BOARD OF GOVERNORS UPDATE WITH KRISTIN TAYLOR, DECEMBER 2016
I hope you’ve had a productive and enjoyable fall semester. I’m amazed by what we accomplish together in support of our students over such a small period of time. You all work so hard and that does not go unnoticed by the board. Time and again, governors express their gratitude for what you do and the kind of experience we offer. So, take a moment – take a breath! – and be proud.
In an effort to connect the board more closely with staff, I’ve started to feature governors In the Spotlight on the employee intranet. I thought it would be nice for you to get to know the individuals helping to govern the college. They each bring unique strengths and are genuine people who care about Georgian’s future.
Our job as board members is not easy. We have to be strategic, thoughtful and fair in our approach – and, as you know, there are many challenges facing the college and postsecondary sector. But our new strategic plan gives me confidence and will provide a touchstone for all of us to focus our energies during a time when the world, our economy, and the needs of students continue to change.
Many members of the board participated in the Higher Education Summit again this year, and Georgian’s double win at the Premier’s Awards was certainly a highlight. The Premier’s Awards are granted to six individuals across the province annually and celebrate the outstanding contributions college graduates make to Ontario and throughout the world. More than 100 nominations were submitted by Ontario’s 24 public colleges in six categories: Business, Community Services, Creative Arts and Design, Health Sciences, Recent Graduate, and Technology.
I extend heartfelt congratulations to both our winners – Aylan and Dianne. They have an impressive list of career achievements and are incredible advocates in the community and their respective fields. For those of you who don’t know, Dianne is a member of our Board of Governors. I encourage you to read more about these two talented individuals on the Georgian website.
And right on this heels of this exciting news, the Women’s Executive Network recognized board member Marilynn Booth with a 2016 Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award. Marilynn was honoured in the PwC Public Sector Leaders category. She joined the board in September and is passionate about lifelong learning.
Launched in 2003, the Top 100 Awards celebrate the accomplishments of Canadian women across a wide range of fields and professions who have contributed significantly as leaders, innovators and role models. Past Top 100 award winners include best-selling author Margaret Atwood and astronaut Dr. Roberta Bondar.
WHO INSPIRES YOU?
It’s hard to imagine it’s that time of year already, but when we return in January you’ll see promotions ramp up for nominations for the 2017 Board of Governors’ Awards of Distinction. I encourage you to take the opportunity over the holidays to reflect on who goes above and beyond at the college. Preparing a nomination package doesn’t take much effort, and whether successful or not, you’re showing your appreciation in a special way.
Nominees in the support staff category were outstanding last year – they’re outstanding every year. Let’s keep recognizing our peers for the great work they do.
Wishing you and your family a happy and healthy holiday season.
BOARD OF GOVERNORS UPDATE WITH KRISTIN TAYLOR, APRIL 2016
In my last two updates, I mentioned the need for change in order to embrace some of the challenges we face. I hope you have taken the time to familiarize yourself with some of these challenges – they impact us all:
- Shifting demographics: particularly an ever-shrinking pool of secondary school applicants – with similar trends in the 20 to 24-year-old category – and double-digit decline in the short and long-term, which means fewer students in the applicant pool to recruit and declining domestic enrolment
- Labour market and economic trends: increasing shortages that will be hard to fill in regions where demographics are unfavourable
- Budget pressures: impacted by enrolment and government
- Changing perceptions of the purpose and value of a postsecondary education: it’s all about the job and employability skills. In the past, the experience of a college versus university education was distinct – now the lines are blurred and messaging for both is focused on the return on investment
President West-Moynes gave a comprehensive overview at her town hall in February of how these, and other issues, are adding up to much tougher competition in the postsecondary sector than usual. It’s become clear we need to re-evaluate what we do and how we do it – which is why you may see changes in process, a shuffling of resources or a re-think in some areas.
With any challenges come opportunities. Some of the areas I think we can continue to leverage include our commitment to entrepreneurship; offering the best of college and university combined through partnerships like Lakehead-Georgian; continued engagement with community and industry to ensure our programs remain responsive; and strengthening those personal connections we all value and love – especially the ones between each other and our students.
I want to extend sincere congratulations to recipients of the 2016 Board of Governors’ Awards of Distinction – particularly to Brad Claringbold for being the recipient in the Award of Excellence – Support Staff category. Year after year, I’ve heard selecting recipients is a difficult task for the Board. But after sitting on the recognition committee and being part of the evaluation process, I can tell you the Board isn’t just towing a line. It’s a very challenging selection process and all the nominees are deserving of formal acknowledgement for the work they do in support of students.
My heartfelt congratulations also to Becca Allan, Liliana DeGasperis and Mikaela Lefaive for also being nominated in the Support Staff category. All of you – and Brad – go above and beyond. As a Board member, I am incredibly proud of your achievements. As a colleague, I want you to know what a wonderful example you set for your peers.
Special thanks also to the nominators who took the time to put forth an individual or team. What a lovely gift you’ve given to others – recognition for their efforts. As the year unfolds, I hope each of you will keep in the back of your mind someone to nominate in 2017.
I personally invite you to celebrate this year’s recipients at a special ceremony during Georgian Week, the morning of Thursday, May 5. Following the ceremony will be a keynote by Olympic gold medalist, adventurer and social entrepreneur Adam Kreek.
Georgian Week is also your opportunity to catch a first glance at how our new strategic plan is unfolding. Come out to the Senior Leadership Team update on Tuesday, May 3 to learn more and to provide your input. The consultation process has been extensive and included focus groups, large plenary sessions, facilitated workshops, individual interviews and surveys – totalling over 1,000 points of engagement.
The Board is visiting all Georgian campuses, rotating for its monthly meetings. It’s a chance for each campus to shine and share its differentiating qualities. We’re also inviting local leaders to join us for a Georgian update. What’s struck me so far is how beloved Georgian is in our campus communities – it’s one thing to know that and quite another to hear from a local politician or community member how integral the college is to the success of the region and economy.
In Orillia, members of council were present and particularly had a lot to say about Georgian’s Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and how our students are creating positive social change through various changemaker projects. This month, we’re visiting Orangeville. It’s the only campus I haven’t been to during my time at Georgian and I’m looking forward to meeting the staff.
You may have noticed we’ve started to share the President’s report from each monthly Board meeting in Staff News. I encourage you to read it to get a sense of what’s happening across the college. There’s lots of great tidbits and success stories in MaryLynn’s report – another way to celebrate all the good work we do.
I hope you find these periodic updates informative. See you during Georgian Week!
BOARD OF GOVERNORS UPDATE WITH KRISTIN TAYLOR, JANUARY 2016
“You can choose to be a leader in whatever work you do, at whatever level, because ‘leadership’ is a mindset. It’s how you work: how you learn to grow and spend your personal capital. That mindset can be applied to whatever endeavour you undertake, wherever you choose to invest yourself, or whatever circumstances your life allows.”
– Kirstine Stewart, media executive at Twitter
I read this paragraph recently in Kirstine’s book Our Turn and thought I’d share it with you. So often, we think of leadership as an upward movement, when it’s really an inward one. Any of us can be a leader, if we want to. The key is, we have to want to. Sometimes it’s easier – or more comfortable – to hide. There’s no risk when you hide. You don’t have to wonder if when you leap, you’ll sprout wings or fall flat. You can observe the landscape without being part of it. And honestly, there’s a time and place for doing just that – for playing it safe or letting someone else steer the ship.
But I don’t believe today is the time for any of us to hold back. We face many challenges not only as a college but also as a system. We need everyone, at all levels, contributing their ideas and expertise. Our enrolment won’t strengthen, the competition will continue to bite, and student retention won’t improve – unless we do things a bit differently.
Whenever you have an opportunity to share your voice, I encourage you to speak loudly. Whenever you see a chance to make improvements, I urge you to put your head together with colleagues and bring forward a plan. Our students’ futures depend on us all contributing. Our economy and campus communities depend on it too.
Lead in your own way, from where you are. You don’t have to be an extrovert or someone front and centre. You can lead quietly from behind. And you need only look to fellow colleagues as an example. We work with some pretty amazing individuals.
For the Star Wars fans out there, Yoda says, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” Well, I completely disagree. Trying is sometimes everything. We need to take thoughtful risks. And we need to build a culture at Georgian where we all feel encouraged to do so. If we’re giving our students opportunities to build innovative skills and mindsets, it makes sense we foster and create an environment where we can do the same.
Change can be intimidating. But it’s become the new norm. If we embrace it and help each other through, I think we will only continue to succeed and evolve as individuals and as a college.
2016 BOARD OF GOVERNORS’ AWARDS OF DISTINCTION
Speaking of leadership, nominations are now open for the 2016 Board Awards. This is your chance to make someone’s day by recognizing their good work in support of Georgian and our students. I was nominated last year – a highlight of my career. I couldn’t believe colleagues took the time and were inspired to put my name forth. I literally cried on the couch when I received notification from the Board office. What a beautiful surprise.
And I was flattered to be nominated alongside long-time employees like Kathryn Peet, who was honoured in the same category. If you haven’t had the opportunity to meet Kathryn, she’s a true gem – exceptionally bright and friendly. She embodies all I love about Georgian and has a wealth of organizational knowledge. I look forward to working with her every chance I get. Next time you see her, I encourage you to stop and chat. (Be sure to say #morethanhello.)
While there are a number of categories you can nominate a team or individual in, I hope you’ll consider your fellow support staff for the Award of Excellence. Note that the deadline is earlier than usual: Friday, Feb. 12.
WHAT HAVE I BEEN UP TO LATELY?
Aside from preparing for and being part of monthly Board meetings, I sit on two committees. The first is the Recognition Committee which is responsible for overseeing the Board Awards. The second is the Policy and By-Law Committee which provides recommendations to the Board on the content and wording of policies and by-laws of the college.
I also recently participated as a member of the Board Awards Review Working Group. The team reviewed the award criteria, nominations form and process, so you may notice a few changes this year when putting together your nomination package. Nominating an individual or team has never been easier!
I’ve developed a greater understanding of good governance. All Board members are given a manual for effective college governance put together by the College Centre of Board Excellence. It’s a valuable resource to have. It’s helped clarify for me what the role of the Board is versus the responsibility of administration.
Our Board doesn’t function autonomously. Various government legislation and regulations prescribe, among other things, regular reporting of plans and performance indicators, and the requirement to operate a balanced budget. Our Board, and all college boards, perform oversight and decision-making in this context. Essentially, the Board ensures Georgian meets our public accountability obligations while directing and holding management accountable.
It simply boils down to this: Our Board governs and management manages. But that doesn’t mean the lines aren’t sometimes a little blurred. It helps, when like at Georgian, there’s a collaborative and transparent relationship between governors and the senior team.
For those of you who don’t know, our Board has four core functions: setting the college’s strategic direction, selecting and evaluating the President and CEO, overseeing college performance, and organizing its own governance.
As a new governor, I’ve had a good orientation to both the Board and the governance process. I’ve been guided by my mentor Gabe Koopmans, who is the administrative representative on the Board. Gabe has been an incredible asset – always there to answer any questions I may have and help me better understand my fiduciary responsibilities.
WHAT ARE YOU UP TO?
I’d love to know. Don’t hesitate to get in touch at any time or introduce yourself if we haven’t met.
Wishing you an enjoyable semester.
BOARD OF GOVERNORS UPDATE WITH KRISTIN TAYLOR, NOVEMBER 2015
I was a little nervous going into my first Board of Governors meeting in September. What I was immediately struck by was the level of warmth I received. While this is an elected position, it was clear from the outset I would be treated no differently than any external member – and the expectations would be the same. I’m not sure why that surprised me, but it did. In a good way.
It also hit me at that first meeting just how important the work is I will be doing. And what an incredible honour it is to have been elected by my peers. Thank you for entrusting me with your confidence. I am grateful for the opportunity to represent your voice and excited to share with you my key learnings at a few touchpoints throughout the year.
PASSION AND COMMITMENT
Georgian’s Board of Governors is made up of an exceptional group of individuals. They’re bright, curious and passionate about our students. They ask challenging questions and bring their own deeply individual perspectives. They trust in our senior leadership and have immense faith in all of us and the work that we do.
And I learned quickly that for most of our board members, this is just one way they give back. Many are active in the community as volunteers or sit on other boards. In fact, Board Chair Tom McBride was honoured this year with the June Callwood Outstanding Achievement Award for Voluntarism – recognized for his longstanding service to our community.
Being on the Board isn’t easy work, but it’s certainly rewarding. There is a lot of reading and critical thinking to do. Aside from monthly meetings, you volunteer for most other commitments. And it’s not a place where you can simply sit back and absorb. You must contribute as much as you can and share your expertise. In return, I’ve learned in this short amount of time that my voice is encouraged and will be listened to with careful thought.
It’s a leadership experience I wish you all could have – and a great chance for me to learn more about Georgian.
PLANNING OUR FUTURE
This year, one of the most important tasks the Board is undertaking is the development of a new strategic plan. Many of you provided initial input at the President’s Open Dialogue in August that the Board was grateful for. I encourage you, at every opportunity throughout the strategic planning process, to continue to provide input. Give feedback, share your ideas and ambitions for the college and our students, and don’t be afraid to offer your solutions to some of the challenges we currently face.
Employee engagement starts and ends with each of us. What I’ve learned over my past five years at Georgian is that we can’t wait for someone to inspire, motivate us or ask us to get involved. Or for things to return to what I often hear, “The good ol days.” We must step up on our own, when we can. And this is the perfect opportunity. You won’t want to miss out on contributing to the new plan. It will affect each of us and greatly inform our work.
BUILDING OUR RESILENCY
I accompanied the Board and members of the Senior Leadership Team to the Higher Education Summit in Toronto last month. I learned about good governance, the role of a board, and how I can be an effective member. I met many interesting people from across the sector and participated in group discussions on various scenarios a board may face.
I also had the opportunity to attend a number of different keynotes sessions led by some amazing speakers. Rick Hansen was one of them. Rick is a Canadian Paralympian, activist and philanthropist for people with disabilities. A lot of you may know him as the “Man in Motion” who made history in the 1980s. Inspired by the dream of creating an accessible and inclusive world and finding a cure for spinal cord injury, for 26 months Rick and his team wheeled over 40,000 km through 34 countries raising awareness about the potential of people with disabilities.
Rick’s talk was very humbling; in fact, many times I was close to tears. It can be so easy to look at a challenge – large or small – and see it as a mountain to climb rather than an obstacle to move. Rick’s advice for those hard moments was this: “Dig deeper. Try harder. Anything is possible.”
I think that’s good advice we can all internalize and impart to our students. They are going to face many tough times over the course of their life and career. I believe we not only need to produce graduates with innovative mindsets and relevant employability skills, but graduates who are resilient.
TELLING OUR GEORGIAN STORIES
I also attended an insightful talk on storytelling by Terry O’Reilly, host of the award-winning CBC radio series, The Age of Persuasion. We all know how powerful stories can be. They command our decision-making – help us to feel an issue rather than just understand it.
It’s important we take the time to tell our Georgian stories – no matter how busy we are. And a good story ends and starts with people. Sure, it may contain facts or stats. But a good story speaks to the heart.
I know each of you is the keeper of a dozen incredible stories right now – stories of students doing transformative work in the classroom and in the community, colleagues who go above and beyond, alumni blazing a trail in their field. And maybe you already tell them. But if you don’t, I encourage you to send them to me. I’d love to help share. They are a great way for us to strengthen the culture of connectedness we all value.
MORE TIDBITS OF LEARNING
Here are some other snippets I took away from various sessions that I want to share with you as food for thought:
- The most important thing we can teach students today is information literacy – how to sift through and use information wisely to make our world a better place – Dr. Levitin, cognitive psychologist and neuroscientist
- Higher education is the guardian of those who make civilization possible – David Frum, former speechwriter for George W. Bush and senior editor at The Atlantic
- The paradox of higher education is that it is a mobility enhancer and status perpetuator – Richard V. Reeves – senior fellow at Brookings Institution
- Google has a better memory of me than I do Sue Gardner, former executive director of the foundation that runs Wikipedia
- Don’t communicate. Engage. – Jim Black, President and CEO at SEM Works
OUR UNBELIEVABLE GRADS
I also quickly want to share with you my experience being part of the Colleges Ontario Premier’s Awards, which capped off the Higher Education Summit.
Each year, Ontario presents awards in six categories to acknowledge the social and economic contributions colleges graduates make to the province and the world. Recipients must have demonstrated outstanding career success related to their college experience and made a significant impact on their community.
I was blown away by our Georgian nominees. They are a talented bunch grateful for their time at the college. If you haven’t already, take a few minutes to learn about their achievements on our website.
I hope you all had a great semester – I can’t believe how quickly it passed. I know it’s been busy and many are looking forward to the much deserved opportunity to rest and recharge over the holidays. Wishing you and your family a joyful 2016.