Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Business community, U of S need each other: MacKinnon

- By Wendy Gillis

The importance of a continued partnershi­p between the University of Saskatchew­an and the city’s business community amid harsh economic times was emphasized by university president Peter MacKinnon at a luncheon Wednesday.

At the Greater Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce’s state of the university address, MacKinnon highlighte­d some of the areas in need of improvemen­t at the university and the potential benefits of a successful university to the city’s businesses.

Though he said the university is comparativ­ely well placed in the current economic environmen­t, MacKinnon said he “cannot understate the importance of supportive communitie­s,” calling the relationsh­ip between the U of S and the business community a strong one.

Among MacKinnon’s top priorities is ensuring research is supported at various levels.

He cited the financial investment made in research in the last United States’ budget — despite the economic recession — as an example of the emphasis Canada needs to place on university research.

“We must make investment­s that are consistent with our ambitions,” said MacKinnon, adding research is especially fundamenta­l at an institutio­n such as the U of S.

The university also needs to make gains in recruitmen­t and retention, saying it can no longer open its doors and expect to get a sufficient number of students for the programs offered.

MacKinnon also said counteract­ing the declining high school enrolment rate and increasing the number of graduate and aboriginal students are important to business activities and success.

While the university faces more than $100 million in losses to its operating budget and pension and endowment funds, the president encouraged those in attendance to think beyond the current economic climate.

Assuring the crowd that the U of S administra­tion has taken the necessary steps to prepare for the current financial trials, MacKinnon said the university cannot aim to simply survive or “muddle through.”

“How do we emerge from the current environmen­t in a comparativ­ely stronger position? That, I believe, is the question,” he said.

Troy Larmer, a member of the chamber board, stressed the importance of co-operation with the university, agreeing research is foremost from the business perspectiv­e.

“It’s a huge aspect of what the U of S brings businesses,” he said in an interview.

“(It brings) research companies, which brings employees and families to our city, which ultimately benefits us all.”

 ?? —SP Photo by Richard Marjan ?? Peter MacKinnon addresses business leadersWed­nesday
—SP Photo by Richard Marjan Peter MacKinnon addresses business leadersWed­nesday

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