To the Editor,
UPEI is busy getting ready to welcome new and returning students to our beautiful campus over the next week. As we begin the new academic year, UPEI is eager to deliver both an outstanding education and exceptional learning experiences to our students.
As outlined in the UPEI Strategic Plan 2013–2018, our vision is to develop our students to their full potential in both the classroom and the community.
UPEI’s strategic plan for the upcoming years focuses on priorities around delivering high quality educational programs, strong student experiences, a growing exploration and discovery agenda, long-term sustainability, and building vibrant communities.
The recent discussion of UPEI Athletics and Recreation touches on the majority of these priorities in various ways.
Connecting our UPEI campus with our Island communities is an integral part of what we do every day. These connections take place through our students’ learning and the application of knowledge. They develop through the engagement of our Island as a living laboratory in relation to research projects and a multitude of partnerships with community organizations. They contribute to the building of our collective potential.
The value of connecting with our Island through varsity sport is not a new topic. It has been, however, a heavily discussed one of late, leading to a UPEI-supported review of our Department of Athletics and Recreation by Dave MacNeill.
Mr. MacNeill’s report confirmed a number of issues that the department has faced for many years and recommended a number of steps to assist UPEI in moving it forward. Already UPEI has put a number of these recommendations in motion.
The first meeting of the newly formed UPEI Athletics Advisory Board will take place mid-September. The Board consists of a strong cross-section of community and sport leaders, including: Tracey Ellsworth (BEd’88, former UPEI basketball and field hockey coach); Dr. Kate Ellis-Ghiz (BSc’01, former UPEI basketball player, Academic All-Canadian); John Horrelt (business person and UPEI Athletics sponsor/supporter); Heather Howatt (BBA’91, UPEI Women’s Hockey Booster Club member); Dr. Joe Hyndman (PWC’63, former PWC hockey player); Bill LeClair (BBA’70, former UPEI hockey player, founder and chair of Friends of UPEI – Calgary); Ron McInnis (BBA’78, former UPEI hockey player); Doug Newson (BBA’97, former UPEI basketball player and UPEI Male Athlete of the Year, and vice-chair UPEI Panther Basketball Green and White Club); Mike O’Brien (SDU’62, former UPEI hockey player); Jim Revell (BBA’82, former UPEI football player); and Dr. Bill Stanish (PWC’62, former UPEI football, hockey and basketball player, member of Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame).
UPEI has also recently welcomed Bruce Donaldson to the position of Associate Director of Development. Donaldson’s track record in business and sport (as head coach of UPEI Women’s Hockey) makes him a strong team member to lead our new Athletics Fundraising Committee, another review recommendation. UPEI has also begun the comprehensive search process for the Director of Athletics and Recreation and has a search committee with broad community representation in place.
As we work to grow the strength of UPEI Athletics and Recreation, I encourage our community to remember that, in the face of challenges, we are also experiencing noteworthy accomplishments. Last year, we celebrated a record number of UPEI student-athletes who earned CIS Academic All-Canadian status by achieving an academic standing of 80 per cent or higher. This group represents approximately 40 per cent of UPEI’s total student-athlete population, one of highest ratios for universities in Canada.
The UPEI Women’s Hockey team won an AUS championship for the first time two years ago and has been building momentum for another run at a national title. In addition to many AUS events, we hosted a very successful CIS national women’s soccer championship and will host the men’s this fall. And not a week goes by that we don’t hear of another UPEI Panther alumnus who is competing at an elite sport level and contributing to leadership in their community.
These successes have been earned through committed teamwork and a dedicated network of supporters. Building on the input of our internal and external communities, UPEI looks forward to further success in its Athletics and Recreation programming and strengthened connections with our Island communities.
As we begin the new academic year and kick off the UPEI Panther sport seasons, I encourage our community members to support our varsity teams and all UPEI students as they pursue excellence.
Dr. Abd-El-Aziz is the President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Prince Edward Island.