Red Deer College: Twelve months of transformation

Remember to breathe! We in central Alberta should heed this slogan for Travel Alberta. The pace of change over the past 12 months has been breathtaking. Consider all that has happened: the 2019 Canada Winter Games, the opening of the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre, the new iconic Residence clad in solar panels, RDC’s Alternative Energy Initiative, which enabled the installation of almost 4,200 solar panels on our main campus, the Highway 2 project, news about the hospital and the court house, just to name a few.

But I would argue that March 1, 2018, was, perhaps, the single-most important day in our history. With 600 people packing our Arts Centre and many more watching through livestream, Premier Rachel Notley shared the long-awaited news that Red Deer College will become a recognized university. We are so appreciative of the community support, which was instrumental in achieving this goal. It was on March 2 that we began our work in earnest to complete the transition. Remember, we needed to keep in mind that we would continue to offer the great Trades programs, certificates and diplomas, as well as our own degrees. “All we do now plus our own degrees” is the phrase we use to articulate our new regional teaching university.

From that announcement came the inevitable questions, but the one I heard most often was regarding the new name of our institution. We need a new name rooted in our community and aligned to our new university vision.

We connected with nearly 400 stakeholders across Red Deer, Ponoka, Stettler and Rocky Mountain House, including current students, prospective students, faculty, staff, Board of Governors members, key business owners, city, regional and provincial politicians, Indigenous leaders, RDC alumni, parents and high school educators.

Community, pride, personal journeys and increasing recognition for the quality, practical education we deliver were consistent and strong themes that emerged from our consultation meetings with our community. Our new name reflects and honours that feedback. We also gave consideration to naming conventions for universities around the world.

I am excited to share with you our new name – Red Deer University. Our past is rooted in the history of this region. Keeping Red Deer in our name provides a strong linkage to our college past, with many attributes we are proud to carry forward as a comprehensive regional teaching university. This name also reflects the immense pride our students, alumni, faculty, staff and community have in the quality education our institution has provided for the past 55 years.

The Government of Alberta announced our new name on March 5, one year after the original announcement. I must remember to breathe!

Joel Ward is President & CEO of Red Deer College

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