Seneca Au Large

Seneca will set its sights no lower than the horizon.

Renewing Seneca

The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly disrupted and damaged the lives of so many, causing havoc as it forced all of us, around the world, to change the way we do virtually everything.

At Seneca, we mourn the loss of lives, the untold economic and social damage, the abandoned or postponed dreams and aspirations.

Yet we also believe it our responsibility to take the occasion of this extraordinary time — and in some cases the unprecedented fast-forwarding of trends we had already seen emerging in our economy, society and postsecondary education — to renew Seneca.

We call our comprehensive renewal initiative Seneca Au Large, words that are familiar to the Seneca community as meaning To the Horizon. Seneca always aims no lower than the horizon.

We launched Au Large in the early weeks of the pandemic. Even then, it was evident that with our changed way of working and our more constrained financial circumstances, we had both an opportunity and an obligation to plan how we emerge a stronger and thriving Seneca, focused on our core mission of providing a great polytechnic postsecondary education.

Through consultations, meetings and submissions, hundreds of Seneca employees contributed their ideas for a renewed Seneca. Students were also consulted, sharing their learning experiences and ideas for the future.

Suggestions ranged from large, complicated, multi-area proposals to more modest propositions. In some cases, the changes were made immediately. For others, the implementation is engaging large groups and multiple departments.

Seneca’s renewal through Au Large is built on three pillars. Building an equitable Seneca. Building a sustainable Seneca. And building a more virtual Seneca.

Building an equitable Seneca

Educational institutions play a special role in building a more equitable world. We are many things — employer, teacher, gathering place, social venue, community space — and we have unique opportunities to model examples by what we do, how we do it and the environment we create for teaching and learning.

An Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee has been established to advise the President on policies and procedures to build an equitable Seneca, free of systemic racism and bias.

The Committee is focused on three initial tasks:

  • Anti-bias and inclusivity programming for all current and new employees, with similar programming for students
  • A voluntary census to establish a database on the diversity of Seneca’s students and employees
  • An audit of admissions, retention and disciplinary policies and procedures for students and of hiring, promotion and disciplinary policies and procedures for employees to identify and remove any systemic biases

In addition, we are revising curriculum to incorporate citizenry, intercultural relations, ethics and inclusivity and assess new programs with this lens. Through Advancement, we are encouraging the establishment of bursaries and scholarships to support racialized and minority students.

Sustainable Seneca

Seneca’s commitment to sustainability can be found everywhere: in academic programs, in services, in our physical spaces and in our recently earned silver STARS rating from the Association of Sustainability in Higher Education, measuring the sustainability performance of postsecondary institutions worldwide. More needs to be done.

A permanent Office of Sustainability is being established to build partnerships across Seneca to advance the awareness and practice of sustainability. Working with the Sustainable Seneca Committee, a formal sustainability plan will be developed to improve our performance across operations and academic areas.

A more virtual Seneca

In March 2020, COVID-19 forced us to move our academic, service and administrative activities online. In a matter of a week, we had no choice but to create a virtual Seneca.

While we have no ambition to become a completely online institution, we will be retaining innovative and flexible virtual approaches where they meet one or more of three tests: improving service, offering more flexibility and choice or creating more efficient services.

The more virtual initiatives include:

  • Post-pandemic, more programs and courses will be delivered online and in hybrid format to increase options for students and to expand markets where Seneca programs can be offered locally and abroad
  • Expanded supports for online teaching and learning will continue, including training for students and faculty and additional resources to support faculty development 
  • The innovations in service delivery, such as moving all transactional services online while offering advisory-type services through virtual options, will continue
  • A cross-institutional advisory committee has been established to help create a remote working policy that balances the needs of employees and Seneca
  • A rethinking of our spaces is underway to make better use of our campuses, reflecting the move to more virtual program and course delivery, service delivery options and remote working
  • A suite of immersive learning experiences through extended reality applications is expanding across all faculties

Continuous learning; continuous renewal

If the pandemic has taught us anything it is don’t take anything for granted.

Au Large is not a one-off project. The transformative renewal of Seneca will continue as the world around us evolves. In our planning, three new ways of assessing new initiatives, and existing practices, have been added to the lens of our strategic direction and financial viability: equity, sustainability and more virtual.

This is not overnight change. We are embracing new approaches and perspectives and, in some cases, transforming decades-old ways of operating.  

Yet we change because we want to, not just because we must. Innovation has been the hallmark of Seneca’s approach to teaching and learning since our founding. That is how we thrive.

Seneca will be more virtual, more flexible, more innovative, more ambitious.

We will be a more equitable and more sustainable Seneca, demonstrating respect for each other and the world we help steward.

Unchanged is our focus and passion for providing a great polytechnic education in career- and profession-based programs for our students, delivered by expert faculty and supported by great staff.

To the horizon.

Comments and questions are welcome: please address them to Seneca Au Large.