Monday, April 29, 2013

Small and Successful

In conversations about the Mount, people often mention our size. That’s quite natural when you consider, in a world of mega-universities, our overall enrolment of 4,000 students and our average class size of 24.

Size alone isn’t what’s important, however, but rather the advantages we can derive from being small. Our typical class size means our professors really do know their students on a first-name basis. It’s our size that allows us to form close personal and professional connections with one another, creating a highly engaged learning community—a key component in the success of our students, staff, and faculty.

Take Dr. Peter Mombourquette, for example, who is one of many Mount faculty members who extend the student experience beyond the classroom.  Peter is the Chair of our Department of Business and Tourism, and he’s a passionate champion for social entrepreneurship. Over the past two years, he has enriched the learning experience of students with extracurricular opportunities by showcasing how to solve complex problems with a balance of empathy and innovation. Starting small with food drives and blanket collections, his initiative quickly evolved into an annual two-day conference, Social Entrepreneurship for a Day (SE4D), where students collaborate with mentors to find creative solutions that address critical social needs.

SE4D developed organically, but it was far from accidental. The Mount’s environment of close-knit relationships, rich learning experiences, strong mentorship, and commitment to service saw one person’s passion become a signature feature of our student experience.  And the 150 participants in this year’s SE4D are proof that our students eagerly seek out these opportunities to contribute to the broader community.

My colleague Dr. Robert Campbell, President of Mount Allison University and current Chair of the Association of Atlantic Universities, recently noted the importance of universities to our region. He wrote in The Globe and Mail that universities in Atlantic Canada are key economic drivers, stimulating growth and creating thousands of jobs.  The primary role of universities, of course, is to stay true to our core mission—the education of our students. But education goes hand in hand with social and economic prosperity; the two are not mutually exclusive. We need to ensure that our students graduate with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed fully as human beings, and in turn their individual contributions after graduation will showcase the value of our time together. Our small size is a great asset in this undertaking.

At the Mount, our commitment to students is interwoven with the value we place on strong communities. We make sure that each of our students feels valued and engaged, and that each has the opportunity to experience a sense of belonging. In return, our students graduate ready to shape the world around them. Far from just a reflection of our size, I consider this outcome to be the hallmark of a Mount education.

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