THUNDER BAY - A faculty strike at Confederation College late last year created many challenges for students, staff, and administration, but despite those challenges, president Jim Madder is still calling the 2017/2018 academic year a success and strong note to end his seven year tenure leading the institution.
Madder provided his Report to the Community to more than 200 people on Wednesday where he highlighted successes of the past year, as well as looking ahead to the future.
Confederation College has more than 6,500 students enrolled and contributes $643.4 million into the Northwestern Ontario economy. According to Madder, the college’s influence on economic development is just one of many impacts it has on the region.
“The second one is our focus on Indigenous learning, to fully engage Indigenous students to have them be as great as they want to be is a huge focus for the college and that is highlighted here as well,” he said.
“No one across all of Canada have really focused on embedding Indigenous learning into all of its programming and we’ve done that very successfully here,” Madder continued. “And doing that in a way that isn’t intimidating to people who are not Indigenous and is community based and engages everyone.”
The Confederation College campus has also undergone some substantial changes during Madder’s time as president, with the construction of the new Tec Hub completed this year.
But this year was not without its challenges. In October last year, faculty at colleges across Ontario went on strike, cancelling all classes. The month long work stoppage resulted in 400 students not returning to complete their degrees.
“It was challenging,” Madder said. “It was challenging for everyone. But we’ve gone through that. We worked really hard with our faculty, students, and staff and got them back going again. We are looking forward graduation on June 8 and through the rest of June as we go to the fall.”
This was Madder’s last report to the community after announcing his retirement earlier this year and he said he would have liked to see the $5.5 million fundraising campaign for equipment and tech to be used inside the Tec Hub. But Madder said going forward, he has a very positive outlook for the college.
“We have new facilities, new programming, we continue to reach out to support students from Northwestern Ontario coming to us with our kindergarten to grade 12 partners and we continue to have students go on to other opportunities,” he said.
Confederation College board chair, George Patterson, said the process of finding a new president is still ongoing, but looking back on Madder’s accomplishments, he hopes the person to take on the role will have the same ability to bring people together like Madder did, and continue moving the college forward.
“I mentioned all the construction and things that have been built on campus in his term, but one statistic is the success rate of our students,” Patterson said. “The number of our students who have entered college and been able to complete has risen significantly in the time Jim Madder was here.”
“I think I’ll miss most his ability to bring people together into a common cause,” Patterson continued. “I think that’s Jim’s greatest strength.”