Shootin’ the Breeze With Uncle Graham

Provost Calls on Students to Define Concordia’s Future

Concordia has a growing and energetic student family, new buildings, fully stocked laboratories and a balanced budget.

The last step for Provost David Graham is to be recognized as one of the top five comprehensive universities in Canada.

Students, he needs your help.

“I guess the obvious question is; why now? Why are we preparing an Academic Plan process? The answer to that coincides with two things: Concordia’s previous Academic Plan was designed to cover the years 2005-2010. It is now officially done,” said Graham.

Sitting in his office on the eighth floor of the GM building, Graha­­­­­­­­m is Concordia’s senior academic. While the floors below and above were rocked by the infighting and strife that decimated the university’s upper administration, Graham weathered the storm with his mortarboard unscathed.

He is now moving ahead and writing a new Academic Plan—the program that will direct what students study and how for the next ­­half-decade.

“The Academic Plan sets out some big picture goals for Concordia, of which the biggest and most prominent from our perspectives is becoming recognized as one of Canada’s top-five comprehensive universities by 2020,” said Graham, who is supervising the drafting of his first Academic Plan.

“The question we asked ourselves was what does it take to get us from where we are now in our academic standing to being on par with those other universities—the same four that come up every year in no particular order: Victoria, Simon Frasier, Guelph and Waterloo,” said Graham. “There’s a clear gap between them and everyone else.”

The second category of universities in the academic rankings compiled by Maclean’s, comprehensive universities are those with graduate programs but without large medical or law schools.

To reach the top five, Graham has called on Concordia’s staff, faculty and students to help decide what academic pursuits to emphasize, how to get new students and reward those that succeed, how to build the best faculties and how to best support the community.

“Research, creativity, student success, academic programs and experiential learning are going to be very important in this plan, and we’re looking for people to tell us how to do this,” said Graham. “I understand that students have a lot to do. I often say they have three jobs: classes to go to, jobs to work and families to attend to.”

Students have much to win in the drafting of this plan. Their gripes, observations and complaints will do much to shape Concordia until 2020. If the plan is successful and the university vaults up the standings, the value of every degree will jump with it.

“Part of education is learning that you have the ability to take charge of your own education,” said Graham. “That to me is what a really successful education is about. It’s not the subject material so much, but if you learn how to learn and how to take charge of your own experience, that’s everything.”

While that might not be an invitation to skip class, it isn’t an indictment if you do.

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 22, published February 8, 2011.