College Beat: Red Deer College begins transition to university

On March 1, the decision was rendered.

To a capacity audience, Premier Rachel Notley and Minister of Advanced Education, Marlin Schmidt, announced that RDC has been given approval to transition to become a recognized university.

The decision to enable degree granting, and the creation of a pathway to full University status will impact the economic, social and cultural growth of our region in ways we cannot yet imagine. The decision acknowledges the growth, and evolution, of RDC as a mature academic institution. Our history of delivering collaborative degrees for over 25 years is a testament to our capacity to do more, and do more we will.

So, what kind of University will we become and how long will it take?

To serve our learners, our communities, and prepare for the jobs of tomorrow, we are defining ourselves as a Comprehensive Regional Teaching University. This means we will continue to do everything we do now, with the addition of granting our own degrees. We will continue to offer trades, certificates, diplomas, graduate certificates and applied degrees, as well as collaborative degrees with our other University partners. And we will grant our own degrees – ones that make sense for our region and complement our current programs.

With a focus on applied learning, students will practice what they learn to solve real-world problems through co-ops, practicums, and projects that connect them to businesses, industry and not-for-profit sectors. With an emphasis on work integrated learning, students will become innovators, entrepreneurs and problem solvers with the communication skills necessary to navigate an increasingly complex world.

As we determine what new degrees, certificates and diplomas our region will need we must consider the needs of our communities. Clearly though, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs will be considered.

We will continue with degrees in education, nursing, business, as well as social sciences and the humanities. As our region grows we will grow with it and we will create programs that support and enhance diversification and prepare students for the jobs of the future.

The transition will take time – we estimate it will take approximately three to five years to complete the necessary work to become a recognized university. As we begin the work of transitioning to University status, we know we will need to be patient, thorough, and inclusive as we map the path. We established a transition team to work with the Government and the Ministry of Advanced Education to begin the work in earnest.

We are grateful for the support of the Government of Alberta, including Premier Notley, Minister Schmidt and our local MLAs, Barb Miller and Kim Schreiner. On behalf of RDC, I wish to acknowledge and thank our current and past students, our faculty and staff, and our communities and partners for your unwavering support of this College and our quest to achieve degree-granting status. The decades of work you put in, and the support you’ve shown, led to a decision that will impact our region for generations to come.

To our students and the communities of central Alberta, we will not let you down. We have been given a once in a lifetime opportunity, and together we will imagine and create the institution in which we can all be proud.

Finally, the name … Stay tuned.

Joel Ward is President & CEO of Red Deer College

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