Shifting changes and responses
Principal Woolf writes in his observations from the past year and predictions for the future
Daniel Woolf, ArtSci ’80
Principal, Queen’s University
Though the end of the academic year is a busy time, it’s also a good time for some reflection on the past year. After all, this is a time of transition, and such occasions can be both exhilarating and downright terrifying.
As students, you are closing a current chapter in your lives and starting a new one, whether you are moving on from your first year of university and into your second, or making the jump from being a student to being an alumnus or alumna.
For me, the transition into the quieter summer term provides a chance to reflect back on the amazing things that have happened on this campus over the last year, while also thinking about what issues still need some attention and what opportunities lie ahead.
Being the Principal of this University is a tremendous honour and (on most days!) an immense pleasure. Our students bring remarkable energy, spirit and enthusiasm to this campus and to this city. This year saw so many of you excelling in academics, athletics and in your leadership roles, finding your passion and dedicating yourselves to making this place — and this world — a little better.
I can’t begin to enumerate the number of good-news student stories we have seen in the Journal, on Twitter and in the national and local media. These stories have been matched by the extraordinary successes of our faculty members in research, teaching and service to their community.
Ensuring that, within current economic constraints, we have adequate resources to support these successes remains one of the biggest challenges facing Queen’s. To that end, in September we launched the most ambitious fundraising campaign in Queen’s history.
Our goal with the Initiative Campaign is to raise $500 million for the University by 2016. It’s an aggressive goal, but this is a University that people feel very passionate about, and we have been fortunate that so many of them are choosing to share that passion through financial support, especially in these fiscally uncertain times. Our benefactors have a great deal of confidence in this institution and in the people who make it what it is.
On that note, it was a highlight of my year to announce the return of Homecoming this fall. This year’s event will fall over two weekends in October, and will include a variety of different events to engage both our returning alumni, but also our faculty, staff, current students and the wider Kingston community.
The decision to reinstate Homecoming wasn’t one I made lightly. As many of you know, the annual event was cancelled a number of years ago when the energy around Homecoming weekend became downright unsafe for both our students and local residents. I look forward to a successful, fun and safe pair of weekends in October and reiterate my thanks to those who participated in discussions that made Homecoming’s restoration possible.
This year has seen some significant developments which I think will improve Queen’s in the long run. Work on implementation of the Academic and Strategic Research Plans continues. We have a highly consultative campus master planning exercise underway, as well as an enrolment planning exercise (an important issue that should engage every member of our community).
Provost Harrison’s new budget model (information sessions about which continue to occur) will rationalize our allocation of resources, matching revenue to academic activity and providing incentives to cost containment and, where possible, revenue growth.
The Senate Academic Planning Task Force has been hard at work producing a report on the appropriate place and role of online, blended and computer-assisted learning. I have also enjoyed, as always, my work with the executives of the AMS and SGPS, and my consultations with the Rector.
The recent tuition framework announced by our Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities will provide some stability in our revenue forecasting for four years, and a tuition level which strikes a reasonable compromise between the operational needs of universities and affordability.
Finally, the report of the Principal’s Commission on Mental Health, tabled last fall, is now entering the implementation phase (with many of its recommendations, happily, already in place or well underway).
I will sign off by saying that I hope this summer brings all sorts of opportunities for learning, adventure and fun.
For those of you graduating this year, I wish you lots of luck and fulfillment as you move into the next phase of your lives. For the rest of you, I look forward to reconnecting in the fall.
I was honoured to be reappointed as Principal last month and look forward to leading our incredible University for the next six years. We have accomplished a lot together so far, but there are still many exciting things yet to do. Thank you for being part of our exceptional community.