Photo: Responding to the needs of students for a more casual seating, furnished area on campus and a professional entertainment venue, St. Clair’s Student Representative Council (SRC) developed architectural plans and a financial package to convert a former exterior courtyard into 12,864 square feet of interior space configured in two floors. As a result, on March 31, 2017 the facility was unveiled to the public at the South Campus, 2000 Talbot Street Road West, Windsor. Cutting the ribbon for the official grand opening of the Dr. John A. Strasser Student Life Centre from left were: Gayle Strasser, Patti France, President of St. Clair College; Dr. John Strasser, Retired President of St. Clair College; Dan Wilson, Chair of St. Clair Board of Governors and Holly Nicholson, SRC rep. Photo by Rod Denis.
Cheers To St Clair College 50th Anniversary!
St. Clair College President Patti France asserts that when St. Clair College — as one of the pioneers of the province-wide college system — assumed the task of vocational training from the Western Ontario Institute of Technology in 1967, she’s not sure if anyone could have foreseen the scope or importance of the college’s operation today.
“From a few hundred students in a handful of academic programs, overseen by a couple of dozen faculty members, in temporary lodgings, we’ve grown into an institution with over 9,400 full-time students studying in 100 plus disciplines, taught by hundreds of faculty members, at four state-of-the-art campuses in Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent,” states France.
This year marks St. Clair College’s 50th anniversary. In these past five decades, St. Clair has continued to concentrate on fulfilling the skill-sets needed and demanded by local businesses, industries and agencies.
“St. Clair College’s history, therefore, has very much reflected that of the communities it serves — its business trends, its entrepreneurship, its civic projects, its socio-economic changes and, especially, the aspirations of its young people,” France remarks.
Everything that has traditionally been said about a college education is true, believes France.
At St. Clair College (StClairCollege.ca), there is theory delivered in textbooks and lectures, but instruction is heavily and distinctively weighted towards practical, hands-on, real world learning — “now coupled, as much as possible, in as many programs as possible, with work-placements built into the curriculum,” France adds.
“Providing knowledge — yes, of course that is one of our goals,” states France. “But, our overriding aim has always been, and will always be, to instil our graduates with employable workplace skills.”
And that message about the unique and intrinsic worth of a college education is getting across to young people, judging by the steadily increasing enrolment at St. Clair and throughout the province-wide system, France notes. This is especially true of their offerings in technology and the skilled trades.
Over the past five decades, St. Clair College has continued to grow and evolve, and architecturally, the college has changed dramatically in just the last two decades.
These updates include: residences in Windsor and the Thames Campus in Chatham, new athletic facilities at both those sites, the Ford Centre for Excellence in Manufacturing, the Toldo Centre for Applied Health Sciences, the Mary Uniac Health Centre at Thames, the Centre for the Arts and MediaPlex downtown, several new and enhanced Student Centres, the Construction Innovation and Production Centre, and more.
“And, within all of those, we’ve housed new equipment, and launched dozens of new academic programs,” adds France.
But, the most obvious — and significant — change, in St. Clair College’s function is a very fundamental one, France indicates. While the Ontario college system was, initially, founded to provide local training for the local job market, a lot has changed in 50 years, she says.
“Technological advances, electronic entrepreneurship and the increasing mobility of people mean that we’re in a global economy and a global job market,” France comments. “Education has gone global too. We’ve had a record number of international students enrolled at St. Clair during the past two years, and expect that trend to continue for the foreseeable future. Our function, now — because students demand it — is to train anyone from everywhere for jobs anywhere.”
But, it’s all about working with and serving the community, and St. Clair has students of all age ranges in their Continuing Education (ConEd) Department, which accommodates over 10,000 students in part-time, night-time and weekend courses, every year. France describes that this course calendar covers everything from skills upgrading to learning foreign languages, from motorcycle riding to recreation, from hobbies to highly technical instruction, from swimming lessons to information technology.
“The age-range is from pre-schoolers dog-paddling in the pool, to their grandparents learning how to set up home WiFi networks,” says France. “ConEd is our best example of St. Clair’s philosophy of ‘life-long learning’ — and, again, a great example of our responsiveness to the community’s interests.”
Congrats From The Community
Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens says St. Clair College is a cornerstone in our community.
“I wish St. Clair College a very happy anniversary as they celebrate 50 years of academic excellence, true innovation, and community impact,” declares Dilkens. “With state-of-the-art facilities and diverse program offerings, the college has been able to turn out experts in every field, helping Windsor to boast one of the most highly skilled and talented workforces in the world.”
Dilkens says for these past 50 years, St. Clair College has prepared workers to do what matters to them, to do it well, and to do it in a way that impacts the world around them.
“Here’s to a future filled with possibilities,” exclaims Dilkens.
Essex County Warden and Lakeshore Mayor Tom Bain says St. Clair College has allowed residents to reach their full potential with regards to obtaining employment.
“It has provided them with opportunities to raise their skills levels making them more employable,” states Bain. “St. Clair has delivered special courses to meet the needs of local employers in areas where there is a skilled labour shortage.”And Downtown Windsor Business Improvement Association Chairman Larry Horwitz raves about St. Clair’s forward-thinking leadership and how it turned downtown into a “smart city.”
“They were definitely right in making the major moves at the beginning when no one was there,” says Horwitz, referring to St. Clair’s MediaPlex and Centre for the Arts downtown campuses. “They understood that for a city to be great, you need to move the academic institutions into the downtown core and they turned this city into an attractive pedestrian-oriented place . . . When a downtown is strong and when a downtown is dynamic and successful, the whole city is.”
Celebrate Good Times!
France says during her almost two years in the Presidency, she has often remarked upon the fact that St. Clair — and all of their colleague schools throughout the province — were once commonly referred to as “community colleges.”
“That term went out of vogue several years ago, and that is really a shame, in my mind,” states France. “Next to the word ‘family,’ I don’t know if there is a nicer, warmer word than ‘community’ — I suppose because I view the community as just a big family.”
That being the case, France says that aside from St. Clair’s primary function of supplying highly trained individuals to the local workforce, St. Clair — its students and staff — have always been active supporters, volunteers and fundraisers for civic projects and local charities.
“And the community, in turn, has always been supportive of St. Clair College; participating in our events, welcoming our students for work-placements, donating cash to our scholarship fund, and contributing equipment to our workshops and labs,” reports France.
“So, none of our 50th anniversary celebrations have been strictly in-house affairs,” adds France. “From the earliest planning stages of our events, we wanted the welcome mat to be rolled out to the public at-large: to tour our facilities, to re-unite as alumni, to dine with us, and to otherwise accept our gratitude for your 50 years of supporting St. Clair.”
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