Justin Eisinga | Reporter
The past several months have not been easy at Redeemer University College. Amidst a changing educational landscape, the Christian university is attempting to meet the needs of current and prospective students, all while suffering the impact of saying goodbye to its largest graduating class and saying hello to low enrolment numbers. Unfortunately, this has meant adjustments to the institution’s operating budget.
Most significantly, this has resulted in the release of three professors: Dr. Mark Bowald (professor of Religion and Theology) Dr. Derek Schuurman (professor of Computer Science), and Dr. Paul Thorlakson (professor of Music). Furthermore, the department of Computer Science will be eliminated as an option for students to study at Redeemer.
These difficult decisions were not made lightly, but were necessary adjustments that had to be made in light of President Hubert Krygsman’s ambitious vision for Redeemer as an institution. “On the one hand, we needed within our current operations to find a way to balance our budget,” says Dr. Krygsman about the changes. “At the same time, we also know that we need to meet the needs and demands of students in a changing world.”
A new strategic plan, titled Redeemer 2020, was published last year, providing the impetus for the recent changes. The plan lays out this vision and provides a strong background on why changes need to be made.
Redeemer 2020 is split into three parts. The first part of Redeemer’s strategic plan is centred on increasing the university’s visibility and profile. The first task made towards this effort was the recent appointment of Dr. David Zietsma as Vice President of the newly reformed Marketing and Enrolment department.
Two other initiatives are being unrolled in 2015 to help improve Redeemer’s profile. These include the introduction of a new computer network platform that will see students and staff adjusting to new online portals. The Centre for Christian Scholarship, directed by International Studies professor Dr. Rob Joustra, is the other initiative. A major conference is expected from the centre in the fall of 2015.
The second part of the Redeemer 2020 is focused on new program initiatives that are being developed over the next several years. Besides making revisions to the core course program at Redeemer — which is significant in its own right — Dr. Krygsman is also excited about two other major initiatives.
The first is the establishment of a new academic department, offering a program in Media and Communication. There will be two streams that students can choose to follow in this program: Professional Writing or Media & Culture. “In broad trends, that is one area that is in high demand. Our recruiters get the most questions and inquiries about such a program,” says Dr. Krygsman, who has served in the role of president since 2010.
However, this isn’t the only reason, Redeemer’s president says: “We believe that the area of media and communication is very culturally significant. We need to be there, and we need our students to be critically engaged with that as Christians.”
Besides this exciting new program, Redeemer’s administration will also be introducing a Centre for Experiential Learning. Under this initiative, all opportunities for experiential learning will be offered through a common hub. This will include co-op, internships, service learning, and any other opportunity for education in the workplace and/or community. President Krygsman is hopeful that this will make Redeemer a more attractive option for prospective students, meeting the need for skill-building and practical experience that young people are seeking in their education.
Lastly, under Dr. Krygsman’s leadership, Redeemer is moving towards financial sustainably, as outlined in the third part of the strategic plan. This involves strong dedication to making debt payments a priority so that budgets can be balanced. Ultimately, financial sustainability is most important for the future of Redeemer. As many students will come to know, carrying a large debt load can at times be burdensome and paralyzing.
At the end of the day, the administration of Redeemer University College is playing a difficult game, trying to make strategic moves while also remaining concerned for its own sustainability. Dr. Krygsman remains hopeful, however.
“What we’re getting better at is sharpening our representation and effectiveness, equipping students with a comprehensive worldview and the training to live it all out,” says Redeemer’s president. “We’re not building new buildings, we’re not buying new properties. We’re focused on the educational experience and ensuring that Redeemer can sustain and grow that educational mission. We’re sharpening our focus on the students.”