Even among a year of centenary events planned for 2010-2011, Tuesday, September 21 was a day of celebration for Augustana Campus of the University of Alberta. Whether you enjoyed pizza, physiotherapy, Alberta’s coat of arms or an official opening, Augustana had something for you.
At noon, U of A president Indira Samasekera hosted her annual Pizza Party in Quad, where students and staff lined up to enjoy pizza and learn sustainability messages from a group of well-informed volunteers. Besides providing pizza and music, however, the president also unveiled a centenary gift for Augustana. A new bench installed west of Old Main is intended for students and staff to enjoy a chat or quiet contemplation, with compliments from the University of Alberta as a whole.
Following the party, instructor Chris Zarski and Rehabilitation Medicine’s Department of Physical Therapy introduced audiences to their new distance learning tools. The high-definition simultaneous broadcast system is used by the ten Augustana students enrolled in the pilot project for a Master of Science degree. The students in Camrose are able to view, interact and experience the same labs and lectures as their Edmonton classmates by using real-time and high-definition video conferencing. University Provost Dr. Carl Amrhein in the Edmonton audience waved at President Samasekera in Camrose.
"Instructors will do everything they can to ensure the Augustana students are learning the same concepts, critical thinking and clinical skills as their counterparts in Edmonton," said Martin Ferguson-Pell, dean of rehabilitation medicine. Clinical placements will be held in Camrose, allowing students to get hands-on experience in a rural setting. Renovations were completed this summer to produce a state-of-the-art lab and classroom for students in Augustana. The goal of this program is to help address the shortage of rehabilitation professionals in Alberta’s rural communities. Currently, 40 per cent of the province’s population lives outside of Edmonton and Calgary and only 10 per cent of physical therapists work in rural settings.
Next on the agenda was an official presentation of Alberta’s coat of arms, from Wetaskiwin-Camrose MLA Verlyn Olson to Dean Epp. The framed gift will hang in the Student Forum to commemorate the government of Alberta’s support and sponsorship of the stunning new building.
Finally, Augustana wrapped up the day by celebrating its first new building in 20 years. Dean Epp, President Samarasekera and Minister Ray Danyluk were among those who attended the student forum and library official opening. While the breathtaking library opened its doors in September of 2009, we chose to celebrate the formal opening after finishing the equally sweeping Student Forum three months ago. Coincidentally, the ceremony fell within the centenary year celebrations of the institution.
Master of Ceremonies Dean Epp was justifiably proud of the occasion.
“We waited thirty years for this building,” he joked, “but we received a space well worth waiting for. This Forum says that the learning that happens outside the classroom is as important as what happens inside. It is a place where there will be chance meetings of professors and students, where students can have a coffee and argue. However, in the end, this building represents the partnership between the world-class University of Alberta and our proud rural community – a partnership that is forged at Augustana.”
“Augustana has always been a campus recognized for its strong sense of community and connection,” said President Samarasekera. “This new building is a physical manifestation of these foundational values. It links together all kinds of other spaces—the library, the gym, the chapel, the cafeteria and classrooms. In a sense this new building serves the entire human being—feeding and exercising the body, the mind, and the spirit. As a forum for debate and exchange, it is also a place that will breathe constant life into the U of A’s motto—quaecumque vera—which urges the continual pursuit of whatsoever things are true.”
The Honourable Ray Danyluk, MLA for Lac La Biche-St. Paul and Alberta’s Minister for Infrastructure, considers Augustana as his own campus since both his daughter and son-in-law attended. He recognized his fellow caucus member, MLA for Wetaskiwin-Camrose Verlyn Olson, as well as prior MLA LeRoy Johnson, for their passion and support for the visionary new building.
Minister Danlyuk did have some words of caution for students, however: “Don’t see this new library as just a great collection of books,” he said, “but rather as a collection of opportunities for every visitor.”
Mary-Jo Romaniuk, Acting Head Librarian for the U of A, agreed. “The new Augustana Library is an inclusive and transformative learning space offering the Augustana faculty, staff, and students and Camrose community access to not only a wealth of electronic resources, but to over 130,000 items in the print collection housed at Augustana. The new library is also a gateway to access the over ten million items available in the University of Alberta Libraries’ collections.”
Following these comments, Doris Anderson (Class of 1945) made a heartwarming presentation to current Student Association president, Sam Whittleton (History 2012). The gift of a framed photograph commemorating the Opening will hang in the SA offices.
Finally, instead of a ribbon cutting, Dean Epp joined President Samarasekera and Minister Danyluk to unfurl a banner that will hang in the Augustana Student Forum. Against a wave of green reminiscent of the northern lights, the banner features the University seal, the definition of “forum” and U of A founding president Henry Marshall Tory’s stirring pledge of an institution committed to “uplifting the whole people”.
In constructing both the Student Forum and library, materials and fixtures were carefully chosen to have a low environmental impact: high-efficiency lighting provides better light for longer periods of time, polished concrete floors require little maintenance, and passive heating and cooling systems reduce energy costs.
“With the first and second phases of our building project complete,” Dean Epp continued, “we are proud to have delivered on our promised growth plan, made to the Augustana and Camrose communities during merger discussions with the University of Alberta. We thank the government for recognizing the importance of our out-of-class space to everything that happens at a university.”
According to SA President Sam Whittleton, “This building will house many of the memories that all future generations of Augustana students will have of their time here.”