Eyes High is the U of C's plan to become one of Canada's top five universities by 2016.
Adrienne Shumlich/the Gauntlet

High goals for Eyes High

The U of C releases a strategic plan for the Eyes High initiative

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The strategic roadmap for the Eyes High plan to make the University of Calgary one of Canada's top research universities by 2016 was released in April 2012, giving structure to the goal that was initiated last fall.

In September 2011, the U of C started an initiative to become one of Canada's top five research universities by its 50th anniversary. The plan, known as Eyes High, was sparked and has since aimed to parallel Calgary's plan to become a cultural and economic hub in North America. The university has put the plan in full swing since 2011 to align with the goals presented in Eyes High.

Eyes High has three main pillars: to sharpen the focus on research and scholarship, to enrich the quality and breadth of learning and to fully integrate the university with the community.

Consultation has become a large task to achieve results that the school wants. Although the university administration is optimistic about Eyes High, much skepticism has been garnered concerning the five-year plan -- the goals may be too large for the time period, and the priorities of the plan focus too heavily on research. Another concern is how the U of C will measure the achievements.

U of C provost and vice-president academic Dru Marshall said the student experience is a priority for Eyes High. President Elizabeth Cannon has also showed pride in the university's commitment to making Eyes High a reality.

"I would like to thank the thousands of people in our community and beyond who shared their aspirations, goals and values for the [U of C] through the most extensive consultation process ever undertaken on our campus," said Cannon in utoday on Sept. 28, 2011. "We saw and heard at every turn the pride and genuine desire to make this a truly great university."

The tangibility of this strategic plan has also been questioned, and many students at the U of C are not aware that Eyes High exists.

In April 2012, however, the academic plan and roadmap for Eyes High was released, giving structure to the goal. Marshall and vice-president research Ed McCauley led the large consultation process during the development of the roadmap.

"We have a wonderful vision in our Eyes High strategy statement, but we needed to develop the roadmap to achieve our vision," said Marshall in utoday on April 27, 2012. "The academic plan is the roadmap to Eyes High, and I want to thank our students, faculty and staff for their terrific and extensive contributions to its development."

The new roadmap has seven main priorities that have been put in place for increased structure: teaching and research integration, interdisciplinarity, leadership, internationalization, connection with the community, sustainability and talent attraction, development and retention.

Sixth-year environmental engineering and urban studies student Connor Stevens said plans like Eyes High need a lot of attention and time.

"I think you can put lots of things in place, but it takes time in order to actually get recognition from a national point of view," said Stevens. "It will be difficult to get this done in that amount of time."

Stevens said the student experience inside and outside of the classroom must be a priority. He said good teachers are important for students in an academic setting.

"From a student's perspective, I want better teaching in my classes. I want professors that are good at teaching me what I need to get my degree," said Stevens. "There needs to be some policies in place to make sure that teachers are actually teaching students, and that they're good at teaching."

Students' Union vice-president academic Kenya-Jade Pinto said the new roadmap has included a stronger emphasis on teaching that was not previously in Eyes High.

"The su is really excited about the opportunity of having an increased emphasis on teaching, and we've seen steps forward in the plan as a whole," said Pinto. "This is a real and tangible way for us to move forward with the academic plan."

Pinto said the strategic plan creates a concrete outline to measure the process in order for the U of C to reach the top five.

"The academic plan will definitely have a positive impact on students. It's a way for us to gauge the quality of teaching and teaching excellence as well as research on this campus. Students can be excited about that," said Pinto. "With any plan as grandiose as Eyes High, there will always be room for improvement and this plan is something that students can contribute to."

Eyes High aims to create an academic community that focuses on learning and a positive experience for students, however, priorities and emphasis on the right measures must be put in place to ensure that goals are met.

"It's a good plan to have. It's good to set goals and have ideas for where you want to go in the future and it's good for the school, but it's not just about the quality of the research, it's really about the student experience as well. If students have a bad experience, the research won't matter," said Stevens. "Those kinds of plans shouldn't look at how other people and other schools view your university, it should be how students view university and that's where the plan should look."