It is a bit of an understatement to say that the Bay of Quinte Region is fortunate to have a well-regarded, vibrant and innovative post-secondary institution in Loyalist College. Its programs are renowned throughout Canada, with many earning positive reputations internationally. The school is a leader in forward-thinking applied research and programming that has direct, measurable and impactful results on the local economy.
Loyalist has built a reputation not only for teaching and instructional excellence, but it has shown itself to being a most adaptable and versatile centre of learning, able to pivot to meet the needs of the local economy and the changing nature of various key Canadian economic sectors.
Changing With The Times
Its growing positive reputation has led to a burgeoning student body that is increasingly comprised of students coming from other parts of Canada and an exceptional level of quality international students. According to Loyalist College president Ann Marie Vaughan, the drive to be innovative, the diversity of the student population, and the responsiveness and collegial interaction between students and staff has created a post-secondary institution well placed in the modern economy, and a vital resource for the business and municipal sectors within the Bay of Quinte Region.
“Colleges like Loyalist are more grounded to the community. They’re more responsive to labour market issues as they arise. They are more focused on the applied applications of both learning and research, so we will often work with companies or communities on real world problems that they face. Most of the learning that takes place is applied. The vast majority of it has some sort of experiential or work placement component to them and a focus on the needs of the market,” Vaughan said.
“People often thought of colleges as vocational schools – kind of as an extension of the K to 12 system. But they have evolved over the years into being much more than that. They are very much the drivers of innovation and supporters of innovation within the society and the economy.”
It’s relatively small size – about 4,000 students and 528 faculty members – means there is a flexibility and a willingness to try new processes and programs.
A Great Return On Investment
Loyalist also has a demonstrable and measurable positive impact on the local economy, outside of the services, programs and partnerships it provides to local municipalities and businesses. An organization called Economic Modeling Statistics International (ESMI) has done a number of detailed and comprehensive economic impact studies for colleges and universities, including Loyalist.
“What they show is that we are a key driver of the social and economic health and prosperity for the area. We actually contribute 5.4 per cent to the Gross Regional Product for the area, which represents an overall effect on the economy of $530 million annually, and that was based on the 2014 report. We’re getting ready to get that assessed again. They also found that students that enroll in Loyalist College receive an excellent return on their investment on their post-secondary education. So they acquire the qualifications and advanced skills necessary to have meaningful and rewarding careers. I would say these are pretty substantial contributions that we make both to our students directly, but also to the region,” Vaughan asserted.
At The Heart Of The Bay Of Quinte
Vaughan believes the location of Loyalist in the heart of the Bay of Quinte region is one of its key assets and its integration into the local community and regional economy is a definite drawing card and something that helps make the college special amongst its contemporaries.
“The government has asked all colleges and universities in the province to think about what makes them unique. From our perspective we started thinking about our assets, and one is our location. We’re a 200-plus acre facility. It’s the community around us and the beauty of the community around us and the fact that it’s becoming a real draw for people from other regions. It’s about the fact that we’re two hours from major markets of Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto and so we see ourselves as a destination college. We will be visioning ourselves locally, nationally and internationally as a deliberate choice of students and the community for the quality of programs we provide, student engagement, for applied research and for having a creative, innovative and supportive learning culture,” she said.
“We will be focusing even more on the student experience moving forward. I have said this many times to other audiences that the relationship between the student and the faculty member and the student and support staff – the overall sense of community at Loyalist is unique. It’s beyond anything I have seen at such an exemplary level in my work in the post-secondary sector.”
Navigation Through Innovation
Innovation is at the core of Vaughan’s and Loyalist College’s approach to post-secondary education as a way to navigate through the uncertain and ever-changing social and economic landscapes.
“We’re starting to think not about programs but about sectors. So how do we respond to all the societal and economic disruptions in these sectors, because the skill sets and the types of jobs are going to be different and varied for the multiple sector settings around us? And to get to that our starting point was looking at the regional economic development plans of the communities around us. Where did they see their strengths? What were their aspirations of where they need to go, because Loyalist is really an extension of the community and we need to be able to provide programs so that business and communities can survive and thrive in the future? And the same thing is happening with our applied research mission. We’re starting to look beyond programs and into sectors and we will have programs talking to other programs that one might not have naturally thought were aligned to each other,” Vaughan explained.
“An example of that would be the move from STEM to STEAM. Previously, a lot of the focus was on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. But the new language and approach adds Arts to that conversation, and of course Loyalist has a long-standing national and perhaps international reputation for all our media and arts related programs. We have to have that group talking more to our engineering, science and mathematics areas then we can start to think about how that synergy is going to grow and develop in the years to come.
“It’s a unique shift to make and we think that it plays to our strengths and our size. Being the size that we are, we can have people talking together and start to really focus on the needs of the community and remain vibrant and leading edge in the things that we do, which is what Loyalist has such a good reputation for.”
A Centre For Entrepreneurial Spirit
Another transformational shift that is happening at Loyalist is the overall philosophy that imbues every fibre of the institution’s ethos. Vaughan said the spirit and thinking of entrepreneurship is now the overarching approach.
“When you focus on the applied and practical and you’re focused on relevance and you’re focused on assisting industry then you really have to behave, in many ways, like an industry as well. So that’s why entrepreneurship sort of becomes second nature to colleges, especially here at Loyalist. That’s why you see that kind of behavior in this institution. Loyalist is at the front end of thinking about what changes are going to be happening in various sectors like manufacturing, what skill levels are going to be to ensure that we’re putting out the programs that allow these local employers to stay competitive and vibrant within our community,” she said.
“We used to have an Entrepreneurship Studies and Business Launch program. We still have that, but that program was in our School of Business. We’ve moved that out of the School of Business because we’re trying to wrap entrepreneurship around all of our programs and not just thinking that entrepreneurship happens within the school of business. Entrepreneurship can happen in Health Sciences, it can happen in Justice Studies, it can happen in Media Arts, it can happen in Bio-science and the trades. So we’re wrapping entrepreneurship around the entire institution as opposed to just having it as a separate entity within the school. We will be offering pitch sessions, we’re creating a Makers Space, and Enactus is starting up again. We’re working a lot with Startup Canada and as well as creating an accelerator program here at Loyalist College.
“This is a big, but needed, shift for us and the way we think. And even if our students end up not being an entrepreneur themselves, they could be working for one, so we want them to understand the value add that they bring to the business in our community and to local municipalities and wherever they might work – that they see themselves as contributing value to wherever they go. By instilling these entrepreneurial values throughout the entire institution we think that’s going to have benefit for existing entrepreneurs and also for students who want to be entrepreneurs.”
For more information, visit http://www.loyalistcollege.com.