STU announces Frank McKenna Centre

The new centre will be launched on Nov. 13(Submitted)

St. Thomas University announced they’re launching the Frank McKenna Centre for Communications and Public Policy on Nov. 13.

More details about the centre will be announced that day. McKenna and former Prime Minister Paul Martin will both be at the launch.

But Martin isn’t the only prominent politician coming to STU that week.

“It just so happens that two days after the former Prime Minister Paul Martin is visiting campus and speaking with students, that former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney will be on campus as well,” Jeffrey Carleton, director of communications said.

Mulroney comes to STU on Nov. 15 and will speak to political science classes, which will be open to other students and the community.

He’ll be speaking on leadership issues in Canada and across the world.

Carleton says Mulroney will answer questions and there will be a reception after, with the opportunity to speak with him.

“I think that’s pretty special for any university, but especially for a smaller university like St. Thomas.”

STU is also starting a distinguished speaker series, and Martin is the first speaker.

Carleton says the centre is an important addition to the university because communications has a greater influence today on public policy than it did 25 years ago. He says the university feels students need to learn the basic skills of communications with the basis of a liberal arts education.

“It’s a potential for more programming at St. Thomas. It’s the potential for taking a degree from a more interdisciplinary approach, where you can look at having your basics in communication and combining that with subject area expertise.”

He thinks it’s a chance for STU to play up its biggest strength, its interdisciplinary approach to liberal arts education.

Carleton says public policy is relevant now because it intersects with communications. A lot of what governments, interest groups, and corporations are involved with, whether it’s issues in social justice, politics, law, etc., traces back to public policy.

“In society, there’s a greater need for public policy inputs, analysis, criticism, debate. Communications has a role to play in that as well.”

But the question remains if a liberal arts university should be moving away from academics to a more practical approach.

STU asked to name the centre after McKenna last year. McKenna was the Premier of New Brunswick from 1987 to 1997. He is now the deputy chairman of TD Bank.

Carleton says McKenna was the perfect person to name the centre after because of his government in the ’80s and ’90s, which held communications and public policy at the forefront.

Christine Tausig Ford, vice-president and COO of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, spoke at the Global Trends in Higher Education Conference, at STU on the weekend. She quoted Andrew Delbanco’s book College: What it Was, Is, and Should Be.

“Universities should teach you how to read critically, write well, and consider evidence when no presented with a claim. Universities can no longer prepare graduates for specific careers or jobs, when those jobs are just as likely to change or disappear in five years. And we’ll all have to reinvent ourselves.”

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