Fu­ture looks bright for U of L, SACPA told

Stu­dents still come first, says U of L pres­i­dent

Lethbridge Herald - - HOMETOWN NEWS - Dave Ma­bell dma­bell@leth­bridge­herald.com

Fac­ul­ties of en­gi­neer­ing, medicine or law could be­come part of a grow­ing Univer­sity of Leth­bridge. More in­ter­na­tional stu­dents may be at­tracted as well, adding to the cul­tural mo­saic on cam­pus and in the city.

U of L pres­i­dent Mike Ma­hon says he ex­pects en­rol­ment will con­tinue to grow in com­ing years, but the U of L wants to con­tinue of­fer­ing stu­dents the many ad­van­tages of be­ing part of a smaller, stu­dent-fo­cused in­sti­tu­tion.

Stu­dents’ ex­pe­ri­ences here are “re­mark­ably dif­fer­ent” from life at a ma­jor univer­sity with 50,000 or more on cam­pus, he told a 50th an­niver­sary ses­sion of the South­ern Al­berta Coun­cil on Pub­lic Af­fairs.

The univer­sity’s sup­port for SACPA is just one of the im­pacts it’s made in Leth­bridge since classes be­gan in 1967, the pres­i­dent pointed out. Had the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment re­jected plans for a third univer­sity — or in­sisted it be built east of the river — Ma­hon sug­gested Leth­bridge would be far dif­fer­ent com­mu­nity than what it’s be­come to­day.

“A whole lot of young peo­ple would have left,” he said, with few of them re­turn­ing. And Leth­bridge would not have be­come a sec­ond home for many of the 40,000 men and women who’ve grad­u­ated from the U of L over the decades.

The univer­sity’s eco­nomic im­pacts to­day, he said, in­clude about 3,450 jobs, di­rectly or closely re­lated. But the univer­sity has also added much to the city’s cul­tural life. And once the $280-mil­lion Des­ti­na­tion sci­ence cen­tre opens, he said fam­i­lies as well as stu­dents in ju­nior and se­nior high grades will be in­vited to take part in on­go­ing sci­ence-re­lated events.

For con­cert and drama fans, mean­while, Ma­hon said univer­sity of­fi­cials are work­ing on plans to make their fine arts venues more ac­ces­si­ble to mem­bers of the pub­lic — and their ve­hi­cles.

The U of L is also plan­ning to re­de­velop ar­eas of Univer­sity Hall that will be va­cated when the sci­ence build­ing opens, he said. More gallery space for the univer­sity’s ma­jor art col­lec­tion is be­ing con­sid­ered, as well as a large First Na­tions gath­er­ing space.

While the univer­sity has reaf­firmed its com­mit­ment to a lib­eral ed­u­ca­tion, Ma­hon said, it’s also con­tem­plat­ing new fac­ul­ties over the com­ing years. Some, like medicine, could build on the foun­da­tion of pro­grams al­ready well-es­tab­lished here.

“These are ex­cit­ing things to con­tem­plate.”

Based on re­ports from Eastern Canada, Ma­hon said he does not ex­pect to see dra­matic growth in en­rol­ment. While num­bers are drop­ping in On­tario, Que­bec and At­lantic Canada, he noted Al­berta’s univer­si­ties are still fac­ing greater de­mand.

“Will we be pushed to grow and evolve?”

Prob­a­bly not, but an en­rol­ment of 11,000 might be the “sweet spot” with a bal­ance be­tween pro­gram op­tions and work­able stu­dent­fac­ulty ra­tios.

Un­like col­leges and univer­si­ties in the U.S., Ma­hon said Cana­dian in­sti­tu­tions are rea­son­ably well­sup­ported by pro­vin­cial and fed­eral gov­ern­ments. To keep stu­dents’ fees from ris­ing, he said, Al­ber­tans should tell elected lead­ers they want that sup­port to con­tinue.

To help cel­e­brate its 50 years, the pres­i­dent added, the univer­sity is invit­ing the com­mu­nity to its “Shine On” events at the start of Septem­ber.

“There will be some­thing for ev­ery­one,”

@TMart­inHer­ald Herald photo by Ti­jana Martin

Mike Ma­hon, pres­i­dent and vice-chan­cel­lor of the Univer­sity of Leth­bridge, spoke about the univer­sity's past, present and fu­ture chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties dur­ing Thurs­day's SACPA ses­sion.

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