Patrick Stoddart, the new CEO and president of the Southeast College, has worked all across the country throughout his life, gaining valuable experience that is now going to be used for the advances of current and prospective students in the southeast.
Stoddart has been in the education field since 1996. His most recent role as the executive officer for Grassy Narrows Education Authority at a First Nations reserve in Northern Ontario made him responsible for the overall planning, operations and performance of the school authority.
From a college perspective, he’s pretty much done every job in a post-secondary environment, from teaching and learning to overseeing instructional design, overseeing student services and programming.
“The breadth of experience that I bring to the table right across the board should benefit the college,” said Stoddart in an interview. “Moving forward, based on my experience, we’ll probably make some changes, a little bit more focus on the students, a little bit more focus on student services and meeting the particular needs of our target audience going forward.”
Stoddart started at the Southeast College in October 2019, and he said that so far it’s been great, but there were some surprises.
“I’m really impressed with the facilities and the staff that we have. It’s been a while since I’ve been to the Prairies, and the economy has changed quite a bit. So that was a bit unexpected for me,” said Stoddart.
With the global economic changes, along with changes in views on carbon, oil and gas, the education system is also facing some adjustments.
“We were doing quite a significant amount of training, shorter courses, fall protection, H2S Alive, things like that. And because of the decline in the oil industry, there doesn’t seem to be the demand that there was for those shorter courses,” said Stoddart, citing one example of the changes.
He was also quite impressed with the Estevan campus.
“The Estevan campus is a beautiful campus. Somebody put a lot of thoughts, time and energy into that.”
He also pointed out that the campus is not going anywhere and they hope to broaden the scope around some of the programs that they offer after they complete an economic analysis of what the next 10 years look like for education.
“We are putting together a number of proposals for the government to look at on programming that will go beyond the traditional programming offered in the Estevan campus,” said Stoddart.
It’s only been four months, but a lot of work has already been done. And while Stoddart didn’t want to let the cat out of the bag just yet, he said that very soon some announcements will be coming in regards to a new program for Weyburn. There are also a few other projects underway, and the details will be announced as soon as they become available.
“You will see some new programming, some entrepreneurial programming coming forward. What I mean by that is a lot of this programming won’t be relying on government grants for base budget programming. We’ll be offering services that will be compensated for by other third parties,” noted Stoddart.
A lot of Stoddart’s experience was in rural and remote communities, so accepting a new position in the multi-campus college, he wants to be present in all of the offices as much as possible.
“One of the first complaints that I usually hear from organizations that have multiple campuses, especially as diverse as ours, is that they are often a second thought. And I want to ensure that I’m getting out to the campuses quite often… and ensure that they feel like they’ve got a voice at the table and they are being paid attention to for the local needs that they actually have,” said Stoddart, while actually being on the way to Moosomin and Whitewood campuses.
Stoddart said that after serious consideration they decided to move the campus out of Mossomin to a more appropriate space. The project is already underway, and hopefully will be completed in September. The changes are ongoing in the Whitewood campus as well, where they will be taking over a little bit more space from a local education authority, which will allow more programing out of that campus.
Talking about the major goals for this year, Stoddart named alignment of the organization and support of students from the strategic enrolment management perspective as the number 1 priority. He explained that for the college it’s important to understand who their potential students are and do all they can to create an appropriate support system that would serve their needs.
“Don’t underestimate the importance of alignment. The left hand always needs to know what the right hand’s doing. And most secondary is to ensure support right from prospective students, who come in the door, who might think that they want to become a student, right through directly engaged students in the classroom learning about what’s in the classroom and outside of the classroom to actively engage alumni that hopefully … would recommend the college going forward.”