Holy Scripture: Psalm 46
Let us pray.
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 found in the Red River Metis and 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!
Every year I read the provincial throne speech. The Premier talks about the government’s priorities and the many things it will do in the coming year. This year’s throne speech was a bit shorter than normal because the premier was new and he had a short time to prepare. I have been in the office now for four years and I have had a lot of time to prepare! Draw your own conclusions.
Last year in my state of the institution address I announced our three longer-term over-riding goals:
- We will enhance our Christ-centredness,
- We will increase our enrollment, and
- We will develop our human and financial resources.
Last year I also hinted that we will have some big news to share this year at the Corporation meeting.
So how are we doing? What is the state of Providence today? Let’s start with enrollment.
We have been bragging a lot in the last couple of months, bragging in a humble, Christian sort of way, about all the good things that have been happening at Providence. So this report might be old hat for some of you. In case you missed it, fall started with a bang as we revised our student orientation into a Welcome Week. We know that the first two weeks of a student’s campus experience are critical in choosing to finish their degree program four years later. It doesn’t seem logical, but study after study shows this. So we worked overtime to make the five days before classes exciting, memorable, fun, and relational.
In the first week of classes we welcomed a larger student body than last year as you can see on page 8 of the Report to the Community. Overall we grew by almost 6%. Our September 30 head count of 493 is the largest since 2009. The Seminary grew by 4% after last year’s increase of 10%. The Seminary has its largest enrollment since 2009. The largest program in the Seminary continues to be counselling with 120 students. Students can take most of their classes in various locations or online, but they do all come here to the main campus for a few classes.
This year the University College welcomed 8% more students than last fall. This is a result of 35% growth in new students and a nearly 87% retention rate. Historically our retention rate has been about 72%. The largest program in the University College is business with 50 students. Our psychology program is growing. In its third full year, 22 students have chosen to major in psychology. We also have the largest number of aviation majors ever with 19. The TESOL program has benefited this year from a large number of international students enrolled in the one year certificate program. All together there are 42 students in our TESOL programs. Of course, all these students take courses in other departments such as Bible, the social sciences, and the physical sciences.
Mile Two has about the same number of students as last year. Our director has been out for the summer and fall with an illness, but plans to return in January. We also have a larger than normal number of students studying English with us in preparation to enter University or Seminary studies.
As we walk around campus this semester it feels like a microcosm of Toronto. We have 104 visa students this year. They come from thirty different countries. Twenty-five percent are from Korea and 17% are from India. The rest are from 28 other countries. It is fun to hear different languages and see different cultures mix.
One of the great things about going to Providence is the co-curricular activities. Students are involved in our music program. In addition to music courses taught by our great professors we have choirs, ensembles, worship teams, and both voice and instrumental lessons. I encourage you to attend our Christmas concert this year. Many students are involved in both varsity and intramural athletics. There are also about thirty leadership positions that help develop students into difference makers. The Student Council does a great job in making life better for students at Providence.
So on the enrollment goal, we have made significant progress. We still have a ways to go.
What about our human and financial resources?
We have a three pronged financial plan.
- To maintain a balanced budget,
- To increase our estate registry, and
- To raise investments to meet five priorities that will propel Providence forward to become a leading Canadian Christ-centred university right here in Manitoba.
This is now the third year in a row where we have a budget that has a small surplus at the end of the year. John Laugesen watches the budget very closely. We have done better at maintaining a balanced budget. John will be giving a report later in the program.
Our estate registry continues to grow. We now have 25 names of people or families who have included Providence in their estate plan. This bodes well for Providence’s future.
With Board approval, on July 1, 2015 we inaugurated Impact 2020: The Campaign for Providence. This is the big news I promised last year. The goal of this campaign is to accomplish five priorities that will enhance student experience at Providence. A little later in the Program, Irma McKenzie, Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations will share more fully about the campaign. She and her team have done a marvelous job managing this major fundraising endeavour and making it successful. For now let me say that money from this campaign will be spent as it comes in. We have already begun to accomplish some of our priorities. We have built classrooms, a courtyard, a welcome centre, added staff, and increased the volumes in the library.
On September 20 we launched the Buller School of Business. We bragged, in a Christian way, about our new facilities. It was a great day with lots of community support and student engagement. I hope you have seen the new facilities in person. The Welcome Centre, new classrooms, the science lab and all its equipment, and the Buller School are all designed to enhance our students’ experiences. From my contact with students, they love it. We have plans to do more, so by next fall more projects will be accomplished.
Ten days after the launch we hosted our annual Harvest Festival Banquet for 300 people. This was a launch of the campaign for our close supporters. Before the banquet, close to 150 people toured our new facilities. Many of them remember the old cafeteria and were stunned by the changes that have taken place. It was a delightful evening. We received lots of positive comments. The pledges and cash received that night from table sponsors and attendees totaled $67,000.
Our financial resources are increasing! What about human resources?
The new programs include new spaces and they also include new people. We have filled two new faculty positions, and added another admissions counsellor, a financial aid officer, and a director of distance education. We are being extremely careful to add personnel in areas that will bring us more students and enhance our work environment.
We have also instituted a plan to increase salaries. An independent study shows that our salaries are about 35% below what they should be. Our goal is to bring our salaries closer to the norm over the next four years. We are taking a small step in salary increases in January and will take larger steps in the coming years. We have also made more professional development money available to faculty and staff. Providence faculty and staff are its greatest asset. They deserve more than they have received over the last several years and we are trying to provide something better for them. We are thankful that they have remained committed to Providence for the long term. The average tenure of faculty is XX years, and of the staff it is XX years.
So we have increased our enrollment and developed our human and financial resources. What about enhancing our Christ-centredness. This is the heart of Providence. If Christ is not our centre, then we are a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If Christ is not our centre, then we make lots of noise but we are no different than our secular counterparts. If the love of Christ does not exist at Providence, then we should close the doors. Christ-centredness is a hard goal to measure, so let me tell you what we are doing more than how we have done.
I’ll start with accreditation. Each of the University College and the Seminary have an accrediting agency that holds us accountable to our mission. They ensure that we do what we say we are going to do both in our curriculum and in our co-curricular activities. We say we are offering Christ-centred education and our independent peer accreditors make sure we do. Second, the Seminary contributes an overall biblically centred curriculum. In addition to our pastoral training, our 120 counselling students take enough Bible and theology courses to be able to integrate Christian theology into their counselling practice. Third, Mile Two students are immersed in Scripture every day as well as taking their theology to the streets of Winnipeg every week. Fourth, this year we have made a concerted effort to hire athletic coaches who are deeply committed to our mission. Twenty-five percent of our undergraduate students are varsity athletes. Their coaches are disciplers as well as coaches. And finally in the University College, under the leadership of Dean Cameron McKenzie we are developing a plan to integrate our spiritual formation courses, field education, chapel, and other co-curricular activities leading to the spiritual formation of our students.
At the end of the day the proof is in the pudding, so we look to our alumni to see how they are serving Christ in the world. We say we are difference makers. Are we? We have stellar alumni from every era of our history, people who have served and are serving Christ around the world in all sorts of capacities from social justice initiatives to church planting and everything in between. I am now going to invite a few Cabinet members to the podium and they have three minutes each to tell you about an alumnus or alumna who stands out in their mind.