An exploration of Western’s affiliate colleges
By Dan Perry
Brescia, Huron and King’s — Western’s affiliate
colleges — inhabit a border region, both within and outside
of Western — a fact that carries positive and negative
“The problem is that there are distinct visions between
Western and affiliates — we are smaller liberal arts
colleges, with the emphasis on undergraduate teaching. We’re
not a research-intensive university,” said King’s
University College Principal Gerald Killan.
“The vision at Western — their direction — is
controlling the size of undergraduate [programs] and really
emphasizing research-intensive graduate programming,” he
“Our faculty do research, but they’re keenly invested
in their teaching and in teaching excellence,” said Huron
University College Principal Ramona Lumpkin.
Greg Moran, Western’s VP-academic and provost, said
there are a few areas where the affiliates’ and Western’s
directions have historically conflicted.
Moran added that there will naturally be academic friction
concerning what schools or approaches should be used to support
a discipline, pointing to the independent departments of psychology
at King’s and Huron as an example.
“When [friction] happens in a department, it’s
resolved by normal collegial process within the department — it’s
less possible when it’s an independent department. In
most cases, those have been well-resolved.
“It’s an educational family, and we have somewhat
different aspirations. Our missions are relatively independent,” Moran
added. “Some conflict is inevitable.”
As affiliate colleges have their own executive boards, admit
their own students, and hire and retain their own faculty,
Lumpkin said there is always a bit of conflict surrounding
the issue of autonomy.
“There can be tension; we’re part of the larger
whole. We always have a strong measure of autonomy and are
part of Western,” she explained. “At times, we
have to negotiate that boundary and our relationship to Western.
“Western has its own strategic plan, which takes Western
in a direction that’s good for Western. Huron has to
be careful we’re not taken in a direction that doesn’t
fit our mission,” Lumpkin added.
Academic frictions aside, Moran said on the whole, he can
think of no negative aspect to affiliate colleges. “They
make [Western] very diverse,” he said. “This allows
us to have a greater mix of students with different needs and
Brescia University College Principal Theresa Topic agreed,
saying the partnership is mutually beneficial.
“The Brescia student experience with Western is usually
a very satisfactory one. They have access to all services,
and have no problem with the ‘double identity’.
“There are always some frictions; right now, the independence
of our academic program is under scrutiny. There is room for
variability in teaching, in content, in evaluation, and in
assignments, but we all work to ensure that we resolve it successfully.
And always, the number 1 issue is the students, ensuring that
they have an optimum learning experience.”
Because of the focus on teaching, many Western students can
be heard saying affiliate students have less rigorous academic
“The Senate and provost make sure the quality of our
degrees are first-rate, and we’re held accountable,” Killan
said, noting smaller class sizes and access to professors is
If there is little difference in academics, then why would
a student choose to go to an affiliate college? All three affiliate
principals pointed to class size as one of the biggest draws
“Some thrive in the larger, anonymous Western campus,
and others prefer a smaller-scale environment with face-to-face
contact,” Topic said.
Moran agreed, saying affiliates attract students who want
to be in a liberal arts education community, and enjoy the
benefits of a research-intensive university.
“My sense of Huron is that it’s more challenging;
a faculty member can challenge a smaller class more than a
large class — but that’s my bias,” Lumpkin
“It always goes back to individual fit; one of the things
we say is you have to work hard to get lost at Huron,” she
said, adding some students thrive under a faculty member they
get to know.
“I think often, main campus students have only a hazy
notion of the role of affiliates, or the activities of affiliate
students, and I think any sharing of information about the
affiliates is of great value,” Topic added.