As we emerge from many months of a global pandemic, the Grebel community is eager for renewal of mind, spirit and direction. Our new strategic plan focuses on a relatively short time frame of three years, and centres on the work we need to do to recover and thrive following the unexpected upheavals of the past two years.
Over the past several months, we’ve reached out to our whole community of stakeholders for advice—faculty and staff, students, alumni, donors, our Board, and our partners in the church and the university. These conversations affirmed our belief that Grebel is a place that inspires its people to build community, seek wisdom, and pursue peace and justice, long after they leave our halls and classrooms. We are a small college, but our impact matters.
The main hope our stakeholders expressed was for Grebel to thrive in the future. No one advised us to radically change our identity, our programs, or our mission. Rather, they encouraged us to be good stewards of the College in the face of various challenges and pressures, so that it endures for the benefit of future generations. This prompted reflection on the values we share, which serve as signposts that point us toward our best aspirations. Our plan is about renewing mind and spirit, recommitting to our values, and building upon the best of what we do together. Our path for the next three years leads us home—toward the things that matter most about who we are at Grebel.
Four areas of focus emerged from our stakeholder consultations, which centre our attention on the core of our mission as a college—the student experience, excellence in learning, resilience for the future, and our relationships with key partners in the university, church, and wider community.
WE WILL CENTRE ON STUDENTS.
In recent years, providing great student experiences has become a growing challenge for universities across Canada—a challenge that has deepened during the COVID-19 pandemic. Concerns about student mental health, resilience, and happiness are endemic in Canadian universities.
In this environment, Grebel’s reputation for providing transformative student experiences is one of our most important distinctives. We are proud of this record, but we must not take it for granted. In the next three years, we will centre our attention on the student experience, from recruitment, to graduation, and to alumni engagement. We will actively expand the diversity of our student body, and increase awards, scholarships, and bursaries to lower financial barriers to the Grebel experience.
Grebel has made strong investments in physical spaces over the past ten years, including a warm and welcoming library and renovated kitchen and dining room. We will now take stock of our aging residence and classroom spaces and consider ways to refresh and renew them based on what students need to thrive personally, socially, and academically, with the goal of making our campus fully inclusive, accessible, and welcoming.
WE WILL ENGAGE OUR PARTNERS.
Many months of pandemic have eroded the ties that bind people and institutions. Over the next three years, we will reach out to our partners, renewing relationships with both the University of Waterloo and Mennonite Church Eastern Canada. We will explore new ways to collaborate with the University and our sister institutions on the west side of Laurel Creek.
We are grateful for emerging relationships with our Indigenous neighbours, and we hope to nurture and build on these important connections. We will re-imagine how our teaching, expertise, and other resources are offered in service to the wider community.
WE WILL EXPLORE NEW PATHWAYS FOR LEARNING.
Grebel has always aspired to be a community of learning where students and teachers seek wisdom by integrating classroom teaching and scholarship with the day-to-day experience of living and working together. Over the years, Grebel has built a well-deserved reputation for high-quality learning experiences, whether in traditional classrooms, community education programs, or the Grebel Peace Incubator.
Maintaining and building enrolment in our academic programs is a core priority. We will extend our reach by offering new online learning opportunities and refreshing older online courses, taking advantage of the new skills and experience acquired through remote teaching during the pandemic.
We will support the scholarly activity of our faculty by developing new resources and incentives for scholarship. Obstacles to scholarly productivity in our current environment will be identified, and we will consider together how these can be best addressed.
Wisdom cannot be found without equity, diversity, and inclusion. Excellence in learning requires that our programs integrate knowledge that arises from diverse experiences. In this way, students learn to embrace complexity, reconsider their received knowledge, and skillfully engage in respectful dialogue.
WE WILL BUILD RESILIENCE FOR OUR FUTURE.
Those of us who serve at Grebel today are stewards for people who will need Grebel tomorrow. It’s our responsibility to prepare the College to face the future with confidence and hope. COVID-19 taught us the painful lesson that events beyond our control can have a powerful impact on our lives and work. It’s wise to assume that the pandemic will not be the last crisis that we face together.
Resilience comes from anticipating risks and wisely managing resources of money, time, and human spirit. Grebel has expanded to the point that it makes sense to take stock of how we work together, how our time is consumed, how we make and spend money, and whether long-standing practices, programs, and systems might be updated and improved.
We can also build resilience by expanding our resources. Many Grebel programs—including some that are at the heart of our mission—are not adequately funded by tuition, government grants, or other sources of consistent revenue. We are entering a fourth year of government-mandated tuition freezes, even as inflation rates are the highest in 25 years. With the support of our committed donors, we will increase donations and endowments, so the programs that make Grebel distinct and special are sustained for the future.
Our resilience as an organization depends on providing employees with support for maintaining their own resilience and the resources they need to thrive in their roles. We will continue to update our workplace policies and practices to align with the University of Waterloo and the best practices of leading employers.
We have a responsibility to look beyond ourselves and contribute to resilience and sustainability in the world around us. Over the next three years, we will initiate action to reduce the environmental impact of our operations, consider investments to lower our carbon emissions, and become actively involved in sustainability work at the University and in the local community.
By taking these steps to build our resilience, we will ensure that future generations can live and grow at Grebel, as we seek wisdom, nurture faith, and pursue justice and peace together.
For more information: Read Grebel’s full 2022-2025 Strategic Plan (PDF)