Centenaries for Extension and Law

(Edmonton) The faculties of law and extension are gearing up to celebrate their centenaries this year.

The Faculty of Extension will begin rolling out its calendar of events this month with a 1912-style internal party for staff and guests and will continue with a list of events throughout 2012 underscoring the faculty’s hallmarks: lifelong learning and community engagement.

According to extension’s dean, Katy Campbell, there is a lot to be proud of. “You look back and think, ‘Wow, we were doing that then? But a lot of it was simply responding to the needs of the people.”

Extension’s impressive legacy to Alberta includes founding CKUA Radio and what has become the Banff Centre, as well as building one of the most progressive distance and lifetime learning centres in the country.

The Department of Extension was established in 1912 as a direct outgrowth of founding president Henry Marshall Tory’s vision for the U of A as “the most practical of all institutions,” the duty of which was to “uplift the whole people.”

“The mission of the university was to find out what the people needed and then use its resources to bring that knowledge or services to the people wherever they lived,” says extension historian Walter Archer.

And bring knowledge to the people it did. Under the department’s first director, A.E. Ottewell, professors of the day would reach out to remote parts of the province with their travelling libraries, “magic lantern” shows and public lectures. The department jumped into radio in the 1920s, using its new radio station, CKUA, to broadcast lectures and classical music programming to remote corners of the province.

“Extension gave us this enormous boost at a time when nobody was thinking about the whole notion of adult education or access to university-level knowledge,” says U of A president Indira Samarasekera. “It was just so ahead of its time.”

Since 1912, the extension faculty has never forgotten its mission, says Samarasekera. As the only continuing education centre in Canada with research faculty, it continues to challenge and expand traditional models of education.

“Extension is the one group on campus thinking about distance-learning methods that are oriented towards reaching a broader audience,” says Samarasekera. “Other faculties are focused on the existing audience. We need to reach not just Albertans but, increasingly, underserved communities such as the North, where First Nations people don’t want to, or can’t, leave to pursue post-secondary education.”

The law faculty will launch its centenary next fall, with a gala dinner during Alumni Weekend in September at the Shaw Conference Centre. Beverley McLachlin, chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada and a gold medalist in the U of A’s law class of 1968, will attend the event as guest speaker. There will be a special convocation for the law faculty in June 2013, along with an international conference called The Future of Law School in September 2013.

“I will also be working with the Law Students’ Association and other student groups to create opportunities for students to play an important role in our centenary celebrations,” says Dean of Law Philip Bryden.

Western Canada’s oldest law school was established in 1912 to respond not only to a growing demand for legal training, but to provide consistency in a profession that had lacked sufficient regulation in the new frontier province. Over the years, it has become a leader for law education in Canada.

Today the faculty has 500 students and more than 30 full-time faculty members, among them nationally and internationally renowned scholars and leaders in legal research.

Stay tuned to the websites of the extension and law faculties for more information on events over the next 18 months.