By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on January 4, 2024.
Lethbridge College’s president and CEO Brad Donaldson told the Herald in a recent interview that 2023 was a great year for the college, one in which they continued to see post-COVID recovery and a rebound of students coming back to campus.
“We’ve almost recovered to our pre-COVID numbers, we’re seeing students coming back into the system which is really good. We’ve seen an interesting increase in the number of international students that have chosen to come to the college, which I think reflects the desire to want to be here. They’re bringing a great culture to the organization,” said Donaldson.
Â He said the addition of culturally diverse students to the campus provides domestic students with the opportunity to engage with others from around the world and to learn their perspectives while helping the diversity of the institution.
Â From a programming perspective, Donaldson said 2023 was the year LC introduced its Criminal Justice degree. This program was introduced during the fall semester in September.
Â “It was an evolution of what was formally an applied degree so it recognizes the evolution of the degree strength of the institution, which was great to see,” said Donaldson.
Â He added that applied research continues to be a major focus for Lethbridge College and in 2023 it was No. 11 in Canada in terms of applied research funding, which was up from its No. 16 ranking in 2022.
“Hopefully we can reach the Top 10 next year, and we’ve certainly got a lot of activity underway to do that. Given where we are, we have a lot of agricultural related research in respect to irrigation and grain storage. Our aquaponics and hydroponics programs continue to be strong. We also have an increasing focus on virtual reality and augmented reality where we have some of the most unique equipment in the country here on campus,” said Donaldson.
He said the importance of having applied research on campus is that it exposes students to what is currently happening – they get to see the changes in their fields of study, and are able to participate.
Among major events at the college in 2023 was the signing of the Buffalo Treaty which recognizes the importance of buffalo to Indigenous culture.
Â “Historically the buffalo provided them with their means of survival from food to leather for clothing, horns for tools and so on,” said Donaldson.
He said the Buffalo Treaty provides the opportunity for learners to gain skills,meet new people, to become community shapers which ties to another major event they had on campus in 2023:
Â “It was a journey we called ‘Road Ready.’ Our tagline is ‘Be Ready’ and it was an opportune time to think about what does this institution need to be going forward post-COVID to the world that shifted. Many things have changed, so we had a great process over the last few months to look at what is the vision of the college, why do we exist and that’s what a vision is about,” said Donaldson.
He said through a highly interactive and engaging process, the college interviewed a lot of people internally including students and employees, external stakeholders, the Indigenous community, and industry members which resulted in more than 1,300 engagements, to ask why Lethbridge College needs to exist.
Â “Through that, we established our new vision, ‘Preparing learners, shaping communities.’ That’s why we’re here, we’re here for learners whether they be students, researchers, or employees, because they take what they learned to the communities they are in, whether they live there or work there, including engagement and that’s the spirit of community and that’s why we exist,” said Donaldson.
Â He said the college exists to help learners become good at what they want to be good at and to go out into their communities with those learned skills.
“The other part of the reason the college exists is to provide pathways for students, and there has been a challenge in terms of getting a lot of local students to understand the value of education and where their careers can go, so in partnership with the six regional school divisions, next year we will be opening up the Southern Alberta Collegiate Institute,” said Donaldson.
Â He said the institute is an opportunity for high school students from Grade 7 to Grade 12 to come onto a renovated facility on campus to engage in a number of programs in agriculture and trades.
Â “This marks a significant opportunity for us. It’s being funded through the government of Alberta. We (the collective of the six school boards and LC) are receiving over $6 million to create this new facility, get it operational and provide new pathways for students to explore career opportunities and look towards getting some dual credit benefit for that as well,” said Donaldson.
In terms of its ongoing relationship with the Indigenous communities, specifically the Blackfoot people, the college was gifted a winter count robe in 2023.
Â “It’s a buffalo hide that’s used as the canvas for storytelling and William Singer III, who is the artist, reflects the history of this part of the country from the early part of the Indigenous settlement. But as time moves forward on these pictographs on a circle as they grow, there’s pictures that represent the evolution of Lethbridge college,” said Donaldson.
Â He said information displayed on it includes a progression from the date the college was first founded in 1957 through various stages as it became the Lethbridge Community College, and now Lethbridge College – and all the events that happened in between as well as the COVID-19 pandemic.
Â “It’s a wonderful piece of work and there’s lots of space left on it to add more pictographs to it in the future,” said Donaldson.