Making the grade
Kusugak gives it the old college try -- and succeeds

Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

Iqaluit ( May 31/00) - When Johnny Kusugak took the wheel at Nunavut Arctic College last March, he planned to steer the institution towards better reflecting the needs of the communities it serves.

Nearly 15 months later, Kusugak deserves a passing grade for his driving skills.

"Every day there are new challenges," said Kusugak from his office in Rankin Inlet.

"One message I was trying to bring to the table is the college belongs to the students, the college belongs to the people. We cannot forget that," he said.

The question that remained, however, was how to go about getting that message out there.

Kusugak said he had the perfect answer -- communication.

"I've worked very hard on the communication," he said.

"I try very hard to be open and available, not just to the media and not just to politicians and bureaucrats, but to the students."

Taking the opportunity to travel to communities to see the campuses and hear from students and hamlet residents whenever possible, Kusugak said the atmosphere on the campuses had changed under his open-door approach -- a benefit that was also realized in the five-year plan he spent the last year drawing up.

To act as a guiding framework for the educational institution for the first chunk of the decade, Kusugak said the plan was based on input sought from about 100 different interest groups in Nunavut.

"I think I can be proud of what I've accomplished," said Kusugak.

"All I asked for was an opportunity and it was given to me. I think I have met the challenge," he said, adding the corporate plan would be kept under wraps until it received final approval from the minister of Education and from the college's board of governors later this year.

As for the personal satisfaction he's drawn from realizing so many professional goals over the last year, Kusugak said along with enjoying the tremendous learning curve, he's always overjoyed to see students successfully complete their courses.

"The highlights are always at this time of the year at graduation, seeing the students who had a very tough year being away from family and home, to have the opportunity to close the books," said Kusugak, who graduated from his own course at the college shortly after he took the presidential reins.

"Those things I find very rewarding."