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International students, commuting and innovation were among the leading topics at the consultation
Ryerson president Mohamed Lachemi says the future of the university includes more international students, solutions for commuters and continued innovation.
Speaking at a town hall session Tuesday evening, Lachemi asked attendees what improvements they want to see by year 2030, prompting additional comments about green spaces, opportunities for alumni participation and streamlining conversation between faculty in different departments.
The first of two public consultations invited feedback from Ryerson students and staff on the university’s future plans in accordance with its new Strategic Vision.
Five pillars of strategic plans are underway at Ryerson, each at a different stage of completion. These strategies include Academic Plan 2020-25, Strategic Research Plan, Internationalization Strategy, Ryerson 2030 and Campus Master Plan.
Among the roughly 30 attendees in the Library Building’s lecture hall were faculty members, teaching assistants, Ryerson alumni and staff. Few if any currently enrolled students attended the consultation.
“Our percentage of international students is still low,” Lachemi said, asking how the school could foster diversity in order to attract more students.
Attendees said that by 2030, Ryerson should be ensuring staff and faculty represent the university’s diverse student population. Others commented on the need for social and emotional support for international students when they come to Ryerson.
One former student said her concern is for commuter students’ academics. “I think we have to look into areas to provide more online classes and online lectures,” she said.
Lachemi conceded more than 80 per cent of students are commuters, but he said the bigger issue for them is a lack of study space.
“When you commute, you’re always on campus,” he said. “But the library and SLC are often at capacity.”
With this, Lachemi introduced the new Daphne Cockwell Health Sciences Complex that will officially open on Nov. 25. The building offers “plenty” of places to study along with more classrooms and labs.
Department of architectural science professor Jurij Leshchyshyn suggested that Ryerson should build student housing located in existing Toronto neighbourhoods that are well-served by public transit to help students with lengthy commutes.
“Ryerson’s city building mandate might then become a two-pronged approach — continue developing the campus downtown and creating supportive and suitable student housing within existing neighbourhoods,” Leshchyshyn said.
Lachemi responded to this point by saying partnering with developers, looking into affordable housing and optimizing existing spaces will help commuters.
While students were a big topic of conversation, the faculty-populated assembly voiced the importance of Ryerson staff.
“In order to be here for the students, we need to be a place where the very best faculty and staff want to be and are excited to be. I think articulating that in any kind of strategy is really important,” said Christina Sass-Kortsak, assistant vice-president of human resources at Ryerson.
“I think we need our internal reality to match our external persona,” said Caroline Riley, Ryerson’s HR director. “What are some of the innovative programming we’re offering to our faculty? Just really kind of defining what innovation means from an employment perspective.”
Innovation was a recurring theme on many fronts, and Lachemi had some final thoughts on its entirety.
“We should not say no to initiatives. My message is, let’s continue to be bold and push boundaries. We might not be successful, but that’s OK,” Lachemi said. “And actually, this mindset will serve our students very well.”
The University Strategic Vision document — expected to be prepared by early 2020 after further consultation with faculty and students — will help guide the university for the next 10 years.
A second town hall session is scheduled for Nov. 29.
Nov. 28, correction: A previous version of this story stated that Jurij Leshchyshyn is a professor in Ryerson’s department of agricultural science. In fact, he is a professor in the department of architectural science.