This week, I was filled with pride to be an alumni of Cape Breton University. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been a proud alum since I graduated in 1994 (BBA) and 1995 (BSc), but the current direction of the university and its leadership strengthens my faith in the important role the institution has to play in future of our island.

Yes, our island. Despite living on the Prairies for the past 17 years like most Cape Bretoners “living away,” the island will always be home and I watch developments here closely.

The Centre for Discovery and Innovation proposed last week represents so much more than a wonderful physical structure that’s require to house the programs, research and services of Nova Scotia’s fastest growing institution. It represents the embodiment of CBU’s new strategic plan and hope for the future of the island.

I saw three things in the YouTube broadcast from President Dingwall that really caught my attention and illustrated that institution is trying to live the strategic plan it released a couple of years ago.

The first is embracing Cape Breton Island and its people as the foundational strength of the university. For too many years we have been apologetic about that and it is clear over the past couple of years that we are seeing the island itself as a key asset in the university.

The second was a firm commitment to CBU’s role in Reconciliation. The Marshall Institute builds on the solid foundation of relationships CBU has with Indigenous communities. Bridging the prosperity gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples needs to be a top public policy priority in the country.

Finally, the plan calls for appropriate spaces for growth and quality programs that can attract students from around the globe to be part of Cape Breton’s future. CBU’s vision here is clearly not just about bums in seats, but about building a future population in Cape Breton. It can be the beacon for attracting people to our beautiful island much like the steel industry at the turn of the 20th century.

As someone who has been at helm of 3 post-secondary institutions over the past 16 years I’m not usually in the habit of endorsing other institution’s strategies and associated capital projects. However, in this case I felt compelled as it filled me with hope.

I hope Cape Bretoners, other alumni, the province of Nova Scotia and Government of Canada can rally support and resources to this effort.

For the first time in my lifetime – almost 50 years – Cape Breton had net population growth. Provincial officials directly attribute this directly to Cape Breton University. We need to get behind their effort and keep pushing.

Mark Frison

president Assiniboine Community College