David Dingwall, Cape Breton University President and Vice-Chancellor, heard from Inverness County residents on June 18.

ARICHAT: Cape Breton University held a community conversation with President David C. Dingwall to discuss the university’s five-year strategic plan at the council chambers here last Wednesday.

The strategic planning event, which is part of the university’s strategic planning process, sees representatives from the university going into different communities across Cape Breton to engage with organizations, the private sector, non-profit groups, and government officials.

“We’re trying to ascertain some of their needs, find out if the university can be of any assistance through partnerships, academic programming, and facilitation of student needs,” Dingwall said.

Like Dingwall, who has only been CBU’s president for less than 100-days, a strategic plan is something new to the university.

“The university has not done a strategic plan for almost 18-years, so we thought it was only appropriate we not stay in our ivory tower and get out amongst the people and hear what their thoughts are,” he said. “Whether there’s partnerships we could do, is there some professional development that we might conduct, are there certain sectors of the economy we could be helpful in terms of evidence-based research.”

One issue Dingwall was surprised with but heard loud and clear from Richmond County was the underlining need for a tourism strategy.

“Richmond County has a whole host of things that they could offer an engaging tourist. So, the lack of a strategy, and perhaps the university could contribute to that in some way, in order to facilitate that.”

The university talked about the process of doing a memorandum of understanding, identifying four or five areas where they can work together with the community in order to address needs and take advantage of opportunities.

“Let’s not lose sight of the fact that in Richmond County they have a wonderful strategic asset which is a bilingual population. There are a number of things you can do with that kind of an asset,” Dingwall said. “We want to look at a number of things, tourism, economic development, health care initiatives from an evidence-based research perspective, and the university could do all of that.”

The community-based events aren’t only used to build better community relationships but also to address their needs and gives CBU a chance to listen, to learn, to have dialogue, to have conferences, and to see if they can find pathways to find solutions.

“We’re not going to these communities with answers, we’re going to these communities to see if we can understand the problem and the need and then to work with them in trying to facet a solution or a bucket of solutions that they may wish to take forward.”

As to the direction CBU is looking to take for the next five-years, Dingwall said he can’t give a fulsome answer to that yet as they’re still in the midst of the strategic planning process.

“We’re starting to hear some common themes around the issue of volunteerism, service learning, tourism, professional development – whether it be for private sector, government sector, or non-profit, we’re starting to hear that in a variety of different communities.”