U of A President Dr. Indira Samarasekera
Previous: A merger several years in the making
Benefits to the university
The University of Alberta prides itself on Augustana’s role within the larger institution. “Augustana is a jewel,” said President Indira Samarasekera upon her first visit. “The small campus residential setting is a privilege for Albertans. The merger is a two-way street as both institutions can benefit and learn from each other: larger universities can lose their connection to a community. Augustana will allow us to reconnect and prove a testing ground for new methods of pedagogy.”
Augustana represented much more than a community connection and a testing ground, however. The college was already a national leader in international and outdoor education programs, which included interdisciplinary trips to the Rocky Mountains and Arctic Circle, several South and Central American partnerships, as well as destinations in Europe and Asia. The university incorporated several of these initiatives into its own outdoor and international programs.
The Master of Science in Physiotherapy program's Augustana lab.
Since the merger, Augustana has been on the forefront of efforts such as the delivery of Faculty of Nursing programs to post-RN and after-degree students in Camrose, as well as a Master’s program in physiotherapy, which is delivered simultaneously in Edmonton, Camrose, and Calgary via a cutting-edge distributed learning videoconference system. The Faculty of Native Studies has partnered with Augustana on courses taught in Camrose, and a new five-year, combined bachelor of science/bachelor of education program to train high school Science teachers for rural placements will graduate its first student in December.
Benefits to the area
While these benefits are significant to Augustana, the University, and our students, the decade-old merger has meant a great deal to the community as well.
Camrose Mayor Norm Mayer with donor Randy Hauser and Dean Allen Berger.
"For over a hundred years, Augustana has been an important part of this community," says Camrose Mayor Norm Mayer, who served in the same role during the merger. "Faculty, staff, and students have lived and worked in the area for generations, and many graduates have stayed here to help our city grow. The school has always reached out to participate in the community while welcoming people to any event they hold on campus. I was proud to support the original merger, and I am delighted to see how much Augustana has grown in the past ten years - both on campus, and even further into our community."
Augustana Campus is a significant social and economic contributor to the city of Camrose and its surrounding area: most of the faculty and staff live and work here, as do most of the 1000 students, at least during the eight-month school year. Concerts, lectures, and athletic events are open to the community. Community-Service Learning programs are founded on a relationship with local businesses, and mentorship programs involving Augustana student-athletes are so widespread that several local teams now wear Vikings logos on their jerseys. The Battle River School Board sends students on field trips to campus, and Augustana hosts Reading University, a summer reading enrichment program for elementary students.
Augustana Vikings with the Camrose Little Rockers Curling Club.
In terms of facilities, Augustana helped fund the multi-use Recreation Centre a few blocks west of campus, which includes the public-access Augustana Fitness Club and physical therapy labs. The campus library is open to members of the community, and the latest partnership with city, county and province has resulted in the construction of a new state-of-the-art performing arts centre on campus, which will serve the entire region.
Benefits to the province – and the future
The merger’s benefits don’t stop at the county lines or remain exclusively within the university system. The Alberta government invested in the partnership a decade ago to support a strong rural presence for post-secondary education and leadership preparation in the province.
“Bringing the University of Alberta to Camrose via Augustana was an occasion for the government to advance rural development and strengthen Augustana’s long history of excellence in education,” says Camrose Lutheran College alumnus LeRoy Johnson, former Augustana University College teacher and administrator, MLA for Wetaskiwin-Camrose during the merger, and now member of the University of Alberta’s board of governors. “At the same time, the university could follow through on its commitment to provide more varied educational opportunities for all of their students – now including a valuable rural environment.”
While Augustana students come from across Canada and around the world, a large majority come from Alberta’s smaller rural communities. The number of self-identified First Nations and Métis students grows each year, with students supported by the Aboriginal Students Office and new programming spaces to be added during the coming year.
ACSRC Director Dr. Lars Hallstrom
Augustana has entered partnerships with the area’s health services administration, with the local school division, and with Alberta Parks on Miquelon Lake projects. It also participates in several projects through the Alberta Rural Development Network and the Alberta Centre for Sustainable Rural Development, which Augustana co-sponsors with the Faculty of Agricultural, Life, and Environmental Sciences.
Through agreements with a number of community colleges across Alberta, Augustana provides new options for students who wish to continue their studies and earn a bachelor’s degree after completing their diplomas or transfer studies. This has proved particularly important for students from rural communities.
“I don’t think there is anything I have ever been involved with that has helped rural Alberta more than bringing the University of Alberta to Camrose,” says Johnson.
One decade down, many more ahead
“The merger saved historic Augustana for the community, for its employees and, most of all, for present and future generations of students,” said Stan Gooch, the last Chair of the AUC Board, in 2007.
2014 graduate and Eagle Feather recipient Christine Degner.
Current Dean Allen Berger adds: “There is no other residential campus in Canada where a student can earn a bachelor’s degree from one of the top five universities in Canada – one of the top 100 universities in the world – in a community the size of Camrose.“
Berger sees Augustana playing an especially important role in helping to develop the next generation of leaders for rural and Aboriginal communities across the province. The campus also aspires to develop its role in areas such as international education, community service learning, place-based education, undergraduate research, wilderness education, and leadership development.
Check out the additional benefits to Augustana and the University of Alberta and review how both institutions sustain the heritage of the Camrose Lutheran College.
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