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Record enrolment allowing for future investment: Algoma U

The university has tripled its enrolment numbers since 2018
20171002-Asima Vezina new Algoma University President-DT
Asima Vezina will serve a second term as president of Algoma University. Darren Taylor/SooToday file photo

Significant enrolment growth at Algoma University is painting a bright future for the institution, as it recently graduated its largest class ever and plans to expand facilities and programming at its three campuses.

The successes of the 2021-22 academic year were celebrated Thursday at the university’s joint annual general meeting and board of governors meeting, which were held by video conference.

Outgoing chair Shelley Schell told the board during the AGM the university has persevered despite the unexpected challenges of the past two years brought on by COVID-19.

“The board and university have found tremendous synergies and efficiencies, despite the hurdles brought on by the pandemic,” said Schell. “Our collective efforts have made us stronger as an institution and we are well prepared for continued success.”

One of those successes has been the number of students the university has been able to attract, tripling enrolment numbers from its 2018 totals.

“The significant enrolment growth we have experienced — and that needs to be stressed — has far exceeded our projected targets and is just one example of the many successes we have achieved through hard work and strategic thinking,” said Schell.

At the end of her term as chair, Schell will be succeeded in the role by Mike Moraca, treasurer and investor relations officer at Algoma Steel, Inc.

In her annual report, president and vice-chancellor Asima Vezina said this year the university welcomed students from over 60 countries.

“It is clear that our outreach efforts are producing positive results,” she said.

Vezina was recently reappointed to a second five-year term, which was unanimously supported by the board.

Looking ahead, the university plans on introducing master’s degrees in both biology and computer science for Fall 2023 and the university plans to continue expansion of programming and facilities in its Sault Ste. Marie, Timmins and Brampton campuses.

Final planning is also underway for the Mukwa Waakaa'igan centre for cultural excellence, which will house the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre archives and Aboriginal Healing Foundation Collection.

Vezina noted the university continues to support the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association in its efforts to complete a culturally-appropriate ground search of the grounds of the former residential school for grave sites.

“It is complex work, we know it will take time,” said Vezina. “We want to acknowledge the (Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association) and their leadership in this work. We are grateful they are here on this site with us during this time of truth-telling, providing a place people can come to learn about the history and legacy of Canada’s residential school system.”

The University sent out the folllowing release:

Members of the Algoma University Board of Governors gathered virtually this evening for both their Annual General Meeting and the final regular meeting of the 2021-22 academic year. In addition to an overview of key achievements from the past year, the Board appointed a number of new members, including representatives from Brampton and Timmins, who will help govern the institution as it prepares to develop a new multi-year Strategic Plan to guide Algoma’s continued growth and prosperity.

During her annual report to the Board, President and Vice-Chancellor Asima Vezina, who was recently reappointed to a second five-year term, expressed her gratitude to the Board, Senate, students, faculty, staff, government officials and community partners who have enabled the institution’s current success. “We are extremely proud of our continued progress and numerous accomplishments over the past year. Algoma’s success is the result of creative problem solving, innovative thinking, sound strategy, strong partnerships and the unwavering support of the communities we serve, ” said Vezina. “As we look to the future, our efforts will be supported through the establishment of a new multi-year strategic plan which will provide the framework for our continued success.”

Vezina noted that student enrolment has tripled since 2018, enabling record investment in academics, research and other strategic initiatives. Planning is underway that will see the introduction of master’s degrees in the areas of biology and computer science in Fall 2023. Further expansion of state of the art facilities and innovative programming in Brampton, Sault Ste. Marie and Timmins will continue to attract students from throughout the world. With students from over sixty countries, the University continues to prioritize the development of an inclusive, cross-cultural learning environment for all. Final planning on the Mukwa Waakaa’igan centre of cultural excellence in Sault Ste. Marie as well as the next phase of facility expansion in Brampton is well underway.

Vezina also reinforced the importance of Algoma's ongoing commitment to addressing specific Calls to Action identified by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC). Last year, the Board reinforced their commitment by unanimously adopting and assigning resources to Honouring our Commitment that will guide a range of related initiatives over the next several years.

During the Annual General Meeting, Mike Moraca, Treasurer and Investor Relations Officer for Algoma Steel Inc, was appointed as incoming Chair. In addition, Elaine Pitcher, lawyer and owner of her own practice specializing in corporate commercial and estate planning, was appointed Vice-Chair. Newly elected external members of the Board include Arjun Batra, President and CEO of Doon School (based in Brampton, ON); Jamie Lim, retired former President and CEO of Ontario Forest Industries Association, and former Mayor of Timmins, ON (based in Timmins/Toronto, ON); Kelli-Ann Lemieux, Vice President Surgical and Clinical Services, Health Sciences North in Sudbury, ON (based in Sault Ste. Marie, ON); Robert Battisti, Vice-President, Corporate Services, PUC Services Inc. (based in Sault Ste. Marie, ON); and, Taylor Sayers, Director of Corporate Services, UCCM Anishinaabe Police Service (based in M’Chigeeng, ON). 

With respect to internal elections, Tim van Weerden, President of the Algoma University Students' Union (AUSU) Local 82, was elected as Algoma University Students’ Union Representative; Nina Trudeau, President of the Shingwauk Anishinaabe Students' Association, was elected as Shingwauk Anishinaabe Students’ Association Representative; and Dr. Dionisio Nyaga, Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work, was elected as Faculty Representative.  

In addition to extending words of gratitude to the Board, outgoing Chair, Shelley Schell shared, “The Board of Governors continues to be pleased with the tremendous progress that has been made across the University over the past year.  Although we were faced with many unexpected challenges during the pandemic, we persevered by finding new synergies, leveraging strategic partnerships and supporting one another. Our collective efforts have made us stronger as an institution and we are well prepared for continued success.”

The next regular meeting of the Board of Governors is scheduled for Sept. 29, 2022.

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Kenneth Armstrong

About the Author: Kenneth Armstrong

Kenneth Armstrong is a news reporter and photojournalist who regularly covers municipal government, business and politics and photographs events, sports and features.
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