Peter Nunoda: Relationships at core of RDC president’s installation ceremony

I was very moved on Nov. 12, the day of my official installation as Red Deer College’s 11th president. Thank you to everyone who came to the ceremony to extend your warm wishes and show your support, and thank you to all those who have made my wife, Joanne, and I feel welcome in the community.

When I reflect on what the installation ceremony meant, I am reminded of the importance of relationships — for me professionally and personally — and also the relationships that RDC has with our students, community members, partners and government.

One of these important relationships is between RDC and our Indigenous partners. A moment that stood out for me at the installation was having the Indigenous drumming group, Shining Eagle, play an honour song while a procession of students, faculty and staff representatives entered the Arts Centre.

I am thankful to Shining Eagle, and also to our national anthem singer, Kiya Bruno, who sang in Cree and English. Their participation represents our relationships and our future. This is an area I’m passionate about, and I look forward to working together as we continue to walk a path built on honour and respect.

For those who may not know, I spent many years teaching and researching in the subject areas of Indigenous studies and history, and the history of my own family has particular relevance to my beliefs about the value of education.

In the spring of 1942, my grandparents and parents were ­— like 23,000 other Canadians of Japanese descent — forcibly removed from their homes in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. They were moved to “relocation centres” in the Interior of the province.

At the end of the war, these evacuees were required to move permanently east of the Rockies if they wanted to remain in Canada. My family chose to relocate to southern Ontario to begin rebuilding their lives.

But my family’s story is not one of victimization. It is a story of resilience and success. The values my parents instilled in my younger brother and me were hard work, excellence and the value of education.

For us, conversations were never “if” we were going to attend university. They were “when” we would attend. However, mere attendance was not enough. The highest possible achievement in our chosen discipline was expected.

These values — and this work ethic — have been integral to any success I’ve had in my career. And I see this same drive for excellence in what I’ve experienced interacting with others during the past two and a half months I’ve led RDC.

I have been fortunate to meet many people who are passionate about post-secondary education and, in particular, Red Deer College.

This is a pivotal moment in history as we evolve and prepare for the future as Red Deer University. I feel the excitement within the walls of our institution as we continue to transition to become a comprehensive regional teaching university. And, I also sense the anticipation from the citizens of Red Deer and surrounding communities.

As we look to our future, my vision for Red Deer University is to ensure we’re agile, growing our mix of degrees and other programs and ensuring we can adapt quickly to an ever-changing global marketplace.

We will continue to cultivate and grow our partnerships, and we will welcome an increasing number of international students to our campuses. In addition, we will look at innovative opportunities, such as creating a University District and developing a Smart Park on RDC’s main campus.

I’ve seen these models work successfully at post-secondary institutions around the world, and they would provide creative ways to diversify our institution and establish a greater level of financial sustainability for the future. I look forward to describing these initiatives to you more fully as the work progresses.

For me, the installation ceremony was another milestone as we move forward. On that day, Lt.-Gov. Lois E. Mitchell was part of the ceremony, and we started a new tradition for Red Deer College: the oath of office.

During this oath, I swore to serve learners and communities through leadership, excellence and innovation while carrying out my duties as president. This is my commitment to all of you, to the students we serve now, and to the future generations who will be positively impacted by this institution.

I look forward to working together over the coming months and years on our journey to flourish as Red Deer University.

Peter Nunoda is Red Deer College’s president.

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