Wilfrid Laurier University is an institution that has changed dramatically in the last decade as both its undergraduate and graduate enrollment have nearly doubled. It has campuses in Brantford and Waterloo, runs its Social Work program in Kitchener, and its MBA programs in downtown Toronto. Unsurprisingly multi-campus governance was a common discussion topic for senior administrators, faculty, students and student affairs. Multi-campus governance can be challenging when trying to honour the unique the identity of the students, staff and faculty at each individual location while simultaneously leading and governing Laurier as a single university.
Laurier has a strong emphasis on the student experience and we were reminded how its mission focuses on the holistic development and curricular and co-curricular experience in many discussions. Laurier’s new emphasis is on developing the whole person through Integrated and Engaged Learning which brings together what are often described as the “two-sides” of the house—the academic and out of classroom experience—by purposefully integrating curricular and co-curricular aspects of the student experience
Laurier’s commitment to integrated and engaged learning is highlighted by the recent hiring of an AVP, Teaching and Learning who reports to both the Provost and the VP, Students. During the day we heard of numerous projects that seek to integrate both the in- and out-of-class experiences in community-based learning and community service learning projects. These complement the long history of co-operative education programs at Laurier, most notably in the School of Business and Economics. Many faculty we spoke with wanted to find ways to increase both student and faculty engagement in these Integrated & Engaged Learning opportunities. At the same time they noted the significant planning and partnering required in making such opportunities available.
We also heard about the significant role that students play on campus. This is evident in the undergraduate and graduate student Unions, numerous peer and mentoring programs, programming in athletics, career services, residence life and many other areas of student services and campus governance. We learned about how the student unions are becoming more responsive to student needs by transforming the hiring process used for more than 3,000 volunteer positions annually. The unique role of the students as it pertains to oversight and decision making in Student Affairs and Services (SAS) at Laurier was also discussed. The agreement sees that in exchange for students funding 50% of the programs and services directly, that they receive 50% of the voting membership on the committees that oversee these services.
Finally, our conversations highlighted many interested partnership and collaborative exercises within student affairs and services linking learning services, residence life, athletics and career services. For example, a program in the Faculty of Arts brought faculty members, learning services staff, and peer mentors together to address the issues and challenges faced by first-year students in terms of time management, test preparation and other academic skills like writing.