ICYMI: Dec. 4 Campus Update focuses on research and campus planning

If you weren’t among the several hundred faculty, staff and students who packed the BEC auditorium for the Dec. 4 Campus Update session, there are still good opportunities to be involved in the two major initiatives discussed that day.  

The Dec. 4 event, hosted by Vice-President Academic and Provost Valerie Kuehne, was the most recent in the regular series of updates bringing university leaders to the podium to brief the campus community on major initiatives and opportunities. The Campus Update sessions, Kuehne stressed, “are also an opportunity for us to hear from you,” acknowledging the need to keep communications open and support a respectful and collegial environment.

Vice-President Research David Castle introduced the plans to develop UVic’s Strategic Research Plan against the timely backdrop of the federal government’s $1.5-billion Canada First Research Excellence Fund, announced barely more than an hour before the event. Recognizing that federal funding priorities are one element “of a changing yardstick in how research universities are measured,” Castle also saw that some of those changes—including greater expectations of partnerships in research—had the potential to ensure that research would more quickly or more effectively benefit society.

Practical plans for developing the Strategic Research Plan as outlined by Castle included constituency consultation, a town hall, a review of written feedback from interested researchers, and a survey, with all pieces coming together for a final draft in fall 2015.

Following Castle at the lectern, Vice-President Finance and Operations Gayle Gorrill introduced the renewal of the Campus Plan with similar attentiveness to engagement and consultation, encouraging the UVic community to become part of the inclusive process. Gorrill outlined a series of engagement opportunities including social media engagement, an online survey and a Feb. 4 ideas forum to help focus on priorities and possibilities for the campus.

With a list of foundation principles from the 2003 plan projected on the wall above her, Gorrill suggested that many or most of those priorities would likely be renewed—starting with the promise that facilities planning will support the university’s academic priorities—while others may require clarification in order to address unexpected challenges arising from the success of the prior plan (e.g. rising pressure on mixed-use pathways as a result of increased bicycle traffic on campus).

Gorrill’s invitation to participate in the 2015 Campus Plan process is, she explained, and opportunity to build on the history, legacy, vision and principles that have shaped campus development over the last 50 years. It’s the kind of opportunity that, in the end, can only be truly successful with full engagement from the campus and external community.   

After the presentations, members of the audience asked Gorrill clarifying questions about the relationship of specific properties to academic planning, and Castle expanded on how areas of research strength, curiosity-based research, and partnership agreements might all be balanced (and supported) through the forthcoming research plan.

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Keywords: Campus Plan

People: Valerie Kuehne, David Castle, Gayle Gorrill

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