COU launches blog to spark conversation about universities as gateway to success.

Students laugh with faculty member on UOIT campus.

COU launches blog to spark conversation about universities as gateways to success. Photo Credit: UOIT

Welcome to the new Council of Ontario Universities’ blog. I hope the holidays were rejuvenating for you, and that you’re ready to jump back into fulfilling careers or studies as universities reopen for their winter terms.

We’ve started this blog to open a dialogue about the many ways in which our universities enhance the opportunities available to us throughout our lives and are in this way a gateway to success.

University created a pathway of choice in my life that started with whether or not to attend.  As what’s now called a First Gen student, I grew up in a town where postsecondary education (PSE) was not front-of–mind, and graduated with a high school class where no more than a handful of students went on to PSE. It wasn’t an expectation or an obvious decision for me.

In the end, I did make the choice to go to university and my pathway since has been full of options that I otherwise would not have had.  It was of course a pathway about choices of courses and programs of study, about what extracurriculars I would get involved in, about who my friends were and who I was.  It involved some more difficult choices that I didn’t always get right, like how much I could balance work with social and academic activities – part of the overall experience of a student. I learned from my failures and from every experience.  Importantly, I made choices about what I did not want to do.

Choice is such an important aspect of postsecondary education. The array of choices available to students once they embark on a course of learning has never been more plentiful. Today, more than ever, universities are supporting different learning styles, embracing technology-enabled learning in the classroom, presenting work-integrated learning opportunities and teaching entrepreneurial skills across all disciplines. Universities have also put in place support systems and removed barriers for students with disabilities. As well, universities and colleges are working together to change the culture of credit transfer, with many more transfer opportunities for students between institutions adding more choice in pathways.

When I went to university, it’s not an exaggeration to say, my entire life trajectory changed. An international experience after first year opened my eyes to a world beyond local at a time when globalization wasn’t discussed to any great extent. Now, the array of short and longer-term international opportunities for students is great and growing.

At university, I learned from the many professors who helped me find my passion for learning – my niche interests.  And importantly, I gained a skill set that, when applied, has allowed me to approach decisions that I make each day, personal and professional, with confidence, resilence and a rigour and capacity that I would not have otherwise had.

As the President and CEO of COU, I feel a profound sense of pride to be working on behalf of the very institutions that helped mold me and millions of others. They helped us become the people we are today.

Our team at COU works closely with government to help ensure that universities in Ontario are able to provide the best learning experience possible for more than 445,000 students each year. This education reaches far beyond class curriculum.

This new blog platform at COU will share the stories behind our work and the work of Ontario’s extraordinary universities, bringing you analysis and commentary on the key issues in our sector. We are excited to hear the thoughts of our guest bloggers who are at the helm of decision making, those who are shaping policy and changing lives through their research, and also citizens who are having a profound impact on their local communities.

We want to hear your perspectives, and encourage you to comment on our blog. Please note this blog is not a place for hate speech, and to ensure a respectful dialogue, all comments will be reviewed by our moderator before posting.

We’re excited to share this conversation with you, and we hope you’ll take the opportunity to join us with your thoughts and insights.

Bonnie M. Patterson