Innovation at Laurentian: 3 Qs with Pierre Zundel


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In September, the 10K crew went on location to the 2017 Ontario Universities’ Fair, to interview a dozen higher ed leaders about trends in innovation.

Pierre Zundel has served as a university leader for almost a decade, first as President of the University of Sudbury (2009-2016), then as Provost and VP Academic at Laurentian University (2016-17), and since August 2017 as Laurentian’s Interim President. In this special bonus episode, edited to 8 minutes, Ken asks Pierre 3 key questions about higher ed innovation.

Innovations at Laurentian?

First and foremost, Laurentian has been a leader in introducing Indigenous content across the curriculum, has more than 25 indigenous faculty members, and a spectacular new Indigenous Sharing & Learning Centre. Laurentian has recently completed an ambitious renovation of more than 60 classrooms and labs, and created a new Welcome Centre to integrate student services. Laurentian excels at developing college pathways and partnerships, particularly with Cambrian College and Collège Boréal in Sudbury.

The Decade Ahead?

Over the next decade, Pierre predicts that all Canadian universities will be working to figure out the part they can play in reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. Moreover, universities will become more “porous,” with more community and industry connections, more work-integrated learning and co-op education – particularly in programs like the Arts, where co-op has been uncommon in the past. Pierre anticipates growth in student mental health programs, open textbooks, blended delivery, just-in-time tutoring, and predictive analytics based on “big data” to launch early interventions and student supports.

Culture of Innovation?

Pierre identifies 3 things campus leaders can do to foster a culture of innovation. 1) Firstly, leaders can showcase good innovative ideas or good attempts, whether successful or not. 2) Secondly, they can run interference, helping to create space for innovation by preventing resistance from shutting it down early. 3) And thirdly, leaders have to make it possible to fail, so that we learn from failed attempts instead of focusing on laying blame.

Pierre emphasizes that universities may be “as conservative as cats” but they are also hugely creative places!

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