Ambitious plan aims to boost Western University’s profile at home and abroad

Aug 12, 2013 by

Ambitious plan aims to boost Western University’s profile at home and abroad

Source: London Free Press

Four years after a pledge from the top to make Western University one of the world’s best, faculty, staff, and students have a plan to make that happen.

The focus on going global, though, won’t stop the school from strengthening its connections to London, says the university’s vice-provost.

“We want to raise our profile, we want to continue to offer the best education in Canada and be the destination for the best students and best faculty and best staff,” says Alan Weedon, the school’s vice-provost of faculty, planning and staff.

“If you don’t do these things then you start to lose ground.”

But, Weedon adds, “we recognize we need to focus on our relationship with London, with Southwestern Ontario, and the rest of Ontario and Canada.”

Going Global: Achieving Excellence on the World Stage, is the title of the university’s new draft strategic plan now under review by faculty, staff and students until the end of September.

The ambitious plan outlines several main goals for Western:

— Become a world-class research centre, with a higher international profile

— Better engage the community, including alumni and London

— Build on reputation for excellence in education

— Find new funding sources to help pay for improvements, expansion

The plan appears to be a roadmap for Western president Amit Chakma’s early dreams for the school.

In his first interview after being named president in 2008, Chakma vowed to make Western one of the world’s top 100 post-secondary institutions.

He called on faculty and students to work with other disciplines to tackle complex challenges and added “the key for interation recognition is to have impact.”

Those goals are present throughout the new plan.

“What the strategic plan does, is help everyone on this campus in their day-to day work focus on the things that will get us to where we would like to be,” Weedon said.

“Western is an extraordinary university, but we tend to hide our light under a bushel and we need to get the word out nationally and internationally that we’re here. I don’t think we’re being recognized for what we are.”

The same could be said for the university’s relationship with London, Weedon says. Western has many connections with the city that simply aren’t known or celebrated enough, he says.

Western’s link to the city seemed to be growing stronger in 2011, when plans to build a downtown campus were announced.

But politicians balked at the price tag — at least $70.8 million.

“The fact that one didn’t progress, wasn’t because we weren’t interested. It turned out to be not politically viable in the city,” Weedon says.

Asked if Western has given up on expanding its downtown presence, he says: “Certainly not.”

“We are partnering with the city in a number of areas. We continue to be open to that.”

Expanding Western research, attracting more students, faculty, creating programs and raising the profile, won’t come cheap. And the strategic plan outlines ways the university can raise money.

“We need to look at all our funding sources and, if possible, multiply our funding sources because we can’t rely on government and tuition,” Weedon says.

GOING GLOBAL

What: draft strategic plan for Western University

When: Comments by faculty, staff, students due Sept. 20.

Next: Plan goes to school’s senate and board of governors in November

GOALS

1. Create world-class research and scholarship by:

— Expanding interdisciplinary research

— Creating 50 new research chairs

— Increasing quality/quantity of research funding applications

— Focusing on research with impact

— Telling the world what Western does

— Hiring the best people

2. Educate students to succeed and lead by:

— Expanding graduate enrolment, in part with new graduate programs

— Establishing new professional master’s degree programs

— Minimizing financial, structural barriers to interdisciplinary study

— Engaging more undergraduates in research

— Offering more ways, such as online courses, to learn

— Increasing internships

3. Better engage alumni, international community, London region

4. Find new funding sources

ABOUT WESTERN

— One of Ontario’s largest universities

— 28,000+ students, including undergraduate and graduate

— 220,000+ alumni and former students

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