Stepping into summer

Here I am, a month later, still finding myself occasionally lost in a strange hallway or stairwell. But I’ve been having a grand time—thanks to everyone for the warm welcome.

I can’t remember ever having so many meetings, but then there’s a lot for me to catch up on. I’ve met with members of SUNSCAD, FUNSCAD, the board executive and senior staff—not to mention donors, government reps and reporters. So you might say I’m rapidly expanding my understanding of NSCAD. It’s been heartening to hear about NSCAD as I’ve been out and about, introducing myself and talking up the university; there’s a lot of interest and goodwill out there for NSCAD and our students past and present.

One of the big things on my plate is the Framework for Sustainability. There’s still been no substantial response from the government, other than ‘go ahead and do what you can do on your own and we’ll examine your proposals in more detail.’ We take that to mean ‘Proceed with Plan A of your Framework for Sustainability.’

NSCAD’s 2012-2013 operating budget, which we presented to the Board of Governors this week, does exactly that. Under Plan A, we’ve been able to trim the operating deficit by almost half—a substantial improvement from the 2011-12 budget which put NSCAD in the red by $2.6 million. We’ve done this by some belt-tightening: by offering fewer multi-section classes and under-enrolled required classes less frequently, imposing a university-wide spending freeze, and not replacing all positions when they become vacant (some, of course, such as the registrar and head librarian will need to be replaced). Other aspects of the budget include a three per cent tuition hike, approved by the provincial government under the MOU with all Nova Scotia universities, and the introduction of three student fees (a facility fee of $45/semester, a technology renewal fee of $50/semester, and a one-time graduation fee of $50.)

One other aspect of the Framework for Sustainability is also going ahead and that is to seek out collaborations with other Nova Scotia universities. We’ve made an application through the Department of Labour and Advanced Education for funding to engage arm’s length consultants to conduct a comprehensive cost benefit study to align closer with Dalhousie or Saint Mary’s. Such a study would compare the academic and research synergies of a closer association, benefits to students, potential facilities improvements and cost efficiencies. I’ll let you know more when there’s news on that front.

Some good news to share: student enrolment in the fall appears to be on par with fall 2011, even a little ahead. As of this point, the number of acceptances (student who have applied and offered acceptance) exceeds the number recorded at the same time last year. However, the number of registrants is down slightly. I’ve asked Kenn Honeychurch, VP Academic, to reach out to those students who have accepted but not yet registered. It certainly speaks to the excellence of NSCAD’s reputation and programs that enrolment has not been adversely affected by all the publicity over the past year. Terry Bailey, the Director of Admissions and Enrolment Services, says he’s been seeing some very strong portfolios and reading compelling admissions essays. I look forward to meeting some of these students myself in the fall.

Some more good news: the NSCAD Alumni Association has some very ambitious plans to celebrate NSCAD’s 125th anniversary in the fall. I invite you to circle the weekend of September 21-23 on your calendar right now. There’s going to be historical exhibitions, a big concert called the “Back to School Special” and a group performance that Linda Hutchison in University Relations has dubbed “ANNAmotion-LOGOmotion” and involves creating Anna Leonowens’ likeness on the side of Citadel Hill. Not sure how that’s going to work, but I sure am interested to see it happen. Members of the alumni association had their Annual General Meeting on Wednesday, June 27 and I took the opportunity to meet with them.  Afterwards, I popped in next door where a reception was being held to congratulate Eleanor King, acting director of the Anna Leonowens Gallery, as a finalist for the Sobey Art Award. I am continually humbled by the accomplishments of NSCAD faculty, staff and students; what an amazing place this is.

So that’s it for now. Enjoy the summer weather whenever it gets here!

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