July 16th, 2024

College’s new president addressing post-COVID challenges

By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on January 5, 2023.

Herald photo by Alejandra Pulido-Guzman Lethbridge College welcomed new president and CEO, Brad Donaldson in 2022, along with students, faculty and staff returning back to campus after the COVID-19 pandemic.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDapulido@lethbridgeherald.com

Lethbridge College not only welcomed a new president and CEO in 2022, but also students, faculty and staff fully back on campus after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lethbridge College president and CEO, Brad Donaldson, said he was able to witness the excitement of the return to campus on the faces of everyone that was present at the new student orientation in September.

“This was the first academic year start we’re actually fully on campus, and I think it somewhat reflects what I’ve seen everywhere else when you have social events, people are just excited to be there,” said Donaldson.

He said that even though the COVID-19 pandemic was a frustrating experience, they learned a lot from having to move to a high-flex environment with online learning and it will be a shame to not take advantage of the learning and growth that they achieved as an organization.

“We’re looking into how do we do a better job of supporting online students, how do we move to a high-flex environment where you can be online or you can be on campus, so we can open the range of learning opportunities for people and meet the needs that they have for their learning style and what fits their schedules,” said Donaldson.

He said one of the highlights for 2022 was an increase in enrollment which represents the desire to return to campus.

“We’re seeing more international students than we have in the past, and I think that reflects the reputation of the college and the desire for international students to want to come here and learn, which is wonderful,” said Donaldson.

He said they continue to work with other strategies to support students in the college through Lethbridge College Cares.

Donaldson said they are focusing on wellness and other areas where they can care for the well-being of people.

“When employees are cared for, when the students are cared for, they’re going to be more successful, more engaged and happy to be here,” said Donaldson.

He said they also continue to work on the Niitsitapi strategy, coming together in a holistic way, as we engage with our Indigenous communities.

“It’s what I can tell one of the best if not the best in the country, I’m a little bit biased now probably because I’m here, but I have experienced an engagement with Indigenous communities that I haven’t experienced elsewhere,” said Donaldson.

He said he believes that the integration of cultures will make them a stronger, more capable organization.

Donaldson said another area to highlight is the Applied Research that goes on in the college, as it has seen significant growth over the last few years.

“In this region of course agriculture is very important, there’s a lot of work happening in the agricultural field around grain storage, water usage and aquaponics, which is an opportunity with huge potential,” said Donaldson.

He said that another interesting aspect of applied research is public safety research, which recently received a $1 million grant to investigate opportunities of research in the field of social services and justice.

“I’m looking forward to see how that’s going to translate in the next few months and years ahead,” said Donaldson.

One fascinating area of their work is on Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality which he believes is applicable probably to every sector, and they continue to expand into different areas.

“We are in the process of developing a driving simulator, that allows simulation of various different environments such as a police vehicle, or some other type of vehicle through virtual reality and a physical driving simulator,” said Donaldson.

As for 2023, Donaldson said there are a few things in the making and he believes it will be an interesting year.

In terms of programming, he said they are introducing a new early childhood education internship certificate, starting in January 2023, which is designed for students who are already working as early childhood educators, to upscale their credentials and continue to grow their learning in their careers.

Donaldson said they are also introducing a new Health Sciences certificate that caters to students who may need to upgrade before pursuing health-related diplomas or degrees.

Donaldson believes 2023 will be challenging as they learn to adapt to a “post-COVID” learning environment for many students that were used to full-time virtual learning returning to an in-person learning environment.

“What is the post-COVID student look for in their experience? We’ve had a number of students who will now come into our institution who have been in a very strong online environment, so what are their expectations around how their learning will look like and how do we meet that?”

He said that is a challenge they will be facing in the year ahead.

“That’s a challenge that exists more so today than it did in years past, and now adding to it the economic factors like inflation is a significant problem for us,” said Donaldson.

He said that as inflation rises, so do their costs in many areas, and therefore they will look for ways to deal with higher cost environments and still maintain the quality of learning and be able to support the students that come through the college.

Donaldson said their goal is to have as many students come through the college as possible, and to continue to offer quality learning so they can leave and go on to the next step, being capable of going into the job that they want, but also if they are moving on to another level of postsecondary, that they are well equipped to be successful.

“We want to be able to grow the number of students that come through here, because there is a need for skilled workforce,” said Donaldson.

In terms of personal goals as a new president and CEO, Donaldson said he is a firm believer that leaders are learners and they have to continue to learn because the environment is changing around them.

“I’ve said this many times before but don’t know where it came from, ‘the world will never move slower than it does today’, which means that the world we’re living in is changing quickly, so how we as an organization develop that capacity to change is necessary to meet these factors,” said Donaldson.

He said the environment is changing in terms of what students want, what employers want, and the nature of the workforce is changing as well – jobs do not exist today that might exist two or three years down the road.

“We need to make sure that we’re continuing to align with that,” said Donaldson.

And from a personal standpoint, Donaldson said he is looking forward to getting into the Lethbridge community.

“The opportunity to explore and discover something in a part of the country that I haven’t lived in for very long. I find the coulees fascinating, just the look when you get into them and walk through them, there’s things you don’t experience elsewhere,” said Donaldson.

He said he is also looking forward to opportunities for him and his wife to get out and engage with the community as well as the opportunity to explore and discover stores, restaurants, and the many hidden jewels the city has to offer.

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