March 12, 2010
By Heather Magotiaux
On February 26, University of Saskatchewan alumnus Professor Emeritus Dr. Karim (Kay) Nasser and his family did what many dream of through the largest financial gift in Saskatchewan’s history—they made a significant difference in countless people’s lives for generations to come.
Their $12 million donation to the University of Saskatchewan will be used in a variety of ways to improve the student experience at the U of S, with a significant portion being designated for student scholarships. Funds will also be allocated to the College of Engineering, a student amenities building in the recently announced College Quarter student residence project, the Gordon Oakes – Red Bear Student Centre, and the newly established downtown campus of the Edwards School of Business.
Partnerships such as this are critical to the post‐secondary landscape, not only in Saskatchewan, but across Canada and North America. The evolution of funding structures to Canada’s post‐secondary institutions over the past few decades has created new realities, and universities are finding innovative ways to complement funding from the public sector. If Canada’s universities are to remain the essential centres for the pursuit of knowledge and innovation we have traditionally been, we must be prepared to bring that same level of innovation to the ways in which we fund our institutions.
With partnerships that are carefully considered and purposefully pursued, universities can, and do, find innovative ways to transform knowledge in ways that meet the needs of society—which is, after all, why universities exist.
The reasons individuals decide to partner with universities are as diverse as the partners themselves. Some want to see enhancements to the bricks and mortar structure of the university so they join the institution to upgrade existing buildings or build new, modern facilities. Some focus on the students themselves by providing scholarships or by developing a lecture series on campus. Others focus on research and fund research chairs or provide much needed equipment to conduct state‐of‐the‐art exploration and learning. The one common denominator in all partnerships, no matter what their focus, is a desire to enrich the student experience. By keeping students in perspective, we are motivated to pursue arrangements that ensure they have the best possible learning experience during their time on campus.
As the aforementioned examples illustrate, there is much common ground on which partnerships can be built. It is the responsibility of universities to pursue this common ground to fulfil the mandate of serving the people through knowledge and innovation. Both public and private partners have stepped forward, allowing research to continue and thrive, and ensuring innovation has the best chance of flowing to those whom it will benefit most.
Through contributions like that of the Nasser family, universities are able to recruit and retain the best students, attract world‐class faculty to help shape tomorrow’s leaders and innovators, and to provide facilities and equipment that enhance the learning experience on campus. I am hopeful and optimistic about the future of our universities. At the University of Saskatchewan, announcements like this make me proud of the legacy that smart partnerships will leave on our school, our community and our world.