An education for the 21st century

“The future isn’t what it used to be.”

It might seem strange to open a university strategic plan with a quote from Yogi Berra, yet his famous words have never been more appropriate than they are today. The rate of change in society has never been faster. Global climate change combined with the evolution of “exponential” technologies such as Artificial Intelligence increases the degree of economic and social change at a rate never seen in human history. This social change, particularly with reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples and the increasing diversity of our population, redefines the narratives used to describe our society and global political, social and economic priorities.

Today, students entering university know the world they will graduate into will be significantly different from when they started their studies and that they will need to be prepared for dealing with rapid, continuous change and disruption throughout their lives. They are the first generation of students who will graduate into a world physically transforming at a rate never seen in the human experience. Not only the human world is changing, but the planet itself is transforming before our eyes.

Since its founding over 182 years ago, Acadia has built a reputation for providing the finest undergraduate education experience available anywhere. Today, it is a renowned university that personifies the very essence of liberal education for our 21st-century society and economy. Acadia fulfills the core mandate of universities around the world to preserve and create knowledge through research and teaching and delivers on that mandate within a stimulating and enriched learning environment that is uniquely beneficial to its students. Because we care deeply for our students, an Acadia education is not simply a transactional experience, it is a transformational experience, and that is what is needed for graduates to be prepared to thrive in a transforming world.

Acadia’s approach to educating the whole person has never been more relevant than it is in today’s rapidly changing society, where an increasingly complex combination of skills, knowledge, and capabilities is required to succeed and thrive. Critical thinking, creativity, problem-solving, self-motivation, resilience, determination, numeracy, literacy, and the ability to work both individually and in teams are essential components of the character that an Acadia education builds. In today’s transforming world, managing change, experiential learning, digital and technological competencies, international experiences, engagement with truth and reconciliation, and active learning prepare students for the world of work and the global society of the 21st century. At Acadia, students learn how to live and thrive in the community.

Acadia 2025 recommits our university to the region through collaboration, outreach, partnerships. Acadia prides itself on having one of the best town-gown relationships in Canada, and we are grateful for the support of the communities of Wolfville and the surrounding Valley region. We recognize the important role that Acadia plays in making our region one of the most attractive places in Canada to live, work, learn and play. Acadia’s growing partnership with the Mi’kmaw communities of our region is one of the most exciting areas of development as we seek to contribute to truth and reconciliation.

As a learning community, we care deeply for our students, our employees and our planet. Environmental stewardship has always been a fundamental value of Acadia, and in today’s growing climate emergency, it has never been more important to ensure that we learn, teach, and practice our commitment to the environment and sustainability of our world. Developing and implementing a strategic plan in a time of financial stringency is very challenging. However, without a strategy, the task of identifying priorities to direct scarce resources is difficult and often results in simply treading water rather than moving ahead. We are very conscious that everything we do going forward must adhere to fundamental principles of balanced budgets and no increase in debt. Therefore, we have identified priorities for directing our efforts within the current financial situation and increasing revenues and, where appropriate, reallocating resources to move forward on our strategic directions and goals.

I wish to thank every member of the extended Acadia community who contributed their ideas, challenged our assumptions, and helped develop this plan. Acadia 2025 will provide the guidance and direction that will ensure that the liberal education that has been the central core of the Acadia experience for over 180 years will continue to be relevant to educating students for the rapidly changing world of the 21st century and that the transformative experience that characterizes an Acadia education will flourish well into the future.

Dr. Peter J. Ricketts
President and Vice-Chancellor
March 2020