Notes from the President: 5 Resolutions for a New School Year

If you work in education, early September can feel as much like a new year as January 1. As students flood back on to our campuses, this is a time to take stock and set expectations for the year ahead.

NBCC, like most post-secondary education institutions, is in a period of significant change. This is a moment for accelerated transformation, not incremental advances. There is a wave of technological disruption heading our way. It is already changing the way we work and live, and it will change the way we learn.  The era of “job security” is over. We need to focus on “skills security” – ensuring people have access to opportunities for skills development from wherever they are in their career or in life. NBCC has an important role in helping people and businesses ride the wave of technological disruption rather than be swept away. To do so, we have to be bold and tackle tough challenges. This September, I’ve set five “New Year’s” resolutions for myself and our college:

  1. Commit to a 21st century model of post-secondary education: We can all be very proud of NBCC’s long educational history back to its earliest roots as independent vocational schools. However, we also need to recognize that we can’t solve 21st-century challenges with 20th century thinking. In the era of iTunes, Netflix and Amazon, people are used to personalizing and customizing all aspects of their lives. They expect the same from their education. This is especially true for those learners coming to us at different points in their career. An industrial, assembly line model of post-secondary education is insufficient to meet rapidly changing skills. It cannot respond quickly enough to meet the needs of workers or employers, and leaves too many people behind. NBCC is committed to welcoming more learners, which often means meeting learners where they are. To do this, we are focusing our efforts on transforming our programs and services by reducing institutional, occupational and preparatory barriers.
  2. Make our purpose our passion. NBCC has a very specific and intentional purpose: We are a collaborative, learner-centred college – creatively contributing to social and economic prosperity through applied learning. Our significant social and economic contribution and our commitment to applied learning often get most of the attention; however, true transformation of our college begins by being “learner-centred.” I’m asking everyone at NBCC to look at each aspect of our work from the perspective of a learner. We have to be prepared to look at each practice, policy and process and ask: is this putting students first? Or, is this creating an unnecessary obstacle? We are paying particular attention to those groups who are currently under-represented at NBCC: mature learners; immigrants and newcomers; people who have started but not completed post-secondary; and individuals living in rural or remote communities.
  3. See and solve problems, share solutions. Public institutions are being asked to meet mounting expectations and increasingly complex challenges without an equivalent increase in resources. As a result, we always need to be on the lookout for more effective and efficient solutions to our challenges to ensure our sustainability and, even more so, to ensure we thrive. That’s why we’ve committed to a formal continuous improvement approach through NBCC’s Quest for Continuous Improvement. One of the most significant projects will improve NBCC’s curriculum and design process so we can develop and deploy curriculum more quickly to meet skills development needs. Beyond formal projects, we need to develop a continuous improvement mindset in our daily work – constantly looking for better ways of doing our work, collaborating across the college and sharing what we’ve learned – both successes and failures.
  4. Mobilize partners to accelerate transformation. To transform NBCC, we need to reach out across our college and beyond our institution. As we say in Atlantic Canada, “a rising tide lifts all boats.” We have a critical level of staff ready to act with courage and boldness. We have committed to investing in our employees’ ability to lead change, to respond to diverse learner needs and to use technology to deliver flexible programs and services. We also recognize that we have many partners who share a commitment to NBCC and who share our belief that by working together New Brunswick can leap forward. We want to advance partnerships that will enable us to serve more learners, especially those under-represented at NBCC today.
  5. Demonstrate pride in NBCC. I believe it is important that our pride in NBCC is demonstrated in the way we speak, listen and act; the way ideas are shared; the commitments we make. Pride is demonstrated in the details – our spaces, our services, our relationships – that send cues to learners, employers, and one another, about how seriously we value them and how important they are to us.

As a New Brunswicker, and also as an employee of the College, I believe NBCC can thrive and step forward as a leader in education. I want our legacy to be one of social change and progress; where post-secondary education is a catalyst for everyone, from the most vulnerable to the privileged, domestic to international, gifted to exceptional. We have the talent, the expertise and the relationships to make this happen. With the right resolve, I believe we will achieve it.

Mary Butler became NBCC’s second President and CEO on July 1, 2019. She was previously NBCC’s Vice-President Academic and Research, initiating the transformation of NBCC’s long-standing academic model. From 2011 to 2016, she was NBCC’s first Vice-President of College and Community Development where she led the creation and growth of several award-winning elements of the NBCC Advantage. Deeply engaged in her community, she serves on numerous boards and committees at the local, regional and national level and is a long-time volunteer with the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog Unit.

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