Tonight, as we begin our annual meeting, we acknowledge that Providence rests on lands occupied over many centuries by the Cree and Anishinabe peoples joined later by the Metis. Their descendants are to be found in the Red River Metis and, closest to us, the Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation community. It is within their territory that our activity as a Christian educational institution takes place under Treaty One signed in 1871. We honour them as current hosts, and original trustees of this part of God’s creation. May we live well in the land together!
For 90 Years Providence has been teaching people to grow in knowledge and character for leadership and service. More than 9,000 people have taken classes with us. They have gone all over the world. Many are making a difference where they are even as we are here serving Christ in our own way. I invite you to take a look at The Report to the Community which tells about last year. Each page givessome insight about the year 2014-15.
In 2014-15, after a thorough discussion with all faculty, staff, Board, and a number of alumni and other constituents, we determined our story. We are Providence: Difference Makers. That is our story. After 90 years our faculty and staff continue to make a difference in students’ lives. Our students will follow in the path of our alumni and make a difference in the church and the world. This is Providence. We make a difference.
What has happened in the last four months after the end of the academic year? Once again we had over 450 youth at our sports camps in July and August. Fall enrollment is down slightly. The University College enrollment is down about 35 students. This is largely due to a small entering class. The Seminary is up by 16 students. More students are added to the Seminary in two additional modules in the fall semester so we can only compare our numbers on September 30. Mile Two is up by five students. This means that overall we were down by fourteen students at the beginning of the semester. We are trying to bring enrollment up as the year moves on.
Donations are running ahead of last year by 15 per cent. We are entering a very important season in the donation year as people make a priority of year-end giving. The Board has approved a balanced budget for the year. John Laugesen, our Chief Financial Officer, will give a more complete report on our finances in a few minutes.
Enrollment and donation numbers are generally how we measure things, but Providence is about far more than numbers. As I mentioned earlier, Providence is about making a difference. We make a difference in students’ lives and our faculty, staff, and alumni make a difference in the church and in the world.
One of the ways we make a difference in students’ lives is by discussing hard things. For example, on October 27 we hosted a Guest Lecture by Julia Beazley of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. She spoke on the effects of pornography on our culture and discussed what we can do about it. Around 200 people attended the lectures that day including students and community guests.
I have had the great privilege this semester of spending time with students at our house, in class, and in various small groups around campus. Students asked me to lead a men’s Bible study later this month on grace and forgiveness. This sort of event happens a lot around here. We have a great group of inquisitive, creative, humble, and genuinely caring students. You will meet a couple of students later tonight. I’ve asked the deans to also share some stories of students. I wish you could meet them all.
Fifty-five per cent of our students come from Manitoba. The second largest contingent, about seventy-five students, comes from outside the country. I am convinced there is no school that has better students than we have right here at Providence. Those who teach them and those who care for them and their surroundings are second to none.
On Tuesday we hosted about 75 retired people for breakfast on campus. An older gentleman shared with me that back in the late 1970s he took out a loan so his two daughters could attend Providence. He said it was the best $8,000 he has ever spent. Providence is making a difference in people’s lives.
We are difference-makers!
So where are we going?
As audacious as it might seem, our vision is to be recognized across Canada as a leading Christian University. We want to attract students from around the country to complement the students who already come to us from Manitoba and from outside Canada. We want to be known as a Christian University with a number of schools, like a Seminary, a discipleship school, a school of performing arts, a faculty of arts and sciences, a faculty of biblical and theological studies, a business school, and others.
We want to be recognized for winning athletic teams with players who exhibit Christ-likeness on the court and off. We want to be known for our care of the environment because God has gifted the earth to us. But most of all we want to be known as a place where lives are transformed through education—where students grow in knowledge, character, and faith. And we want to all of this to the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
So how are we going to fulfill this vision? Over the next few years we have three and only three goals:
1. We will enhance our Christ-centredness,
2. We will increase our enrollment, and
3. We will develop our resources.
It is simple, but it will not be easy. It will take a large commitment on the part of faculty, staff, Board, corporation, parents, and friends. But we can do this! We can become a top-tier Canadian Christian university. We need one here in Manitoba.
To accomplish these goals we are implementing a number of tactics. First, we will increase the efficient use of our resources. This means investing in more professional development for our staff and faculty. As staff and faculty become better equipped to teach and serve, Providence will become a better place. As Providence becomes a better place, we will be able to attract and retain more and better students. As these students make a difference for Christ in the world, the story of Providence will spread.
Secondly, we will make the Providence experience more attractive. We will increase the curb appeal of our campus. We will upgrade classrooms, technology, and living spaces. We will also make a Providence education more accessible by increasing our scholarships and bursaries. It is expensive to pursue a Providence education. We don’t want the lack of resources to be a barrier for the students who deserve our education but find it hard to pay for it. In fact, already three years ago, we increased our scholarships by $200,000 to a total of $500,000 per year.
Finally, to accomplish our goals we will expand our program offerings. We will add more science courses and in three years we will become the first Christian school in Manitoba to offer a Bachelor of Science degree. Even this week engineers toured our campus to determine how best to create a science classroom with a fully equipped laboratory. Students will be able to graduate from Providence and go on to medical professions, to environmental jobs, and into the agriculture industry. All of our students will be able to integrate science and faith because we believe all truth is God’s truth.
We are going to expand our business program. This is our fastest growing undergraduate program with almost 50 students. We think there is potential to quadruple the number of our business students over the next 10 years if we invest now. We have plans to create a dedicated space for business classes and offices. There is a dearth of people who can lead great Canadian Christian institutions, so plans are in the works to launch an executive leadership program for leaders of non-profit organizations.
We have already found great success in developing distance education programs in the Seminary. Our counselling program has about 100 students in it. We have also started a Master of Divinity program where your future pastors can take about two-thirds of their courses online and in connection with local churches. Both of these initiatives have already been highly successful.
We also are working at expanding our English language offerings. We sent a couple of people to Latin America on an exploratory trip and they have come back with a great report on the potential for bringing students here for weeks at a time to learn English.
So, you might ask me, this all sounds great, but how are you going to pay for it?
Well, we are going to pay for it largely through increased enrollment. That is one of our three major goals. But we are also going to look to donors to make investments in various projects that will allow us to implement these tactics without creating debt. We already have commitments for a few of these projects like the development of a science lab and monies to invest in some professional development. Any money donated over the next five years will go toward implementing our tactics and accomplishing our goals.
So, you might also ask me, who is going to do all this work?
I want to conclude by acknowledging our staff, faculty, and Board. For over 90 years now, God has provided Providence with skilled, dedicated employees who have carried out their work sacrificially with the utmost commitment to making a difference in students’ lives. You, the corporation of Providence, could not have a more committed team. These people go above and beyond the call of duty every day to give our students a great educational experience.
Just last week one of our staff members examined the cars of our international students to help them prepare their vehicles for winter. Our coaches commit hours of their time to help students hone their athletic skills, but they also talk to students about being leaders. Our student development department loves on our students every day. Our staff continually work to make Providence a great place for students. Our administration, the people who sit with me every week in Cabinet meetings have strong opinions sometimes in opposition to each other, but come away from those meetings determined with one heart to make Providence a better place for students. Our Board sacrifices their time and resources to keep Providence on track.
And finally, our faculty. These people have chosen to ply their trade at Providence because they believe in what we are doing. They could all teach somewhere else for more money and spend less time with students. But they love our students. They love your students. They work endlessly to make a difference in your students’ lives so that your students will make a difference in the church and in the world. After a long week of teaching and discipling students a few of those faculty members are here tonight. I’d like them to stand, and please join me in thanking them.
In conclusion, please pray for us, that God would open doors for opportunities and service in the church and in the world.