A few weeks ago I visited Thunder Bay, a city known for its rich cultural heritage, for its dramatic landscapes, and for the natural beauty of its surroundings. Located on the northern shores of breathtaking Lake Superior, Thunder Bay is home to Nanabijou (the impressive rock structure that resembles a sleeping giant), to generations of Scandinavian, Polish, and Italian Canadians, and, of course, to the Ojibwe people. It is also home to Lakehead University: an institution that is constantly reinventing itself, an institution with strong and focused leadership, and an institution with a clear sense of pride and purpose. Lakehead University is about to open Canada’s newest law school, the first in Ontario in more than thirty years, and in so doing it continues to play a key role in the success of the region’s growing and dynamic knowledge economy.
My visit was at the invitation of Brian Stevenson, Lakehead’s president and vice chancellor. The purpose was to meet with senior administration, scholars, students and local business leaders and to discuss possibilities for future partnerships … for the law school, for the research community, and, of course, for students. My quest, as always, is for the best and brightest. I was, to say the least, impressed with the vitality of the research community and with what can only be described as a very engaged and measured growth strategy. My time with the Provost, and with the VP Research, was extremely well spent. I learned much about the leading edge health research, about the commitment to sustainable resource management, and about the importance of social and aboriginal issues. We also met with members of the local business community. Long story short, there is lots of opportunity at Lakehead.
Brian and I spent one of our days together visiting Chancellor Lendley (Lynn) Black and his colleagues at the University of Minnesota at Duluth (UMD). Lakehead and UMD share common economic and social challenges and they share a common geographic space. Both universities are champions of environmental sustainability and both are committed to advancing aboriginal issues. Lakehead is a comprehensive university that has a strong environmental mandate to educate students to be aware of social and environmental responsibilities, and they lead by example – the University’s Sustainability Committee supports efforts to minimize the University’s negative impact on the environment. The University of Minnesota Duluth has Centre for Environmental Education that takes an integrated approach to environmental sustainability and engages students in the local, regional and international environmental communities. Lakehead’s new law school, which will open in September 2013, will focus on aboriginal law and on issues relating to natural resource management. The growing relationship between these two universities represents an ideal opportunity for growth and cries out for external recognition, from Fulbright and beyond.
While at UMD, Brian and I toured the National Resources Research Institute, the new Swenson College of Science and Engineering, and the Large Lakes Observatory. We also met with the entire senior management team. I met a number of fascinating people at UMD, and left with a sense that I had visited a world-class establishment. As I toured the university I met Erik Brown, the Acting Director of the Large Lakes Observatory, and was fascinated to learn that Fulbright has played a significant role in his life … but that is a matter for a future post.
In the end, I left the north country impressed with the people, enthused by their social and scientific rigour, and excited about possible partnerships. More to come.
Michael K. Hawes
 Lakehead University Strategic Plan 2010-2013. Lakehead University. Retrieved May 5,2012, from http://communications.lakeheadu.ca/strategic-plan/