Northlands College looks to boost enrolment with Year of Transformation

Daily Herald File Photo Karsten Henriksen, President and CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of Northlands College.

Northlands College to hold consultations in northern communities as part of their Year of Transformation

Northlands College has a new president and CEO, and one of the first things he’ll look to do is reverse declining enrolment numbers.

Kirsten Henriksen took over his new role in September 2022. He said enrolment numbers have dropped over the past 10 years by 57 per cent. In 2013, they had more than 1,800 FLE (full load equivalent) students. Now, they’ve dropped to 800.

“We look at our numbers, we look across northern Saskatchewan, so what that tells me is, Northlands College needs to do a better job at meeting the needs of communities and industries across northern Saskatchewan. Hence, the Year of Transformation,” Henriksen, said in an interview with the Northern Advocate.

In his first months, Henriksen has made a number of changes at the college, beginning by telling the story of “Learners at the college” through social media.

“We’ve implemented a new organizational structure for the college. We’ve created a new position of Trade and Technology based in Buffalo Narrows. We’ve added positions in other communities, for example we just recently added a Learner Adviser position in Creighton,” he said, adding the intent of both himself and the leadership team is to “grow our College, grow the enrolment and that means not only we implement an organizational structure, we added some new positions.”

Another initiative implemented is the creation of a Sector Advisory Council, which is comprised of representatives of industry in communities in a particular sector of the economy.

Henriksen used the example of Health and Wellness.

“Our Health and Wellness portfolio is in the process of launching its advisory for Health and Wellness. So, you’ll see folks that represent the healthcare sector who would inform what the college offers in terms of Health and Wellness program delivery.”

The college leadership needs to take a different approach, one that moves away from, what he called an “ivory tower” tactic and move towards a grassroots approach. With that in mind, Henriksen said, the College is about to launch a five-year strategic planning process. Part of that will be holding community consultations across northern Saskatchewan.

“I would encourage folks to keep their eyes open for information,” he added, noting that, although he doesn’t have the exact dates of the consultations, they will be within the next 45 days.

The community engagement will take about two to three weeks, “just depending on what we’re hearing from folks … from there we will move forward to writing of a five-year strategic plan, which, when completed, “will be published so communities and industry know where we’re going.”

Another area for exploration in terms of the college, Henriksen noted was the creative arts industry. “You travel across northern Saskatchewan and you’ll see phenomenal work done by creative artists. You’ll see paintings and carvings.”

“We have this tremendous pool of talent in our creative arts centre across northern Saskatchewan. So, what communities we going to do, as an institution, to support the development of that industry, that sector of our economy, to help give people the tools to grow their own businesses, in the creative arts industry, to put their wares to the market> How do we build distance skills for creative arts?… How do we go about doing that?” 

Plans are in the works to launch another new program so, Capable North. Based on “what’s happening in places like New Zealand, in Australia, it’s really about meeting people where they are on their journey. Their learning journey, their career journey, their personal journey and helping them create a path like to whatever their future is, whether that may be personal growth and personal development, or it may be professional.”

Models of program delivery are also being explored.

“We are working to introduce new models of program delivery so traditionally we’ve had distance education, you know, being delivered in a very traditional computer or we’ve had face-to-face delivery, or we’ve had a hybrid, which is a combination of both. We’re getting ready to introduce some new modalities to how we deliver education in the north and that’s again coming as part of that work in Capable North. Very exciting work is happening.”

 Another area, Henriksen outlined was “empowering our leaders,” which involved creating new positions, Vice President of Learning, Northern Director of Health and Wellness and Director of University Studies, Director of Flexible Learning, the heads of which are working internally on implementing new education models, such as a new adult-based education model and engaging in professional development.

With 98 per cent Indigenous learners in the college, Indigenization is a large part of the planning for the five-year strategic planning process. “We are incorporating threads of Indigenization all across all our programs,” Henriksen said.

Indigenization will incorporate cultures and languages reflected in the curriculum offered.

“It means that when you talk about language and culture and Indigenous people in northern Saskatchewan, we recognize the story and we celebrate the stories of Indigenous people in our programs and our services … I’ve been an advocate that we have to incorporate the two worlds, the Indigenous world and the non-Indigenous world in our curriculum, and couch a western philosophy, western ways of knowing.”

Northlands College launched the first President’s Awards in Service, Teaching and Innovation,  with celebrations held at the college on Thursday, March 9.

“The President’s Award recognises and celebrates high quality and innovative service, learning and teaching demonstrated through a sustained commitment,” quoted from a Northlands College news release put out March 10.

Marilyn Iwasyk, received the 2023 President’s Excellence Award for Teaching, which recognizes sustained excellence in teaching as characterized by high academic quality, social responsibility, innovation in teaching, outstanding learner experience and engagement along with community engagement. Colleen Charles is the recipient of the 2023 President’s Excellence Award for Innovation, which recognizes employees who have “gone above and beyond to adapt to an ever-changing environment, who provided outstanding contributions to the college, it’s programs and initiatives that enhance learner achievement.”

Recipients of the awards also receive a professional development monitory award of $3,000 to be “used to further develop professional practice and strengthen institutional capacity and learning experience in northern Saskatchewan,” quoted from the news release.