June 2021 | President's Newsletter | UNB

President's newsletter

Issue #6: June 2021

Dear Colleagues:

As we prepare to increase in-person experiences on our campuses for the fall, I am especially mindful of the challenges our community has faced over the past 16 months and I am very grateful for the exceptional resilience and determination with which they have been met by faculty and staff, individually and collectively. I hope the summer ahead will provide each and every one of you an opportunity to rest, recharge and restore your energies.

Despite COVID, we have persevered and prevailed. The accomplishments of UNB faculty and staff are numerous and uplifting.

Intensifying Our Research Activity

Earlier this year we received Research Infosource’s 2020 rankings, placing 27th in the country with more than $48 million in research revenue. Among the comprehensive universities, we were in the winners’ circle for our first-place rankings in corporate-sponsored research income growth and in the proportion of research revenue from the not-for-profit sector. We also placed second for overall university research income growth and for corporate-sponsored research income as a proportion of research revenues. The significant improvement this represents bodes well for achieving the research targets in our Strategic Vision, UNB Toward 2030.

Among the many faculty contributing to our research success is nursing and health sciences professor Rose McCloskey, who, with her Saint John co-investigators Dr. Karen Furlong and Dr. Isdore Chola Shamputa and Fredericton nursing professor Lynn Nagle, has received funding of more than $500,000 over five years to establish a simulation lab at Loch Lomond Villa, a long-term care facility in Saint John. The lab will focus on how to prevent the spread of diseases, such as COVID-19, between residents and staff.

Dispelling common misconceptions, two studies conducted by Ted McDonald and his team at the New Brunswick Institute for Research, Data and Training show that nearly 70 per cent of university graduates and more than 90 per cent of community college graduates are still in New Brunswick one year after graduation. About 35 per cent of students from other provinces and international students also remain in New Brunswick after they graduate. The findings, which also detailed graduates’ field of study and earnings, help to reinforce the significantly positive return on investment in post-secondary education for the province.

A recently-announced $1-million grant from the Government of Canada through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) will bolster UNB’s MBA program in professional sales. A field in which Atlantic Canada is under-represented, this funding will be used to benefit the region’s business community through a range of new initiatives, bringing sales expertise to the area and supporting sales research. It will also help produce more professional salespeople, which will stimulate New Brunswick’s economy.

ACOA is also supporting a new program, Fulcrum Initiative, led by the Vice-President Research to facilitate innovation across industry, government and community engagement, as well as a new focus on areas supporting strategic economic growth potential. Fulcrum’s first identified priority is advanced manufacturing which will incorporate expertise at UNB including 3D metal printing, new materials development and testing, offsite and digitally enabled construction, contract and intellectual property law, business and many other areas.

Awards Recognizing Teaching Excellence, Leadership and Our Workplace

Equally important to the university’s mission is teaching. Among the ways we celebrate the contributions of our educators is through the annual Teaching Innovation Awards based on nominations from students and faculty along with evaluation of the pedagogical approach. This year’s winners are professor of computer science Arash Lashkari, Fredericton, and senior instructor of nursing Renee Gordon, Moncton. Dr. Lashkari was recognized for Think-Qcussion, a unique process he designed to encourage class participation. Ms. Gordon created a new virtual-conceptual learning activity that supports the development of clinical reasoning and clinical judgement.

Thanks to the dedication and hard work of our talented faculty and staff, UNB has been honoured three times this year as one of the top employers in the country. For the eighth time in nine years, we were named one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers out of the 16,000 businesses and organizations in this national competition. For the ninth consecutive time, UNB was selected from among a field of 1,000 as one of Atlantic Canada’s Top 100 Employers by Atlantic Business Magazine. And, most recently, we were ranked in the top 30 of 300 Canadian businesses and organizations recognized as the Forbes Best Employers for 2021. These are all strong validation for the pillar in our Strategic Vision that calls on us to be a people-centric, values-informed university community.

Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous Peoples Day

In New Brunswick, we live and work on the unceded and unsurrendered homelands of the Wolastoqey, Mi'kmaq, and Peskotomuhkati Nations. In June we observed Indigenous History Month as part of our commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion that underlies our Strategic Vision. We joined Indigenous communities and all their allies across this country in mourning the devastating discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves at the former residential school in Kamloops, BC, and more recently at Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan. We know there will be further tragedies to be addressed, no doubt some closer to home, and historians on our faculty have volunteered to assist Indigenous communities with research on genealogical records and other relevant documents.

On June 21, National Indigenous Peoples Day, members of the UNB community joined the Wolastoqey Nation at the Legislature in Fredericton to mark the day and celebrate the arrival of the summer solstice.

As meaningful as these occasions are, building understanding is a year-round responsibility. The Indigenous leaders in the Mi’kmaq-Wolastoqey Centre and UNB’s Piluwitahasuwin, Amanda Myran, provide exemplary guidance as we all strive toward peace, friendship, justice, truth and reconciliation. I encourage you to learn more about the Peace and Friendship Treaties from Mi’kmaq Knowledge-Holders and the history of the Wabanaki nations and Indigenous peoples.

The Most Important Day of the Year

On June 5, five virtual graduation ceremonies were streamed on UNB’s YouTube channel to recognize the more than 1,600 students across our two campuses who had completed their degrees. While nothing can take the place of an in-person Encaenia or Spring Convocation, our graduation committees worked hard to make the occasions as special as possible. Graduation champagne toasts were offered, Facebook groups were organized, academic regalia was available and graduates received their diplomas.

Our two valedictorians did themselves proud. Peyton Juhnke, Renaissance College graduate and UNB’s first Indigenous valedictorian, spoke to Fredericton graduates about using their education to address social inequities. Psychology graduate Allyson Lamont spoke to Saint John graduates about the challenges they faced and successfully overcame during the pandemic.

We honoured four professors emeriti for their exceptional academic careers: Liuchen Chang, Electrical and Computer Engineering; Ross Leckie, English; Marc Milner, History; and Jon Douglas Willms, Education. A posthumous honorary degree was awarded to marine biologist Laurie Murison of Grand Manan.

Reaching for the Stars: President’s Standing Committee on World University Rankings

Since April 2020, the President’s Standing Committee on World University Rankings has been developing and implementing a program to build UNB’s international credibility and a stronger reputation by strategic participation in various ranking programs. I am very pleased that the effort is already paying off, as demonstrated in the aforementioned 2020 Research Infosource rankings and, most recently, our results in the QS Stars University Rating System where we received five stars, the highest designation. This Five Star rating is seen as an endorsement of institutional quality and can provide significant strategic benefits to UNB, including increased opportunities for collaborations and partnerships and increased opportunity to recruit students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty. The areas in which we excelled are the employability of our graduates, internationalization, facilities, innovation and inclusiveness.

Organizing Ourselves for Success

Our ambitious and aspirational Strategic Vision warrants an examination of our senior administrative structure to ensure we are optimally organized to achieve our goals. For this reason, I have embarked on a cross-campus consultation to consider the feasibility of creating the position of Provost, replacing the Vice-President Saint John and Vice-President Academic roles. I believe this university-wide position has the potential to contribute to institutional growth, move us closer to becoming One UNB, overcome the challenges of our two-campus context, streamline administrative processes and provide integrated academic leadership.

I understand this would be a significant change from our current model, which is why I have already held a discussion session on each campus and I am planning eight more sessions to be held in the late summer and early fall. A discussion paper will be released soon, supported by a website and the opportunity for feedback by emailing me at engage@unb.ca. Should we decide to proceed, the tentative date for implementation is April 1, 2022.

Progress on Our Strategic Vision

Approved just 15 months ago, with no inkling of the obstacles of a global pandemic we would soon face, we have nevertheless made some significant progress on the goals of our Strategic Vision, UNB Toward 2030. A review of our five pillars shows a substantial increase in the number of research grants and internally restricted research funds; an increase in student satisfaction as measured in the Maclean’s annual ranking; more than 1,600 alumni from 21 countries engaged in our online events; 39 per cent and 53 per cent of appointments drawn from equity seeking groups in Fredericton and Saint John respectively; and an increase in our environmental stewardship score to high silver on the international Sustainability, Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS); among numerous other advancements. A full report will be issued in the months ahead.

Looking to the Future

With the arrival of COVID vaccines and the resumption of in-person classes and on-campus activities in the fall, I am feeling renewed optimism about our future at UNB. We know that life will not be exactly as it was before, but I am confident that, together, we can meld the best aspects of the pre-pandemic and post-COVID times to create an even stronger, more vibrant and thriving University of New Brunswick.

The world needs more UNB.

Paul J. Mazerolle
President & Vice-Chancellor