Institutional Priorities

2021 Fall Town Hall

Featuring Fred Meier, President and CEO
Moderated by Jessica Dumas, President of Jessica Dumas Coaching and Training, and host of The Confidence and Communication Podcast

Q&A Table of Contents

RRC Polytech Name Change

Why are we changing our name from Red River College to Red River College Polytechnic?

Adding Polytechnic to our name tells the story of what we do in Manitoba in a more definitive way. It allows us to differentiate ourselves.

Polytechnic is a term used around the globe to define institutions like ours that are focused on strategic workforce development. We have a very specific mission: to meet the needs of Manitoba’s labour market. That’s why we were established in the very beginning, and it’s why we’re here to this day. We do it incredibly well. We’re known across the post-secondary sector as an institution that provides critical workforce training that gets graduates into jobs quickly. We leverage hands-on and work-integrated learning experiences and applied research as a part of that, which are the other hallmarks of a polytechnic.

Now is the perfect time for us to change our name to one that reflects our new strategic approach to supporting Manitoba’s labour market and industry needs. We continuously hear from employers that labour market and technological disruption are happening faster today than ever before. They’re looking to post-secondary institutions like ours to respond quickly with programming that solves today’s problems now, but with an eye on tomorrow’s challenges as well. We need to help industry stay ahead by helping our students get ahead of whatever changes are coming next.

There’s no better example of how we already do this than RRC Polytech’s response to the pandemic, where we provided rapid training to boost our province’s COVID-19 vaccination and testing capacity. Leveraging our ability to adapt quickly like this will lead us forward as an institution and help us fill a critical role in supporting our province’s economic recovery and growth.

We will do this by driving ourselves to meet the outcomes outlined in our new strategic plan. One of these, for example, is a commitment to transforming our learning model. It directly addresses what employers tell us they’re looking for – including faster ways to help their employees up-skill or re-skill and industries and jobs change. For that reason, you’ll see us moving forward on new course and program delivery methods such as micro-credentials.

By calling ourselves RRC Polytech, we are saying to Manitobans that we are ready to step forward and embrace disruption by transforming it into opportunity.

Why is College remaining in our name?

We’ve accomplished an incredible amount as a college over the past 80 years and have a lot to be proud of. We’re one of the best-known institutions in Manitoba. “RRC” is an important institution in our community, and people feel strong ties to those letters and that name. We don’t want to lose any of that – and so we kept the College in our name. It still speaks to who we are and what we do very well. Adding Polytechnic allows us to expand on that and grow into more of what we were already becoming. A new strategic direction as bold as ours demands that we reinvigorate our identity, but we still want to acknowledge the roots we’ve grown from.

Another reason we kept College in our name is because we are still a College. As mentioned earlier, Polytechnic is a term used around the globe to define institutions like ours that are focused on strategic workforce development. While polytechnic institutions all have this and other key characteristics in common, there’s diversity in the polytechnic community, which includes institutes, universities, and colleges. And so RRC Polytech is both a College and a Polytechnic.

With the new name and strategic plan, are our branding materials – colour schemes, PowerPoint templates, etc. – going to change?

Yes, they are – and that transition is already taking place. Our Marketing team will be asking for your support on this, for instance, by updating the taglines we use in our email signatures. We’ll have more instructions to share soon about our new branding materials, so watch for those in Staff News.

On the subject of our new brand, kudos to our talented design team. Rebranding our look into something fresh, new, and eye-catching is a way of parading who we are and where we’re going to those we encounter in the community. I’ve said in the past that we don’t do a good enough job of telling the world about all the incredible things we do. These new materials can be a catalyst to help us start conversations with people and partners outside the College, and signal our pride in who we are as an institution, the great work we do, and where we’re going to grow in the coming years.

People in the community are likely to ask us, What is actually different? How do you recommend we answer?

Building on our proven strengths in applied learning and research, we are pursuing new ways to better prepare students and workers to meet changing industry needs arising from technological disruption, the pandemic, climate change, and other realities.

What we’re also highlighting with our new name, branding and strategic plan are the attributes that set us apart from other post-secondary institutions. These include our capacity for applied research, our flexibility for learners, and the unique pathways we create for students from so many different backgrounds, including students from marginalized communities and other populations who need more support. Our differentiators also include our ability to respond nimbly to changing labour market demand through new, innovative offerings like our micro-credential courses, and how we embrace different modes of learning such as virtual learning and digital collaboration tools.

How will this affect our logomark (and everything that has ‘RRC’ branded on it? – from webpages to merchandise to letterhead)

Red River College Polytechnic (RRC Polytech) is the evolution of Red River College. This brand allows us to embrace our identity by elevating and acknowledging who we are, and how we’re going to grow as Manitoba’s Polytechnic.

This change will happen gradually over time and a lot of the transition is already well underway. The great thing about this evolution is that we can continue to use our existing RRC collateral while we work towards updating to our new identity.

If your area is looking to update any branded RRC Polytech materials, you can submit a Marketing Request Form.

New Strategic Plan

How can RRC Polytech faculty participate in sharing information and act on the new strategic plan?

This plan is our plan. Each of us needs to read it, understand it, and build it into every aspect of what we do. I recommend you begin having conversations with colleagues about the plan and what it means to your specific area, your stakeholders, and your day-to-day work. You’ll see that it isn’t prescriptive. How you interpret the plan’s priorities and objectives in relation to your area, and turn them into action, is up to you.

Over the coming weeks and months, we are developing new academic and research plans that will shape how we expand initiatives in those areas. Your input in those plans will be critical. You’ll hear from us soon about opportunities for consultation. In the meantime, keep the conversation going, get to know the priorities and objectives we’ve outlined, and be proud of the work we’ve already done in laying out a path for the future of RRC Polytech.

How will improved teaching and learning be supported through the new strategic plan?

The first commitment of our plan is to look at our learning model. As we know, Academic Transformation was something that started several years ago under the guidance of our Vice President of Academic and Research, Dr. Christine Watson. And she’s done a wonderful job moving that forward with course-based registration, a critical aspect of the future of learning.

In this new strategic commitment, we’re moving that ahead even further.

Now that we have shared our strategic plan, the work is also underway for our new academic plan, which will provide further insight into how teaching and learning will be supported. We will be sharing more information on this soon.

The new strategic plan will also help guide the faculty development calendar in CLPE by ensuring that sessions through the year as well as events like RED Forum and Instructor PD Day are focused on the tools, techniques and best practices in teaching and learning that can be applied across delivery methods and learning environments. Input from instructors and academic schools for the academic plan will be valuable in planning faculty development that meets the needs of instructors as we respond to the changing needs of our students.

Our renewed commitment to learning and teaching through the redevelopment of the Certificate in Adult Education to become the Teaching for Learning in Applied Learning, required for all Instructors at RRC Polytechnic to complete. This revised program is more focused on the fundamentals of learning and teaching in the 21st Century, and it comprises six courses to be completed over three years. There is no cost for Instructors to take this program.

When I talk to employers about disruption and its impact on the labour market, they tell me the skills they need to innovate, stay competitive and grow are changing more rapidly than they were even a year or two ago. For instance, our manufacturing partners projected some time ago that 3D printing would find its way into manufacturing. Since then, the costs have come down to a point where 3D printing is becoming widespread. They need skilled people to manage that technology and its processes now.

Our learning model needs therefore needs to adapt quickly. How do we train employees with emerging skills without requiring them to leave the workplace, which could disrupt productivity and possibly income? Solutions to challenges such as these have become critically important, especially for growing Manitoba companies already having a difficult time accessing labour. We need to be creative. The next step will be to capture that creative thinking in our academic plan.

With this new Strategic Plan, do you anticipate a significant change in the way RRC Polytech is structured?

Over the coming months, our Senior Leadership Team will examine our commitments and priorities and make sure we’re aligned correctly to advance toward our goals and make sure people are fully supported as we proceed.

But we still face the same constraints we always have. Our strategic priorities will be important in determining where to direct appropriate resources. I want to underscore again the importance our third commitment, which is to deepening partnerships. Our partnerships benefit students and applied research, obviously, but they also benefit our growth as an institution. We know resources are constrained. We know that our ability to increase tuition or the amount of grant funding we receive is limited. But stronger partnerships will allow us to build programming, advance research, and support students with new learning and career development pathways beyond the limit of these constraints.

How can departments work seamlessly to support our strategic objectives?

Our strategic plan is our roadmap. We are at the starting point now and together, we must plot out how we will meet each priority, each initiative, each idea that will carry us through as we work together to meet priorities and deliver on our key outcomes.

The most important thing I want to stress to you is that there will be guidance along the way, and we will work together to chart our bold course forward.

As you take time to read through In Front of What’s Ahead, and start to reflect on this work both individually and collectively – I want you to ask yourself where do you feel you have the most work to do individually and where do you see the most work for us as a whole organization?

  • What will your department look like five years from now, when we achieve our vision? How would we be working differently?
  • What are we already doing that aligns to the plan, and contributes to where we are going?
  • What do we need to do differently over the long term?

Over the coming weeks, you will hear more about beginning this important work within your departments and schools to talk about the strategic plan and our key commitments. You will have meaningful discussions to identify things we are doing well and explore areas where we can make some changes – all with the goal of meeting our key objectives.

For some of you, this planning will come through the Academic and Research Plans – both of which will be in development over the coming weeks and months. We will be sharing more information on this soon.

Nimbleness, flexibility, and responsiveness seem to be important themes in our new strategic plan. What type of changes to processes and policies can we expect to see to ensure that programs and faculty are better able to incorporate those values into curriculum and course development?

I want to stress that nimbleness and agility are already proven strengths of ours. They made possible our pandemic response – how we transformed our programs and operations very quickly to meet changing health directives, how we supported our community, and how we bolstered health care initiatives with testing and vaccination training. You’re seeing these strengths in our rollout of micro-credential courses that meet urgent industry and community needs. And our nimbleness and agility are a credit to you – the people who make them possible through your tireless work and dedication.

We have already started down the road of re-visioning our Credential Qualifications Framework and are looking at ways to adapt to industry needs more quickly. In process right now we are formally working to consider the “micro-credential,” which we very successfully developed to meet the up-skilling and re-skilling needs of thousands of practitioners quickly during the pandemic.

As part of that pressing and urgent response during the pandemic, we have identified and documented a nimble curriculum/course development process through our Corporate Solutions department that will serve us well in all future responses to industry.

The Program Development and Renewal Process has been iterating as we learn more with each phase of Course Based Registration. Industry consultation and validation is a key aspect of program development and renewal, and the Educational Developers in CLPE can guide the use of this information to inform the structure of programs and courses. New tools for labour market information gathering also provide information to ensure that programs are meeting the needs of students.

Micro credentials have added a new credential type to our arsenal, allowing us to align the type of learning (ie micro credential, certificate, diploma, etc.) with the needs of students and industry.

Does our new strategic plan take into consideration how the pandemic has affected public funding?

Absolutely. For more on what I’ve said previously about our public funding model and how that impacts us, click here.

Since then, we’ve shared much of our new strategic plan with the provincial government and engaged in discussion with them about our goals and priorities.

As I said earlier, I truly believe that the state of public funding for post-secondary institutions is probably going to remain stable as we move forward. Our growth will depend increasingly on our ability to develop partnerships with new funding and revenue sources. I believe there is plenty of opportunity out there – and a strong willingness for partners to step up and work with us on moving this province forward.

Philanthropy will play a larger role at RRC Polytech than it has in the past. In the weeks ahead, we’ll launch a comprehensive new fundraising campaign. I believe this approach will help us build greater independence and flexibility in what we do. We’ll have more to share about our advancement efforts and fundraising campaign soon.

How does our new strategic plan address serving sectors that are primarily not-for-profit, and supporting those sectors by developing skills needed to ensure expertise in the field?

In the strategic plan we tend to use “industry” a lot when referring to those we serve through workforce training and development as well as applied research. We also use the word “employers” – and in either case we intend those terms to include not-for-profit organizations and employers.

We know that many of the programs we provide, and many of the graduates that come out of them, are pursuing careers in the not-for-profit or public sectors – for example, our Early Childhood Education or Nursing programs and graduates. This points to the enormous variety of programming we offer compared to other institutions, which is something we should be very proud of. Our strategic plan aims to enhance these areas, as well. Our intent is to develop partnerships with the not-for-profit and public sectors – for instance, community organizations – the same we are building bridges to for-profit sectors.

What role do you see Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL), including transfer and articulation pathways, playing to support the new strategic direction of RRC Polytech?

One of the things we’re well known for is our ability to recognize prior learning for students who may have studied at another college or university, including institutions across the country and around the world. We’re looking at ways to leverage that strength to create more pathways for students to access the learning they need to meet personal or professional objectives.

Our students are increasingly diverse, and Recognition of Prior Learning (including RPL assessment, transfer credit, block transfer, and articulation agreements) allow us to recognize the skills and abilities our students possess when they come to RRC Polytech. Recognizing prior learning increases flexibility for students by saving them time and money, allowing them to earn credentials without having to repeat skills that they can already demonstrate.

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL), transfer credit and articulations with other PSIs will play an increasingly important role in the College’s new strategic direction. We anticipate more movement with these initiatives, both coming in and moving to other institutions. With our Academic Transformation and the course-based registration well underway and poised to be completed over the course of the new strategic plan, it will become easier for new students to utilize RPL, transfer credit and articulate into our programs, and to take courses not only related to a credentialed program but also those of personal or professional interest.

To that end, we’re looking to grow our collaborations with other post-secondary institutions. We have excellent relationships right now through several joint programs with the University of Winnipeg, for example. We also have a great collaboration with the Asper School of Business: our Business Admin students can move over and finish a degree there. These are excellent examples of collaborations between institutions that don’t merely replicate, but augment the learning we all provide our students.

And on that topic, I’m currently in discussion with the presidents of Manitoba’s other post-secondaries. We’re exploring how we can continue to grow; how can we offer our best to each other’s students; how our post-secondary partners could make use of our applied research facilities; or how we might mutually expand opportunities for work-integrated learning. You’ll see these collaborations grow over the next five years.

One other thing I’ll add: I’ve shared our strategic plan with them, and they are very excited by the possibilities ahead for post-secondary education across our province.

As part of “getting in front of what’s ahead” how do we envision providing for industry to approach us with their problems which fosters these strategic relationships?

In our third commitment of the strategic plan, we look at our partnerships as being central to our success as a polytechnic institute. These partnerships with industry and employers enable us to extend our resources, leverage our partners’ strengths, accelerate progress in innovation and research, and expand our reach.

By strengthening and deepening our strategic relationships, we will create reciprocal value that drives Manitoba forward economically, environmentally, socially and culturally. Through our partnerships, we will reinforce our prosperity and sustainability by diversifying our revenue sources, maximizing private investment, and engaging our alumni and stakeholders in the future of the institution.

Over the next five years, we will expand the opportunities for applied research across our schools and in areas that are important to our partners and our future economy. This will elevate opportunities for students to participate in solving practical problems, support entrepreneurs to launch and grow their businesses, and further strengthen our relationships with our partners and funders across all sectors.

In considering the path of being in front of what’s ahead, is there a timeline in place to move forward in advance of national (Canadian Government) initiatives that are currently in development?

We continue to work with all levels – municipal, provincial and federal partners – to advance initiatives across RRC Polytech, however, we also know we need to continue to increase our capacity in these areas so that we can continue to respond to the needs of our community.

Which is why our third commitment: Deepening partnerships to maximize prosperity across industry and community, is so important.

This commitment focuses on maximizing new and current strategic partnerships to realize mutual benefit, elevating applied research, and building a culture of philanthropy to increase strategic partnership potential.

Key outcomes of this commitment will focus on increased applied research partnerships and integration of applied research within academic programming, expanded partnerships and relationships with donors to drive strategic growth and deliver mutual benefits, and elevating the role we play in strengthening Manitoba’s economic, social, environmental and cultural prosperity.

Will RRC Polytech support instructors to be certified in certain disciplines?

Normally, RRC Polytech hires Instructors to teach into a certain field of practice in which the Instructor-to-be is already certified. We hire professionally trained and certified practitioners to teach. Then, the College provides the support to all new Instructors to become great teachers through our Teaching Essentials Program (TEP) and Teaching for Learning in Applied Education Program (TFL) and many other courses related to learning and teaching. Depending on the field of practice and the reasons why certification in a discipline is being asked for, the College may support such a request and provide some professional development assistance.

Advancing Indigenous Education

How is RRC Polytech working towards incorporating Indigenous world views into its programs and curricula?

During our strategic planning consultations earlier this year, we heard loud and clear from our internal and external audiences and stakeholders that RRC Polytech has a critical role to play in supporting Indigenous knowledge and learners as we move forward.

Over the past year, settlers living in the lands called Turtle Island have been confronted with the need to change. Our second commitment inside our new strategic plan is a commitment to pursuing Truth and Reconciliation, as well as equity, diversity, and inclusion, in everything we do. While we were drafting the language for that commitment, it was very important that we underscore those words: in everything we do. Our commitment extends beyond the programming we provide and the students we attract to every aspect of how we operate as an institution.

Our Innovation Centre project building is a beautiful example of how we’re moving forward on this commitment. Some of the key design elements built into this new building represent Indigenous knowledge and teachings. Several spaces include profoundly meaningful artwork by Indigenous artists, such as the Round Room, where ceremonies can take place. It’s a gathering and welcoming place, not only for our students and faculty, but for the community to come in and see some of the things that we’re doing. Here you’ll find support services for our Indigenous students, and Elders in Residence.

We’re also dedicated to emphasizing Indigenous knowledge and cultural awareness in all our students. We believe that awareness will transcend these walls and carry forward into the workplaces and companies our graduates pursue careers in. Imagine the tremendous impact we stand to make as this plan moves forward.

A new position (Educational Developer, Indigenous Focus) will support the College as we look to incorporate Indigenous worldviews into curriculum and processes.

Through the duration of the strategic plan, additional training for staff and faculty that builds on the foundation of Four Seasons of Reconciliation will be available to support RRC Polytech staff, instructors and leaders in their TRC journey and in incorporating what they learn in everything they do at the College.

I’d like to know more about teaching and learning support specifically related to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Indigenous worldviews.

We have a very strong program for our faculty and staff to provide and gain knowledge about Truth and Reconciliation. I want to thank Carla Kematch, our Truth and Reconciliation Manager, who helps us move forward significantly in this area. The Four Seasons of Reconciliation Program she helped develop is a virtual learning resource available to all our staff. It’s modular and allows us to learn at our own pace. I would recommend everyone who has not yet had the opportunity to take the Four Seasons of Reconciliation to do so. It’s incredible.

You can also learn more about the workshops RRC Polytech has hosted here.

This program was tailored for us here at the College, but we’ve since leveraged it into the community. Thanks to our great relationship with the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce and the Indigenous Chamber of Commerce, it’s available to their members. We will also continue to build learnings about Truth and Reconciliation for our staff and our students, in partnership with our Students’ Association and other partners as well.

Advancing International/Newcomer Students

Canada continues to recognize the importance of immigration to the economy, and the humanitarian imperative to resettle global refugees. How does our new strategic direction supporting the immigrant/newcomer community, and allow them to succeed in their career goals while contributing to the Manitoba community?

Supporting international students and newcomers with programs and supports that help them find meaningful work in our province is critical. To give you an example of how we’re trying to attract and support more international students, look no further than our Innovation Centre project. It’s home to our Language Training Center, one of the largest language training centers in Manitoba. Its former location at the Via Rail Station wasn’t ideal; by moving it into our Innovation Centre project, we are welcoming into the heart of our institution people from all around the world. By having them participate in events and meet our other students, they learn our official languages faster. By being here, they experience easier access to resources and pathways leading to programs that train them for meaningful careers.

As well, we’re growing our partnerships with international institutions such as Shenyang Institute of Engineering, our partner in China, with whom we offer an engineering program. Partnerships such as these create opportunities for us to train students from all across the globe.


How will RRC Polytech enhance supports for research – ie. internal grant opportunities and grant writing supports?

Applied research is a critical part of the work we do as a polytechnic. I want to take a moment to talk about the role it plays at RRC Polytech, and how it differs from what you would find in other Manitoba post-secondary institutions.

Our research supports industry. It’s commonly tied to a business or an entrepreneur, and we are helping them solve a problem. The benefits of that are knowledge transfer, which goes both ways, and work-integrated learning opportunities, where students participate in a research project, then gain knowledge they can transfer to their careers.

That all-important two-way transfer of knowledge and opportunity is why we must leverage our applied research abilities wherever possible.

Over the last few years, we have developed some of the best research facilities in Manitoba, and arguably across Canada. Our research program is award-winning, not only from a national but an international perspective. I’m a board member of Polytechnics Canada, and I can tell you that we are well known for our top-notch research.

But we need to get that message out more strongly within Manitoba, which is why our new strategic plan places such a premium on building those applied research partnerships with industry, and our capacity to help our province’s industries to innovate and grow as new realities challenge us with disruption.

Giving our staff the support to develop and refine powerful, effective research proposals will obviously help us meet this objective. As we develop our research plan in the coming months, you’ll see aspects of how we’ll support that important work become more articulated.

What is RRC Polytech’s commitment to actively supporting scholarly research that focuses on teaching and learning, and not just industry-focused research?

You’ll notice that when we speak about applied research, one of the commitments that we have in our new strategic plan is to expand applied research across all our programs. While we’re known for applied research in areas like, for instance, electric vehicle technology, we recognize that we need to leverage our research capacity into many other programs, such as early childhood development. We are already recognized, in fact, for excellence in research in early childhood development.

When it comes to supporting research in teaching and learning, I think those are areas that we can easily move into and pursue as well.

RRC Polytech has several applied research funds to which instructors may apply with a proposal for an applied research project, including anything related to the scholarship of teaching. We can contribute to the scholarship of teaching and learning, especially regarding teaching in applied learning environments. These funds could then be used to backfill time needed to do the applied research and on the applied research project itself. Applied research is an acknowledged important aspect of Instructor workload and can be assigned by your academic Chair. Another way to engage in the scholarship of teaching is to seek out external grants, create a proposal for your project and apply.

We are committed to expanding applied research across all programs, but also researching how we teach and how our students learn. The bottom line: we want more applied research and partnerships integrated across all our programs and work-integrated learning opportunities, so that our students and instructors can continue to enjoy the benefits of exchanging knowledge and ideas with industry, each other, and their peers and fellow researchers.

It sounds like we intend to expand our research capabilities at the College. How will this be funded?

RRC Polytech is currently in the process of developing an institution-wide research plan. Incorporated in this plan will be strategies to expand and integrate applied research across the College which will include such activities as deepening our relationships with major funders to anticipate and respond to their needs, developing a database of funding opportunities and providing assistance to applicants across the College. We will leverage our existing assets to better serve the needs of our principal customers as well as developing new capacity in line with provincial and national priorities.