When I consider the value of post-secondary education, one of the often-overlooked things that comes to mind is the essential work we do to help develop the leaders of tomorrow. Across our programs, students are challenged to learn and consider how the over-arching skills of communications and interpersonal relations will impact their lives. And these aren’t just buzz words. When we think about what makes effective, respected and strong leaders, these human skills are often some of the first aspects that come to mind.
Red Deer College is helping to develop this next generation of leaders across our programs. In the Bachelor of Applied Arts in Film, Theatre, and Live Entertainment, students learn communications, business and entrepreneurial skills, in addition to storytelling and directing. They learn from instructors and professionally practicing artists. And this is important, because it involves collaborating with and being mentored by people who are leaders in their professions. Students are inspired and they aspire to do more in their careers, which is very motivating.
We also develop leaders by immersing students in professional settings. This happens in practicums and work integrated learning opportunities, and a unique example has just started at Westpark Middle School, thanks to our partnership with the Red Deer Public School District. In the newly opened school, RDC has a dedicated classroom that provides Bachelor of Education and Educational Assistant students with real-time learning in an authentic setting. Students apply their learning and practice their skills while interacting with students and staff at the school.
Preparing students for the future begins long before post-secondary, and I don’t think it’s ever too soon to be talking about leadership. At RDC, we have partnerships with local School Divisions to provide educational pathways for students of all ages. A great example of this is School Within a College, where high school students take dual credit Automotive Service Technician or Welding programs at RDC. When they graduate from this program, they’re already a step ahead, as they may receive credit toward the first year of their Apprenticeship program, and they have valuable employment skills that industry is looking for.
For younger students, Reading College, led by the Foundation for Red Deer Public Schools, is a transformative opportunity for Grade 2 students to develop and improve their literacy skills. Through our partnership, we welcome these students to RDC each summer, where they learn, grow and become familiar with a college environment. There’s such comfort for students to be in a place like this when they’re young, because that makes the transition easier when it’s time to enter post-secondary.
These examples highlight our partnerships, which are essential as we help to develop leaders. Our collaboration with School Divisions, Indigenous communities, businesses, the City of Red Deer, Red Deer County, the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce, local municipalities and many other organizations helps to facilitate a strong and vibrant region for students and for citizens of central Alberta. This community collaboration was evident to me from when I first learned about Red Deer College, and I’m looking forward to expanding on the strides that have already been made as we plan for the future.
Another area I’m very passionate about is developing leaders within the College. The strength of our institution is in the people, and I believe we need to provide leadership training, particularly in the middle-management areas, to engage people at the strategic level. By supporting leadership development within our organization, we’re supporting our students and communities. But it goes even deeper than that. We can all be change-makers, and by investing in people, we’re helping to make their futures brighter and to improve the entirety of society in Alberta.
In recognizing the importance of our leaders, I would like to thank three of our outgoing Board of Governors members – Morris Flewwelling, Dianne Macauley and Karin Melnyk – for their valuable contributions and their dedication to Red Deer College. I also welcome our new Board members, including Chair, Guy Pelletier, along with Kristen Korhonen and Julie Oliver, and I look forward to working with them as we continue the important work for RDC’s future.
As we look to the future, I’m encouraged by the opportunities we will have to educate even more students and develop even more leaders. We’ve served students well in the past, and we’ll be able to serve them even better as Red Deer University.
Dr. Peter Nunoda is Red Deer College’s President