Unintimidated by daunting weather conditions, more than 200 civic-minded leaders and influencers from across Windsor-Essex filled the Alumni Auditorium on Wednesday morning to participate in the University’s 2019 Community Consultation breakfast.
Hosted by the Office of the Provost, the invitation-only event offered a unique opportunity for the University to liaise with key community figures and better define its role in the multifaceted development of the Windsor-Essex region. Attendees represented sectors including community building; manufacturing, energy, and technology; healthcare; business and finance; government and education; and the arts.
The day’s goals were to generate awareness of important institutional initiatives; help plant the seeds for future partnerships, programming, and research; and determine how the University’s curricula can better prepare its graduates to address present and future challenges of public concern.
The breakfast followed a series of five separate, smaller consultation events in 2017. Collectively, these discussions generated a wellspring of innovative, creative, and actionable ideas, some of which have influenced programming at the University in tangible ways.
On Wednesday morning, acting provost Jeff Berryman brought the audience up to date by articulating the University’s response to the 2017 consultations, while interim president Douglas Kneale delivered a précis of the University’s students, faculty, and institutional priorities.
The event’s centrepiece was a group consultation session mediated by Jennie Atkins, executive director of Continuing Education, and Judy Bornais, executive director of the Office of Experiential Learning, during which participants were encouraged to share their views, questions, hopes, and concerns in response to a series of questions about the University’s engagement with the community amidst changing economic forces and pressures.
Attendees were seated at mixed-discipline tables to encourage the pollination of ideas and perspectives across disparate fields. More than 20 students and two dozen faculty members from all nine faculties volunteered their time as facilitators to keep the conversations flowing.
“This morning was an invaluable opportunity to touch base with a great many of our valued external partners, and at the same time take the pulse of a new and more diverse group of community stakeholders,” said Prof. Berryman.
“The University of Windsor understands its duty as a public institution of higher learning, and so it’s important for us to learn whether influential members of our community feel that we are fulfilling our role as a catalyst to secure the region’s prosperity — in all sense of the word. As our region faces transformational change and new employment paradigms, days like today ensure we will continue to prepare our graduates to one day become influential community leaders themselves.”
Third-year biology student Christina Basily, an Outstanding Scholar, was one of the volunteer facilitators.
“It was very interesting to hear from community leaders — some of whom were alumni — on their perception of our university, campus, and our student experience,” she said. “I was happy to serve as a student facilitator, because I could provide the student perspective on some important issues that will shape the future of the institution as a whole.”
As in 2017, the Office of the Provost will compile a final report detailing important takeaways from the day’s dialogues. It will circulate first to participants, then to the UWindsor community and the public.