St. F.X. President Kent MacDonald described 2017 as “another terrific year” for the university, including “tremendous recognition regarding our academic area.”
The effort includes the planning and launch of programs.
“Our faculty has been working on a number of new ideas and to be able to see this programming come forward, to be able to attract more students to Antigonish, I think, is tremendous,” he added.
MacDonald noted a “strong focus” on climate, environment, health, public policy and governance.
As for the students enrolled in St. F.X.’s programs, he said “the calibre of our students continues to be wonderful.”
“We are still attracting students from across the country – every province, every territory is represented,” MacDonald said.
“The number of international students continues to go in the right direction, for us, in terms of variety of countries, and that’s going to continue to be a priority for us going forward.”
He added there is “much to celebrate” at St. F.X., including athletic achievements and infrastructure initiatives.
“For a town the size of Antigonish, in northeastern Nova Scotia, to have a $100-million project announced, at no new debt, for a relatively small university, is a tremendous success,” he said of the under-construction Mulroney Hall and broader Xaverian Commons.
“It is not just going to be good to provide St. F.X. with new academic learning space, but also the trickle-down effect of that is it is employing hundreds of people in our area.”
MacDonald said construction is on target for Mulroney Hall.
“I was there six o’clock this morning [Dec. 15] speaking to one of the project managers and, in fact, we are right on schedule – maybe, even slightly ahead – with the good weather,” he said.
Its completion date is June 2019.
MacDonald was asked about criticism of the source for some multi-million dollar contributions.
“I can’t speak to the motivations behind some of those stories, but what I can tell you is we are extremely thankful to dozens and dozens of individuals who have come forward,” he said.
MacDonald noted St. F.X. has a donor policy.
“I stand behind every single one of those [donations] and I thank them for contributing to St. F.X.,” he said.
As for disapproval levelled at its honorary degree process, MacDonald said the sub-committee of the university’s senate takes it job “extremely seriously.”
“I know they are extremely prudent in the way that they review any candidate coming forward,” he added.
MacDonald touched on campus renewal efforts related to health and wellness.
“The first phase of that was the investment that we put into our gymnasium [Oland Centre],” he said.
Its new floor – now called Coach K Court – honours X-Men basketball head coach Steve Konchalski.
“He has given his life to St. F.X. and hundreds and hundreds of young men and women that he has been able to help develop – either on the court, through basketball, or in the classroom,” MacDonald said.
Campus renewal, including related to academic space, will continue in 2018.
MacDonald noted, on April 6 in Halifax, the university will make a “major announcement” – related to athletics and recreation – as part of its ongoing commitment “to health and wellness on the campus.”
“We are planning that, right now,” he said.
MacDonald noted St. F.X. will “continue to address our financial challenges.”
“We have been having very good discussions with our government partners,” he said.
St. F.X. will also continue to focus on enrolment.
“I don’t mean just any numbers of students – I mean continuing to be very aware of the types of students that we want to attract,” MacDonald said.
As for the aforementioned renewal of academic programming, he noted it helps “attract different types of students that might not come otherwise.”
“We will continue to make it a clear priority for fundraising,” MacDonald said.
He also talked about how he will measure his success as president.
“Ultimately, if we are able to ensure access to students to our institution – regardless of their financial background,” he said.
“We think that we can do that through our Xaverian Fund – increasing our scholarships and bursary endowment.
“And, I know, there will be some good news there – going forward,” MacDonald added.