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New congress sessions introduced to “future-proof” UCalgary

By Nikayla Goddard, February 7 2021—

In October of 2020, the University of Calgary hosted a town hall that brought forth details on Unstoppable: Growth Through Focus, a strategy which intends to bring its Eyes High predecessor to a conclusion in 2022 and continue to build on the identified UCalgary values for the future.

This town hall introduced Growth Through Focus’s three main ideas: transdisciplinary scholarship, deeper community integration and future-focused program delivery, along with four areas of focus: life sciences, energy transformations, city building and exploring digital worlds. 

Since then, President Ed McCauley shared in an email that working groups have been meeting regularly to combine feedback they received from the community, the strategic direction provided by Eyes High, the university’s academic and research plans and building implementation proposals. This resulted in the introduction of three Congress sessions that McCauley says will be “a focused, two-week discussion on the ideas within, how the concepts can be further applied and how we can ensure the long-term success of our University and its vital academic mission.”

The three proposal areas and working groups consist of the following topics: Transdisciplinary Scholarship and and Areas of Focus, Future-Focused Program Delivery and Deeper Community Partnerships. These three working groups will involve Zoom discussions and break-out sessions starting on Feb. 10, and anyone can attend. 

“These proposals represent a bold plan to future-proof our university – to build an institution not just protected from the changing world but able to thrive within it,” McCauley says in the congress description. “Working together, we can build a university that allows us to achieve the things we are all here to do – a university rooted in collaboration, dedicated to broad-based academic excellence and known for being able to deliver for its students and its community. Known for bettering the world around us and our futures.”

Transdisciplinary Scholarship and Areas of Focus centers around making recommendations and facilitating community discussions on how to best implement more transdisciplinary learning into UCalgary. The congress description states that “greater fostering of transdisciplinary scholarship will enable the University to position ourselves as a leader in this growing landscape and – most importantly – allow us to better tackle the ‘grand challenges’ facing our communities – locally, nationally and across the global.”

The first of two central proposals is “Transdisciplinary Activity Centres,” which serve as the structure to mandate and support the second proposal, which is “Refinement of ‘Areas of Focus.” Four areas of focus have been drawn out so far: creating the future of health, building people centered cities, leading the energy transformation and advancing digital frontiers. Scholars are welcomed to join an Area of Focus / Transdisciplinary Activity Centre and participate in nominating leaders, building a three-year strategy and other processes that come along with the development and launch of major programming. 

Future-Focused Program Delivery will allow for a more personalized and modularized program approach and will “increase options for online and blended learning, expand micro-credentials and stackable certificates and provide students and professionals with opportunities to create unique educational pathways.”

The five proposals for consideration include modularize programs, Expand micro-credentials, review current programs and develop new programs and deliver programming in multiple modalities. Other notable components include a proposed Program Innovation Hub that will provide coordinated support for program development using experts and specialists from all areas, and system changes will take place with PeopleSoft and Destiny One. The congress description notes that all of these proposals will shift UCalgary away from traditional post-secondary education, provide future-focused education and will boost UCalgary’s position as the most entrepreneurial university. 

Deeper Community Partnerships focuses on relationships with businesses, community groups and civil society, specifically enhancing “Mega Partnerships” which have the four core principles of being high impact, uniquely positioned, have exceptional initiatives and are sustainable in both the short and long term. 

More updates to this program and how people can get involved will be released Monday, Feb. 8 at noon, including an online engagement platform, the ability to join online discussions, give feedback on discussion questions and an anonymous feedback form which is available now on the Congress website along with a schedule of sessions. The first Zoom sessions for each congress focus will be held Feb. 10-12, and recorded sessions will be provided for those who cannot make it. 

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