for achieving all of the above.
The SU suggests the development of more open education resources (OERs) to use as course materials. OERs are more flexible to use and have been effective in saving students money at other institutions. The SU also wants the university to increase funding for bursaries and grants.
To improve the learning experience of students, the university is asked to recognize and reward quality professors to create a culture of teaching excellence. Growing class sizes have also been a problem at the U of A, which the SU suggests to outline a multi-year plan for faculty recruitment.
Given the growing importance of practical skills in job markets, the SU suggests the creation a centralized office for experiential learning. The SU also wants the university to increase its support of extracurricular leadership opportunities.
Continuing mental health support and improving access to student involvement on campus are both priorities of the SU. To improve student consultation, the university is also recommended to adopt the Student Participation Protocol, which was co-signed by the SU and the GSA in January 2015.
University to name new chancellor
With Ralph Young stepping down from his position in June 2016, the university has officially commenced its search for a new chancellor.
With nominations open until March, the Senate will appoint the new Chancellor by vote in their May 6 session
The Chancellor chairs the U of A Senate and serves on the Board of Governors. They represent the public in the university and also presides over degree ceremonies at the U of A.