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Blog 1: Starting the Conversation about VIU’s Strategic Plan

Author: Alison Van Rooy, Senior Advisor for Strategic Planning and Institutional Initiatives

Before the March 2020 decision to move learning online, VIU's strategic planning conversations involved more than 250 people, in-person and online. Thanks to all for sharing your thoughts. We’ll move our in-person consultations entirely online for the next little while; more on that soon.

In the meantime, we thought you’d like to hear some of what our students and employees have been talking about so far.

About Broadening Access: Students underlined the importance of our admissions teams in offering personalized support, helping them with forms and transcripts and managing deadlines. Some who came to VIU with additional challenges (low incomes, addiction, sole parenthood or time in the foster care system) emphasized the importance of these supports. Employees and students both pointed with pride to the tuition waiver program for youth aging out of care, the programs offered off campus, and the pathways to further education built into our Adult Basic Education and other programs.

About Encouraging Discovery: Our learners let us know that teaching staff and students regularly explore new ideas together; connecting world ideas and undertaking research and problem-solving activities and initiatives in the community and hands-on activities on campus. While not everyone thought of themselves as researchers, everyone saw themselves as applied problem-solvers. Employees pointed to the support offered by the Scholarship, Research and Creative Activity team and the group at the Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Learning.

About Engaging Community: Students say working with real people and on real projects as part of their programs has been an amazing experience, leading some to re-think the kind of work they want to pursue in the future. Many spoke about the amazing openness in the region to engage with students as interns, co-op students, employees and volunteers. Employees added that making VIU open to the community (events, activities, performances, Discovery Day) in turn contributed to building connections and driving new enrollment.

About Boosting Success: Students told us about the crucial role that other students play in building a sense of community, whether in residence or through buddy systems, clubs and activities. In the classroom, we heard about the importance of teaching staff going the extra mile to connect students to work and internship opportunities, engage one-on-one, and to be open to learning from students themselves. Many spoke of the importance of small class sizes, supportive student services, and the possibilities of working on campus as important contributors to their success. We heard big cheers for the role of the library!

About Deepening Reconciliation: Non-Indigenous students and employees told us how events with Indigenous communities, the presence of Elders, and the experience of the Blanket Exercise have been deeply transformative in opening their eyes to the story of Indigenous Peoples. We heard about the importance of the Navigators, Elders, and Community Cousins to building success for Indigenous students, and how important it is to walk the talk beyond territorial acknowledgements to learn even more about the reality of residential schools and the sixties’ scoop.

We also heard many ideas for visioning a new future. People spoke about ways to expand programming to under-represented communities, including working people, and to increase diversity across our campuses. New ideas for increasing sustainability, addressing transport, building school spirit, serving the graduate community, and encouraging interdisciplinarity were put on the table, and many spoke about the challenges of upgrading and adding to our buildings. Ideas for sustaining mental and physical health, continuing to support international students in their life in Canada, and nurturing workplace wellbeing were also threads in our community’s discussions.

We expect many more reflections in the months to come. Please continue to add to the conversation. Your voice matters!