You are the reason RDC exists
This is my final article as President of RDC/University as I am retiring. Our new President, Dr. Peter Nunoda, starts his tenure in September. He has a strong background from his work at post-secondary institutions across Canada, and he is committed to supporting you, our students.
As I reflect on my ten years as President, it is clear that the future for RDC as a University is unlimited, and it is because of all of you.
Because of you, the government of Alberta finally said ‘yes’ to RDC becoming a university. Countless students added their voices to this ask, and you were heard. It is perhaps the most significant decision ever made to ensure our institution and region will grow and prosper.
Because of you, our campuses are welcoming, dynamic and growing. The Donald School of Business and the Welikoklad Event Centre ensure downtown will be vibrant. The Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre is an iconic landmark defining our community to all who pass on the QE2. Our new residence clad in solar panels and our Alternative Energy Lab are examples of RDC/U’s leadership in becoming carbon neutral and energy independent.
These facilities are here for our students. Without you, there would be no need, and without you, they would just be buildings. It is what happens within the walls of RDC that makes me the most proud, as you bring the energy and determination and passion to succeed.
Because of you, 16 new programs have been launched, which ensures more students can remain in central Alberta to complete their education. You have spoken up and said you need even more possibilities, even more opportunities to take programs that will lead to meaningful careers, and we have been listening. Our ten-year academic plan, led by Dr. Paulette Hanna, ensures we will launch even more programs, including new degrees, as we complete our University transition.
Our future as a comprehensive regional teaching university will be strengthened and enhanced by launching new programs including trades and apprenticeship, certificates, diplomas and degrees, and we will continue to measure success by who we let in, not who we keep out.
I have always been reluctant to share my story, but I did recently at Convocation, and I will now, because it demonstrates the power of post-secondary education, and its ability to change lives.
I got kicked out of high school at 16 for reasons I won’t go into (let’s just say I didn’t like school and school didn’t like me.) So, 16 years of age, out of school, with no prospects and no real family, I ran away from home. With all my worldly possessions in a shopping bag, $10 in my pocket, hair down to my butt with an attitude to match, I hitch-hiked west.
I stayed in hostels, hustled pool, made money where I could – and saw people at their worst, including myself. Lots happened in those years, but that really isn’t the point of the story.
Fast forward eight years and, with the help of a few people who had faith in me, just as there are many others who might have helped you along the way, I went to University. I was put on probation and needed to prove I could handle the work for one semester and, if I was successful, I would be allowed to continue. Well, I graduated and the doors of possibility flew open.
It is at college that I learned the transformative power of education to change lives. I was given a second chance, and for that I am grateful. The experience taught me to never give up, keep learning, and it taught me to stand up for what I believed.
It is because of you and it is for you that RDC exists. At this College – soon to be University – second chances are given, lives are changed, and society benefits.
It has been an honour and privilege to serve as the tenth President of RDC/U. Please accept my sincere thanks for allowing me to be part of your College. Being part of RDC’s journey, and watching thousands of you graduate each year has brought me great joy and fulfillment.
Joel Ward is President & CEO of Red Deer College.