Brock celebrates successes, prepares for challenges at State of the University

Like most Ontario universities, Brock is facing some significant challenges — but the campus community shouldn’t lose sight of the important role the institution continues to play in Niagara, across Canada and around the world.

That was the message delivered Thursday at Brock’s first State of the University address, given by President and Vice-Chancellor Lesley Rigg and Interim Provost and Vice-President, Academic Tim Kenyon.

The address, which was followed by an open question-and-answer period, touched on a range of topics, including the University’s progress made advancing equity, diversity, inclusion and decolonization; its growing research enterprise; its activity and partnerships in the community; and its ongoing commitment to offering a transformative student experience.

The address also included an overview of the institution’s financial challenges as it prepares for the 2024-25 fiscal year.

“Brock University changes lives,” Rigg told the audience. “It has a transformative impact on the students who study here. Our researchers help improve lives here at home and around the world. It’s important not to lose sight of that. And while there are challenging times ahead, with the collective effort of everyone, we will put Brock in a position for even greater success in the future.”

A selection of key updates from the State of the University are below. Watch the address in full on Sharepoint (login required).

Preparing for unprecedented financial challenges

As communicated previously to the campus community, Brock’s budget situation for 2024-25 is especially challenging. The University is facing a $37-million deficit, which will mean that difficult decisions need to be made in the coming months for Brock to remain financially sustainable.

Over the years, Brock has found ways to remain financially sustainable, including through new revenue generation and through cost savings such as hiring pauses and freezes, and other budget reductions – but the University can’t continue to operate as it always has.

“Even as we hope for new funding policies that better reflect the extraordinary value and contributions of universities to Ontario and Canada, we need new approaches to adapt to new realities,” Kenyon said. “We have for years succeeded in finding efficiencies around our existing operations and structures; we must continue to do this, yet also focus on what we do best and what we can do sustainably, with the resources we have.”

Revenue-generation opportunities may include enhanced recruitment to new programs or existing programs with strong demand, and increased student retention. The community was also invited to contribute its ideas to generate new revenue via the Provost’s consultation web page.

“With the support and collective effort of everyone — as well as substantial, multi-year commitments of government funding and flexibility on tuition — we will persevere through this difficult time and put Brock in a position for even greater success in the future,” said Kenyon.

Refreshing the strategic plan

Brock kicked off the important process of developing a revitalized strategic plan in October and is now in the community consultation phase of this process, which includes focus groups with faculty, librarians, staff, students, alumni, Indigenous community members and Niagara community members.

The University’s strategic plan is critical to helping the institution deliver on its mission of supporting students and faculty in the discovery of knowledge through exemplary scholarship, teaching, service and community outreach.

The refreshed plan will strengthen Brock’s commitment to its fundamental priorities and “having a strong, shared sense of purpose will be key to helping us navigate our financial challenges,” Rigg said during the address.

Advancing equity, diversity, inclusion and decolonization

“I strongly believe that universities play a critical role in advancing equity, diversity, inclusion and decolonization, and should serve as a model for society –at large,” Rigg told the audience at the State of the University, before noting a number of recent achievements in this area. These include recently launched continuing education programming aimed at teaching participants about Indigenous ways of knowing and being, discussions around Indigenous Degree Level Expectations at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, work to re-ignite Indigenous governance on campus and the hosting of campus’ first Pow Wow.

Rigg also talked about the opening of the Black Student Success Centre, the “cluster hiring” of 12 Black academics and the ongoing impact of the Horizon Graduate Student Scholarship, which helps high-achieving students who identify as Black, Indigenous or People of Colour fund their research.

Launching undergraduate Engineering

Brock will welcome the first class of undergraduate students into its innovative Yousef Haj-Ahmad Department of Engineering next fall, now that the program has received approval from the province. The Integrated Engineering program takes key concepts from traditional engineering fields — such as mechanical, software and electrical — and brings them together into a single coherent program where students learn about each field as well as the connections between them.

Continued research success

This year has seen tremendous success for Brock’s growing research enterprise, including a historic high of funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), $2.5 million in funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) for the Staging Better Futures project, and the opening of the Brock-Niagara Validation, Prototyping and Manufacturing Institute.

It also included the renewal of Karen Campbell’s Canada Research Chair in the Cognitive Neuroscience of Aging, and the renewal of Liette Vasseur’s appointment as UNESCO Chair on Community Sustainability: From Local to Global, as well as the election of Lissa Paul, professor of English Language and Literature, as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the country’s top academic body honouring career achievement in the arts, humanities, social sciences and sciences.

Advancing the Academic Plan

Brock’s Academic Plan helps direct the University’s efforts and resources to the actions that align with its academic priorities, and Brock has made great progress in advancing these activities over the past year – including through improvements made to the learning management system, expanding the spectrum of course delivery, a new Open Educational Resources Adoption Grant program and securing significant funding for work-integrated learning opportunities.

Opening the Burlington campus

As part of its plan to better serve students along the Hamilton-Burlington-Oakville corridor, Brock is relocating its Hamilton Campus to the future City of Burlington community hub — the former Robert Bateman High School site at 5151 New St. — once work on the property is completed. The first stage of the move began in June 2023, with faculty and staff moving into the former Lester B. Pearson High School, which will be home to the Teacher Education programs (professional/Bachelor of Education years) for the 2023-24 and 2024-25 academic years.

A commitment to environmental sustainability

Last May, Brock secured nearly $3 million in federal funding to support the District Energy System electrification project, which will significantly reduce carbon emissions by diversifying campus heat sources and reducing its reliance on natural gas.

Then in June, for the second year in a row, Brock was ranked among the top 300 universities in the world for its efforts to make the world a more equitable, sustainable place.

That same month, Brock began its second sustainability assessment for the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System, or STARS, for which it currently has a silver rating.

Questions about the town hall presentation can be sent to

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