New Year – New Energy: Embracing Our Service Mission

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Happy New Year to one and all! I hope that everyone made it into 2024 well with perhaps a bit of well-deserved rest for a few days at least. 2023 brought many challenges but we persisted nonetheless. As we turn our attention to what lies ahead, this is a great time to reflect on our priorities and opportunities at McGill University’ School of Continuing Studies (SCS). I am excited by what I see and what our potential is.

Institutions of higher education, in particular continuing education faculties, continue to deliver critical service to human society – from the local to provincial to global levels. Not only do we educate thousands of adult, life-long learners every year, but universities serve as important anchors of civic life as a place of exchange of ideas, gathering information and data on matters of vital importance to local communities. Every one of us takes this mission very seriously and has dedicated themselves to teaching and providing service in the public interest.

For many newcomers to Montreal and other parts of Quebec and Canada, SCS is the second ‘port of entry’ right after they arrive in the country – whether to strengthen their French or English language skills or to add credentials and skills to contribute effectively to our local workforce. Local businesses, community and other educational organizations consider SCS as a vital partner in their own success. Through our Indigenous Relations Initiative and the SEED Fellows program, McGill SCS supports underrepresented and underserved, as well as economically insecure neighbors near and far across Quebec. Between eight and ten thousand learners, nearly 80% members of local Quebec communities, pass through SCS every year – transformed and empowered.

Our vision for the future is “to be a global university partner of choice for individuals, communities, and employers alike. We will offer the highest quality of experiential learning, inspire confidence and trust, enrich lives, and be recognized for our thought leadership at undergraduate, graduate, and professional levels”. We spent the past two years re-designing and building up a more integrated organizational structure –SCS 3.0– and have launched an inclusive strategic planning effort to fully realize this vision in the near future. Our time-honoured mission and vision remain the same but how we achieve them must be dynamic and adapt to socio-economic, cultural, political, and technological contexts of today and tomorrow.

We are making concrete investments in the future of our learners, their families, neighbors, and employers. These range from the latest cutting-edge education and skills-building in critical areas of artificial intelligence, multi-lingual digital communication to sustainable practices in supply networks, financial technology, and more.

In 2024 we are welcoming our second cohort of SCS Experiential Empowerment and Development (SEED) Fellows to begin their journey toward income stability. We will hopefully break ground for a new integrated service hub and community gathering space (working title “The Welcome Centre”) to make McGill University even more accessible to community members and adult learners. These are ambitious undertakings, and we are rolling up our collective sleeves to make them happen. But they also need financial support. To keep providing transformational learning experiences, we must raise additional funds. As a public institution, we have kept our tuition fees as low as possible to reduce barriers to entry and to success, but under current conditions this is not feasible without a significant infusion of new funding.

So, in 2024, we will be working not only on finalizing a new strategic plan to guide our operations, but also embarking on an ambitious fundraising campaign. With your help, and that of friends and supporters across the city, the province and the globe, McGill School of Continuing Studies will be able to continue and enhance the learning experiences for thousands of learners of all ages. I look forward to working with you this year to make our collective hopes and dreams a reality. Happy New Year!

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