July 16th, 2024

U of L navigating post-restriction environment in 2023

By Ry Clarke - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on January 6, 2023.

Herald file photo University of Lethbridge president Mike Mahon speaks to reporters during a 2020 interview on campus.

The University of Lethbridge has had an interesting year in 2022.

With the COVID-19 pandemic restricting classes on campus and moving content online, and a six-week strike stopping classes during the winter semester, the year has been full of ups and downs for the post secondary. But it was also a year for celebration and acknowledgement for the work being done on campus, seeing a mix of highs and lows throughout the year.

“We have continued to work through the challenges of budget cuts and COVID, but at the same time we have been seeing some really exciting things transpire over the year,” said Mike Mahon, president and vice-chancellor of the University. “One of them was the opening of our Iikaisskini Student Gathering Place, a permanent location in the heart of our campus for all of our Indigenous community to gather. But also, for our non-Indigenous community to also gather and learn from our Indigenous community.”

Also on the list of accomplishments, in October of this year the Board of Governors pledged $10 million in match funds to support student scholarships.

“This is the largest commitment to student scholarships in the history of U of L. We look forward to seeing the matching donations come in over the next four years. Certainly, I know our board is committed to this as we think about how to continue to create access opportunities for students at the University of Lethbridge,” said Mahon.

For student life on-campus, the year was successful for Alicia Anderson earning one of the highest honours in academia by winning the Gates Cambridge Scholarship, which will see her study her PhD at Trinity College at the University of Cambridge.

“She is one of three Canadians to earn such a scholarship, and the second Canadian physicist over the 22-year history of the award,” said Mahon. “It is quite the statement about the quality of our students as well as the quality of our physics programs.”

With 2022 seeing significant displacement in Ukraine with Russia’s invasion, the University showed support for those affected by these circumstances.

“This year has been really difficult for our Ukrainian community in Canada, and obviously people living in Ukraine,” said Mahon. “We were very pleased to be able to support students from Ukraine to study at the University of Lethbridge, including two women who have joined our Horns woman’s basketball team. These women actually play on the Ukrainian national women’s basketball team. We were excited to be able to not only support them coming to Canada, but also to enable them to continue to pursue their athletic career.”

Beginning his time with the University in 2010, Mahon will be stepping down as the sixth president and vice-chancellor of the University of Lethbridge.

“As we look towards 2023, there are some really important things on the horizon, including the naming of a new president early in 2023. The committee is about to complete its work, and I understand they are getting to the point of being able to announce the successful candidate in the early part of 2023,” said Mahon. “I’m in my 13th year as president so that is a long time.”

With lots going on at the University, the return to campus was welcomed by staff and students, flooding the empty halls with life.

“It has been so exciting to be on campus these days. The students are energized, the faculty and staff are energized having students back. It feels like we are getting back to where we were pre-COVID,” said Mahon. “Of course, we are still grappling with challenges around illness, not just COVID. But notwithstanding those challenges, the campus is a very lively place, and the students are so happy to be back in person.”

Seeing academics skyrocket for students, the University was quite proud of its student’s efforts towards their education.

“We had 75 of our 177 student athletes, 42 per cent, achieve Academic All-Canadian status. Which is where they have to have an 80 per cent average or better,” said Mahon. “To have almost half of our student athletes achieve this is really unbelievable. It’s a record for sure, I don’t know the stats across the country, but I would imagine we are up there in terms of the percentage of our student athletes receiving academic status.”

From academic awards, to students excelling in their studies, the University has had an interesting 2022 with the prospect of what 2023 will bring just on the horizon.

“As we look forward as a university, we want to grow in term of our Indigenous student population. We are continuing to work hard to support them, and very fortunate to have the funding from the MasterCard Foundation, $50 million over five years. We also see the importance of continuing to internationalize the university in terms of recruiting international students. Providing opportunities for our students to have an international experience,” said Mahon. “We received half a million dollars to support our students having work-integrated learning, or co-op experiences in other parts of the world. We will be able to support students to travel to countries and be able to work with people in communities, like in Mexico and Vietnam as a few examples.”

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