Premier, minister enthusiastic about Augustana
Posted on April 17, 2014 by Christopher Thrall
Minister Verlyn Olson invited Alberta’s new Premier, Dave Hancock, on a tour of Augustana Campus. View the photo gallery!
“I’ve been here many times over the years,” Premier Dave Hancock said as he toured Augustana campus on April 4. “Augustana is a key part of the whole post-secondary learning system. It’s got a rich history but it’s also managed to be contemporary. Its connection with the University of Alberta has been a significant addition to that. It’s a stellar place for students to learn.”
Augustana’s dean, Allen Berger, explained that he had been working with Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Verlyn Olson, who is MLA for Wetaskiwin-Camrose, to bring his colleague to the campus. At the time, Hancock was minister of innovation and advanced education.
“That the premier was willing to dedicate three hours to an in-depth conversation with Augustana’s leadership team is a clear demonstration of commitment,” said Berger. “His commitment is to rural education, training the next generation of student leaders, and Augustana’s unique role within Campus Alberta.”
“As minister, I have been trying to get to all the campuses across the province to find out where things are and where they need to go,” the premier noted. “The local MLA was also very insistent for me to come. He wanted to show me his old high-school lab at Augustana, to see the campus first-hand and see where we need to go.”
“Much of our conversation with the premier and the minister focused on our infrastructure needs and plans for enrolment growth,” said Berger. “Particularly in the sciences, we face challenges to accommodate our ambitious plans in the form of modernizing our labs and classrooms to meet current technological and pedagogical needs in both classroom learning and undergraduate research.”
“Accessibility is not just location,” Hancock pointed out during his tour of the 1,000-student University of Alberta campus an hour southeast of Edmonton. “It’s how you provide opportunities for students to see themselves as successful through the process.”
The premier grew up in a small northern community, graduated from high school with a class of six other students, and found his first university class more populous than his entire hometown. “The reality for a lot of people is that’s too big a shift,” he said. “A rural campus, a friendlier environment—that’s an environment that’s important for a lot of students if they’re going to achieve success. Location is important. Style is important. All those things are part of accessibility. But it’s also perspective: you can’t look at everything through the perspective of the large urban university setting. You have to have other ways of looking at learning.”
Hancock went on to outline his perspective on the challenges facing post-secondary education in Alberta. “As we grow forward we need to deal with three things that are coming at us,” he noted. “We’ve had a baby boom in this province for the last number of years. It’s hitting the K-to-12 system and we need to aspire to it hitting the post-secondary system relatively soon. We have also had an influx of population—100,000 people a year—coming into this province, and they need to skill and re-skill. They’re not all coming with every educational tool they need to maximize potential and participate. Finally, we have a participation rate we need to increase. We need to make it more possible for people to find the educational tools they need to maximize their potential and move to the next level.”
“Places like Augustana are critical to that participation,” the premier said. “Rural populations tend to have a lower level of education. Part of that is because of access issues: people can’t always leave to go someplace to get the education. Augustana is also doing a particularly good job in linking with Aboriginal communities to make sure there are opportunities for success there.”
As for Augustana Campus as a learning environment, the premier said with a grin, “The good news at Augustana is that all the faculty know your name—and the bad news is that all the faculty know your name.”
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