The Future of Trent in Oshawa

trent oshawaThe Trent University Board of Governors has passed, in principle, the Trent Oshawa Strategic and Business Plan for 2013-17.

This does not fully put the Trent Oshawa plan in to motion, but expresses that the Board is comfortable supporting it in its current direction, and will more than likely pass it once a few facts and figures are finalized.

For example, the University would be hard pressed to commit to this plan before being able to finalize its 2013-14 operating budget, which is dependent on a provincial budget that is set to be released on May 2.

Arthur spoke with Joe Muldoon, Director at the Office of the Provost and a Vice President of Academics about the Trent Oshawa Strategic and Business Plan for 2013-17. He told us that the plan was prompted to development by the Academic Plan approved in 2012, which included a number of Trent Oshawa related recommendations.

Furthermore this plan outlining growth for Oshawa emerges from the growth Oshawa has already experienced in recent years. Established in shared space with Durham College and UOIT in 1974, Trent Oshawa was approved by the Board to acquire its own campus and did so by purchasing and renovating an elementary school facility in 2009. Today there are eight tenured, 14 limited term, and about 50 part-time faculty who teach 840 students at Trent in Oshawa.

Much that is proposed in the new plan aims to increase the visibility of Trent in the Greater Toronto Area, expand enrollment and pathways at Oshawa and allow it to boast a unique curriculum.

The plan current includes seven major areas of focus.  They are: A focus on and development of program offerings, which will mean two new program offerings for 2014,  Improvements to student experience by way of learning environments that encourage student development, improvements in student retention, a strengthening of support networks for students and an effort to raise wide awareness regarding the value of social sciences and humanities focused education, an Enhanced Campus Identity and Profile by way of improved visibility and increased community, government and administrative engagement, and a governance structure appropriate to Trent Oshawa’s needs.

The two new program offerings will be a degree in Social Work and an Interdisciplinary Degree.  Muldoon clarified for Arthur that an interdisciplinary degree, while not one that can lead to a graduate school pathway, is valuable in that it asks the same big, theme-oriented question and answers it from multiple perspectives rather than one.

He speculates that while a graduate with this degree may not be what every employer is looking for, but many will understand that this graduate has learned how to think and critically analyze.  He doesn’t foresee any employability issues with it, but rather the potential for employers to seek these kinds of graduates.

These are in addition to the six already established programs at Trent Oshawa, which include Anthropology, Sociology, History, English, Psychology and Business. Furthermore there are two programs, Environmental and Biology which can be taken for the first two years at Trent Oshawa and the last two at Trent Peterborough.

Trent Oshawa is not looking to totally differentiate itself from Trent Peterborough—while maintaining their own presence they are still very much the Trent education that we have all come to know here in Peterborough.

However, with the different location comes different needs, and Trent Oshawa has, thus far, developed into a campus quite unique from the Peterborough campus. For example, there are no residences at the Oshawa campus. The students commute, many with their own vehicles, or they take the train or bike.

The benefit to having these two locations is that it allows Trent to cater to the growing number of students who wish to obtain their education in the GTA.

Furthermore, Joe Muldoon mentioned the possibility of Trent Oshawa being a School of Social Science or of Humanities, but reinforced that this is still in very preliminary stages of development and is a couple years away. The process of forming a School at Trent Oshawa would involve the consultation and approval of Trent Senate and the Academic Planning and Budget group.

Arthur asked Muldoon about the effect some of these changes would have on the Peterborough campus. First, he said there are already some students and faculty participating in both campuses. Muldoon says that neither campus has an exclusionary culture towards the other and imagines that students at one campus interested in a course offered at the other would be permitted to take courses back and forth.

The Bachelor of Social Work mentioned earlier would bring Oshawa students to Peterborough.  It will also be in collaboration with Durham and Fleming College to make placement opportunities available. Therefore, Trent as a whole is reaching out to partner in its respective communities.

Maggie Balsdon, a second year History major who spent her first year at Trent Peterborough and this past year at Trent Oshawa, told us that Trent Oshawa holds a much more “small town” feel. She finds the professor-student relationship and also the relationships among classmates are stronger because of this. She likes having the choice of campuses and towns without having to leave Trent, and would love to see more student interaction between the two campuses.

President of the Trent Oshawa Student Association and fourth year English/History major, Kelly Patano, chose Trent because of its strong humanities offering, proximity to home, and small class sizes. As a student leader she looks forward to working on the advancement of the Trent Oshawa Strategic and Business plan and the promotion of Trent Oshawa as a strong and valuable branch of Trent. She hopes to raise awareness of Trent Oshawa at Trent Peterborough and beyond, and feels that communication and collaboration are a good place to start.