As graduates, you are the university’s ambassadors to the world, so I want to hear your thoughts on my current priorities and how we can best focus our efforts to achieve our goals.
How do our various initiatives contribute to knowledge creation and Aboriginal engagement? Are we edging closer to our goals related to innovative programs and services, and culture and community?
We know we are on the right path because the University of Saskatchewan is now a member of the U15, a group of the top research-intensive universities in Canada. Membership among the most distinguished universities increases our profile both within Canada and internationally. It also increases the value of a U of S degree for our students and alumni in Saskatchewan and around the world.
Positioning the U of S in this group is one of my priorities because membership means we will be compared to the best universities in Canada, and that comes with expectations.
There are, to this end, two very important areas which have and will continue to receive much of my focus: the College of Medicine and the financial situation we face.
Addressing the long-standing structural issues in the College of Medicine is key to the university’s future success. We are working with our partners in government and the health region to realize a new vision for the college—a vision that will ensure we continue to deliver a quality medical education to students and advance our research goals to serve the needs of the people of Saskatchewan.
Of course, something that is always top of mind for me is the university’s financial situation. If we do nothing—business as usual—we will be facing a $44.5-million budget deficit by 2016. Because of the great groundwork laid, we have time to address this potential deficit over the next four years to remain financially stable.
TransformUS, the process of program prioritization, and workforce planning are two steps we are currently taking. TransformUS will allow us to make decisions that reflect our goals, priorities and strategic directions. Workforce planning is necessary to ensure that everyone working at the U of S is efficient, effective and very clearly focused on our mandate to teach, learn and discover. Tough decisions will need to be made so that we can live within the reality of our operating grant and be financially sustainable.
To be certain, the U of S will look different in 2016 than it does today.
Another priority of mine is the engagement and scholarship of Aboriginal people. This is significant, not just for our university and province, but to all of Canada and beyond. By better understanding the issues, values, identities and experiences of Aboriginal people, we can help address social and economic disparities and gaps in health and well-being, and prepare a new generation of Aboriginal youth for the global knowledge economy. Saskatchewan has one of the highest populations of Aboriginal people in Canada, and it’s fitting, for the sake of our shared future, that this is one of our signature areas.
When all of these pieces come together, the picture I see is becoming clear: the U of S is one of the most distinguished universities in Canada and the world. There is still work that needs to be done, and we will work hard to maintain and improve our position.
One way to measure our progress towards this goal is through hearing from our graduates. Many of you have strong connections to our university despite being separated by distance or years. That’s why I encourage all of you to let us know how we are doing. Your ideas, comments and suggestions are not only appreciated, they are essential.
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President, University of Saskatchewan