By Sharon Aschaiek
Special to The Sun
Collaborating with the community is a defining hallmark of the Ontario college system, and Seneca College's countless partnerships with businesses, organizations and key individuals make it a leader in this area.
This year's winners of the Cement Association's annual scholarship contest.
Last month, community leaders and Seneca staff convened at the school's Seneca@ York campus to acknowledge and celebrate the many mutually beneficial relationships that the school has forged over the years.
"Our goal is to make the college more and more responsive to the needs of the community, and we can only do that with partnerships," says Dave Cooke, chair of the college's board of governors. "That allows us to offer students a practical education that equips them with the skills to get jobs and have fulfilling lives, and that meets the needs of the business community across the province."
One fruitful collaboration Cooke, former Minister of Education from 1993 to 1995, cites was between the school's Centre for Financial Services and businesses and organizations in the banking, insurance and financial services industries. Several months of consultation culminated in the new bachelor of financial services degree, which was launched in September 2002. Among those advising on the development of the program were the Bank of Montreal and CIBC, which also donated half a million dollars each toward student bursaries, a customer contact centre lab and a state-of-the-art banking sector seminar room.
"The banks helped us identify the skills that needed to be taught in the program, and the financial assistance was critical to ensuring we have the proper facility and equipment so that our students can be the best they can be," Cooke says.
This is just one example of the hundreds of partnerships that Canada's largest college has built over the years with various community businesses and organizations. Included among them was a collaboration between students at Seneca's School of Communication Arts, filmmaker Chris Landreth, Copperheart Entertainment and the National Film Board of Canada to make the Oscar-winning animated short film, Ryan.
| DAVID COOKE
Chair of Seneca's board of governors
Another fruitful partnership involved the York Region Education Health Alliance, which advised Seneca on developing up-to-date academic programs for students training to become future health-care providers.
Ultimately, these partnerships benefit not only students and the business community, but the entire Ontario economy. The value of these partnerships was reinforced in the recent Rae Review on Postsecondary Education, which recognized that strong ties between colleges, business, industry and community are critical to Ontario's prosperity.
One such partnership geared toward strengthening both the province's economic and ecological health has been between the college's Centre for the Built Environment and the Cement Association of Canada. At the Centre, students in the bachelor of applied technology -- integrated environmental site remediation, environmental technician and environmental technology programs are involved in the planning, design and construction of sustainable roads, tunnels, bridges and buildings.
The Cement Association has contributed to this progressive momentum in many ways, including by organizing for guest lecturers to address students on the value of cement in sustainable development, and flying instructors to the association's North American head office in Chicago for workshops on the latest construction trends in cement and concrete.
The association also co-sponsors an annual Building a Sustainable Future contest, wherein first-year students in the above-cited programs write an essay about sustainable development. The top 10 winners receive $500 scholarships.
"Seneca is teaching its students how to build buildings in a more modern way, and we're trying to show them how the properties of cement make it ideal when constructing environmentally-friendly buildings," says Wayne Dawson, vice-president of the association's Ontario region. "Seneca's objectives are strategically aligned with our own, so this has been a very productive partnership."
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