Prince Edward County’s Newspaper of Record
July 24, 2024
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February 14, 2024
Volume 194 No. 7

A reinvented college

Loyalist College expands programs, attracts international students to become a “destination of choice.”

The halls of Loyalist College’s Kente Building are full of energy. Students from near and far mix and mingle between classes, gathering to study or to dine, lining up at the culinary lab’s bake shop, joining in an activity at the pub, or, behind glass walls, practicing in a simulation lab.

Student Government President Raven Chartrand notes the strong sense of community among students who may have come from as far as Delhi, India — or as near as Delhi, Picton. They are studying everything from carpentry to culinary management, AI to PR, nursing to welding.

“I try to stay connected with as many parts of the school as I can,” says Ms. Chartrand. “‘Let me let me help bring you together,’ really defines my job. It’s really about connection.”

President Mark Kirkpatrick agrees. “First of all, I’ll just say we’re a community college. And we take the word community very seriously.” 

The President seems to have as much energy as the students in the halls. On a regular day, he stops to talk; on move-in day he is there to help lift; and on graduation day, he hands out diplomas and poses for pictures.

He is also a successful organizer of resources. The campus is under renovation —“there’s a lot going on right now: we prefer to call it ‘progress’,” he quips. It’s all the result of good fiscal planning. Student spaces are growing, labs are being refurbished. Everything at the college is expanding.

The most exciting developments are in the programs. Loyalist is increasingly a “destination college,” a place that students choose to attend from near and far, both locally and internationally.

International students often choose Loyalist because they come from small towns in their home countries and feel at home in Belleville. Often they remark on the natural surroundings of the campus. 

The college is also very keen to attract those local students who can go where they want, in particular, Mr. Kirkpatrick explains, because statistics show that graduates are more likely to remain in the community where they received their degrees.

Being the best choice is not simply to offer local residents a quality education. Ontario and Canada need “net immigration.” “We have an aging population, and the young people we need in the workforce are not staying local. Education can change this.”

A recent study showed that Loyalist brings $6-9 million a year to the region.That’s just the impact of international students. The benefits of students remaining close after graduation are much larger. 

Loyalist aims to create a skilled workforce to fill local needs. Take nursing for example. Until just last year, Loyalist was only a bridge for nurses, who would begin their studies here but move on to complete their degree elsewhere. Last year, Loyalist was able to open its own complete four-year program. Its first graduating class (with those who began before the program was extended) will tread the boards in April. If the statistics are right, most of them will stay local.

Loyalist has opened a complete four-
year nursing program. 
Its first graduating class will tread the boards in April. 
If the statistics 
are right, most of them will stay in the region.

But even before graduation, the region benefits. Communications Officer Laura Voskamp speaks of the cultural benefits. “With 50 per cent of our students coming from abroad, there has been a great change to the flavours available in Belleville’s restaurants and grocery stores.”  

The jobs these students can fill are in demand. “They’re not just going to school, they’re filling those jobs. So it’s not just about the future, it’s about the present,” said Mr. Kirkpatrick.

Interim Senior Vice President, Academic, Amanda Baskwill, describes how the college responds to new demands in the region. A new medical radiation technology program is coming in, with a streamlined continuous schedule. 

“It’s a benefit to the student because they’re only in for two years, but still have the same six semesters. That means it’s good for the community: they’re faster to be employed.” In anticipation of high demand, the new space for this program will have the room and technical requirements for expansion and enhancement.

Ms. Baskwill spoke to the palpable energy at the college: “learning about new programs, being able to respond to community need is really quite exciting. Part of our process in creating a new program is often pulling together new people who are getting to know Loyalist. We’re building that connection to new parts of the community who may have not heard about us.”

Prince Edward County is home to 129 current Loyalist students. It is also a location for co-op placements and student employment. Although Mr. Kirkpatrick says there are no plans to bring a satellite campus to the County, he notes that healthcare and the culinary economy in the County offer opportunities for both students and the employers who need them.

The Gazette is proud to have both a Loyalist grad and a student on staff. Although Loyalist’s journalism and photojournalism programs are currently suspended, both Mr. Kirkpatrick and Ms. Baskwill say  they are keeping an eye out for ways to adapt these programs to developments in media.

“Loyalist is really a special place,” says Ms. Chartrand. “It has that small college feel, where anything students need, they are supported and are given opportunity.”

“We also really take pride in creating a well-rounded student,” adds Mr. Kirkpatrick. “We don’t believe that you come to post-secondary just to get a diploma. It’s a very community-focused college. It’s very ‘home.’ Everybody’s welcome.”  

This text is from the Volume 194 No. 7 edition of The Picton Gazette
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