Lakehead alumna Colette Lepage, left, described her journey to become a NASA engineer to Lisa Laco.
November 7, 2017 – Thunder Bay, ON
The theme of Lakehead University’s 2016/2017 Report to the Community was Partnerships and Pathways.
The CBC’s Lisa Laco hosted the annual luncheon at the Italian Cultural Centre on November 7, which featured interviews with some of the exceptional people who helped make the last year a special one.
Guests included Colette Lepage, a Lakehead alumna from Chemical Engineering who is an engineer for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and Lakehead English Professor Scott Pound with student Gavin Shields.
For many years, Lepage has been working with a multinational team of scientists and engineers on NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, the most powerful telescope ever built, at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. “It will look back in time to capture the first light after the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago,” she said.
The Chemical Engineering program at Lakehead included a challenging curriculum with group projects, public speaking, and mentoring, Lepage said.
“The very best thing about Lakehead was that you weren’t a number. Two professors in particular – Dr. Nirdosh and Dr. Puttagunta – had a big impact on me. They wanted to make you the best engineer possible,” she said.
Dr. Pound described how he and students in his third-year Life Writing class, including Gavin Shields, met with Hospice Northwest clients, volunteers, and bereaved family members, to help write their memoir.
It was a unique challenge. “There was no template for this kind of project – and we weren’t interested in bland chronological summaries,” Dr. Pound said. They wanted compelling narratives that revealed the humanity of each person – a legacy that could be passed on.
“We also hoped that these memoirs would help destigmatize the larger conversation about death and dying,” Dr. Pound said.
Shields, who is an Indigenous Learning student at Lakehead, collaborated with an elderly woman who had looked after her terminally ill husband for four years. “He had just passed away when I started interviewing her,” Shields said. “She was trying to put her life back together.”
He was moved by the way the memoir changed her perspective. “At the start of the course, she was a lady who didn’t think she had done much of importance, but she came to realize she’d had a worthwhile life,” Shields said.
The Report to the Community was a chance to celebrate the year’s other successes, including the incredible financial impact that Lakehead has on the province.
Lakehead University adds approximately $1.4 billion per year to Ontario’s gross domestic product. The annual economic impact of the University’s Thunder Bay campus on the province was $1.3 billion, while its Orillia campus contributed $122.7 million. Lakehead University employs the equivalent of 6,277 full-time employees.
“The Report to the Community is a chance to look back on the year’s successes and to celebrate everything that we have achieved,” said David Tamblyn, Chair of Lakehead University’s Board of Governors.
Dr. Brian Stevenson, Lakehead University’s President and Vice-Chancellor, said the University is dedicated to a student-centred approach that will lead to student success.
“At Lakehead University we are committed to tearing down barriers to post-secondary education and replacing them with pathways,” Dr. Stevenson said. “We do this because we believe in our students. And they believe in us.”
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Lakehead University has approximately 9,700 full-time equivalent students and 2,000 faculty and staff in 10 faculties at two campuses in Orillia and Thunder Bay, Ontario. Lakehead is a fully comprehensive university: home to Ontario’s newest Faculty of Law in 44 years, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, and faculties of Engineering, Business Administration, Health & Behavioural Sciences, Social Sciences & Humanities, Science & Environmental Studies, Natural Resources Management, Education, and Graduate Studies. Maclean’s 2018 University Rankings place Lakehead University among Canada's Top 10 primarily undergraduate universities, as well as first in Total Research Dollars, second for Citations, and third for Scholarships and Bursaries. In 2017, Research Infosource named Lakehead Research University of the Year in its category for the third consecutive year. Visit www.lakeheadu.ca.