CBU is an an essential com­po­nent of the so­cio-eco­nomic fab­ric of our re­gion, says guest colum­nist.

Cape Bre­ton Uni­ver­sity an essential com­po­nent of the so­cio-eco­nomic fab­ric of our re­gion

Cape Breton Post - - CAPE BRETON - Sen­a­tor Dan Christ­mas

Those who know me will tell you that I’m a tire­less ad­vo­cate for Cape Bre­ton or Unama’ki.

Whether it’s work­ing to high­light our is­land as a tourism des­ti­na­tion, spread­ing the good news of the suc­cess of my home com­mu­nity of Mem­ber­tou or lead­ing the crusade to stem the ex­o­dus of our peo­ple, to help guide and steer our po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic fu­ture, and to reignite the prospect of Cape Bre­ton Is­land be­com­ing Canada’s 11th prov­ince – I’m a ded­i­cated and will­ing de­fender of Cape Bre­ton and I be­lieve deeply in its fu­ture.

And while I’m of­ten a vo­cal devil’s ad­vo­cate in my calls for changes to bet­ter the lot in life for all Cape Bre­ton­ers, I’m ea­ger to re­mind Cape Bre­ton­ers of a sig­nif­i­cant and grow­ing eco­nomic driver here on our is­land that’s at­tract­ing a good deal of at­ten­tion – and that’s our own Cape Bre­ton Uni­ver­sity (CBU).

The uni­ver­sity ranks among the high­est in Canada for stu­dent sat­is­fac­tion. In fact, in 2013, Ma­clean’s mag­a­zine ranked them as hav­ing the high­est se­nior year level of stu­dent sat­is­fac­tion, noted as be­ing “ex­cel­lent” CBU also has some of the high­est aca­demic achiev­ers, with Nova Sco­tia’s high­est per­cent­age of stu­dents with high school av­er­ages of 95+.

But there’s more to the story. CBU is mor­ph­ing from a mid­sized

re­gional fa­cil­ity with a stel­lar rep­u­ta­tion for serv­ing the lo­cal re­gion into a truly glob­ally com­pet­i­tive in­sti­tu­tion.

It’s im­por­tant to note that CBU is a sig­nif­i­cant hub in terms of em­ploy­ment, as well as eco­nomic, aca­demic, cul­tural and sport ac­tiv­ity for our re­gion. The uni­ver­sity em­ploys close to 1,000 peo­ple and has an op­er­at­ing econ­omy with ex­pen­di­tures of over $60 mil­lion an­nu­ally.

What’s more, when one con­sid­ers the im­pact of CBU’s oper­a­tions and related ac­tiv­i­ties, it’s not sur­pris­ing that al­most five per cent of the re­gion’s full­time jobs re­late to its oper­a­tions and spinoffs thereof.

Its lo­ca­tion in Nova Sco­tia’s sec­ond largest ur­ban cen­tre makes it ac­ces­si­ble to both our re­gion’s ur­ban and ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties, which I should note also in­cludes five Mi’kmaw First Na­tion com­mu­ni­ties. It’s be­come an eco­nomic development driver and a key player in Nova Sco­tia’s pur­suit of in­no­va­tion through the Shan­non School of Busi­ness and the Ver­schurn Cen­tre.

Unama’ki Col­lege is a key part of CBU – which has be­come the school of choice for At­lantic Canada’s Abo­rig­i­nal stu­dents for over 30 years, with the Mi’kmaw Stud­ies dis­ci­pline of­fer­ing over 25 dif­fer­ent cour­ses. Given this, it’s no won­der that it’s cur­rently the home away from home for more than 250 In­dige­nous stu­dents and fea­tures an alumni of nearly 500 grad­u­ates.

I’m a ded­i­cated and will­ing de­fender of Cape Bre­ton and I be­lieve deeply in its fu­ture.

Sen­a­tor Dan Christ­mas

In re­spect of the grow­ing in­ter­na­tional co­hort, the num­bers are quite com­pelling. In the face of losses in lo­cal en­rol­ment due to the de­mo­graphic decline I of­ten speak of, the en­rol­ment of in­ter­na­tional stu­dents has in­creased steadily, ris­ing from two per cent of to­tal en­rol­ment nearly two decades ago to al­most 34 per cent of cur­rent en­rol­ment.

The en­cour­ag­ing news about this is that ac­cord­ing to the uni­ver­sity’s own es­ti­mate fore­casts in­ter­na­tional stu­dents will soon out­num­ber those from Cape Bre­ton.

This is key to the on­go­ing eco­nomic vi­a­bil­ity of the uni­ver­sity and in turn makes it es­pe­cially cru­cial to the lo­cal econ­omy. The same pe­riod that saw the in­ter­na­tional co­hort thrive also saw a de­crease in the num­ber of Cape Bre­ton stu­dents decline to below 40 per cent, a decline of al­most 1,000 stu­dents.

What’s also key is to rec­og­nize the role of Nova Sco­tia uni­ver­si­ties play in the prov­ince’s com­mu­nity fab­ric.

Fac­ulty and staff earn wages and salaries, there’s pos­i­tive im­pacts on the busi­nesses serv­ing the in­sti­tu­tion – to say noth­ing of the ben­e­fits of an ed­u­cated work­place com­mand­ing higher wages and the down­line ben­e­fits to hav­ing a highly-ed­u­cated and spe­cial­ized work­force – which at­tracts busi­ness to the area and which can also be in­stru­men­tal in mak­ing cul­tural con­tri­bu­tions to the lo­cal com­mu­nity.

So while I con­tinue to call for greater di­a­logue and col­lec­tive ef­fort as we seek to deal with the loom­ing de­mo­graphic im­pli­ca­tions for our is­land, we need to re­mind our­selves that there re­main bas­tions of pos­i­tiv­ity and good news in our com­mu­nity that are surely wor­thy of pro­mo­tion and cel­e­bra­tion in the face of their ef­forts to re­de­fine them­selves.

Cape Bre­ton Uni­ver­sity is an essential com­po­nent of the so­cioe­co­nomic fab­ric of our re­gion and we need to tell our prov­ince, the rest of Canada and in­deed the world at large that we’re here to play an im­por­tant role in the fu­ture for our com­mu­nity and for those who choose CBU as their gate­way to the fu­ture.

CAPE BRE­TON POST/FILE

Cape Bre­ton Uni­ver­sity em­ploys close to 1,000 peo­ple and has an op­er­at­ing econ­omy with ex­pen­di­tures of over $60 mil­lion an­nu­ally.

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