Connecting Lake Simcoe's Community

Lakehead University and Couchiching Institute sign new partnership agreement 
Aug. 9, 2013 – Orillia, ON
Today, at the annual Summer Conference of the Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs, Lakehead University formalized a learning partnership with the prestigious Couchiching Institute, Canada’s oldest and most recognized public affairs forum.
The new partnership began with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that was signed by Lakehead President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Brian Stevenson and Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs President Dr. Rima Berns-McGown.
The MOU signing took place at Geneva Park, on the shores of Lake Couchiching, where the three and a half day annual Summer Conference served this year as a forum for open, non-partisan discussion about the significant historical and contemporary issues that affect the relations between Indigenous Peoples and Canada.
“Lakehead University is proud to collaborate with the Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs, a Canadian leader in providing opportunities for meaningful exchange of ideas on domestic and international issues,” said Lakehead’s Dr. Stevenson, who attended the conference. “Not only will this new relationship further our University’s commitment to civic engagement and the sharing of knowledge, it will offer Lakehead students new and innovative community service learning opportunities.”
The MOU outlines how the University and Institute will collaborate for mutual benefit. Lakehead will work closely with Couchiching to design learning opportunities for students, including participation at the annual Summer Conference. In addition to becoming a corporate member of the Institute, Lakehead will organize roundtable sessions in the community to encourage civic engagement and discussion on significant public policy issues.
“The Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs is delighted to deepen its roots in Simcoe County through its relationship with Lakehead University,” said Dr. Berns-McGown. “For 82 years we have held our signature annual Summer Conference on the shores of Lake Couchiching and this new bond between our two institutions strengthens our commitment to civic discourse, knowledge transfer, and community engagement on a year-round basis. We look forward to playing a more active role not only within the academic community but in the region as a whole, broadening our circle for meaningful, engaging conversation on issues that matter.”
Several Lakehead faculty members and students participated in the conference, including student Lisa Phillips, who said the experience was an extraordinary opportunity for her. “As a member of a First Nation community, this conference is especially meaningful. It has helped me learn how to navigate my two cultures, and more importantly, has provided the opportunity to envision a better nation, where all Canadians work together, respect each other and understand each other’s issues.”
Lakehead University is also involved with this year’s conference through its Lakehead Orillia Centre – A Gathering Place for Arts, Culture and Community. The new Centre has offered several interesting and creative programs this summer, including an Aboriginal Awareness workshop and an Aboriginal Sweat Lodge experience with members of the Rama First Nation. The Centre also supported the involvement of local First Nations communities at the conference by facilitating a display by local artists and organizations.
Lakehead University is a comprehensive university with a reputation for a multidisciplinary teaching approach that emphasizes collaborative learning and independent critical thinking. Over 8,700 students and 1,850 faculty and staff learn and work at campuses located in Orillia, and Thunder Bay, Ontario, which is home to the west campus of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. Lakehead University promotes innovative research that supports local and regional socio-economic needs. In Orillia, development continues on building a campus that meets Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) standards. For more information about Lakehead University, visit
Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs, Canada’s oldest and most recognized public affairs forum, is a not-for-profit, volunteer-based organization whose mission is to engage Canadians of all ages and deepen their understanding of domestic and international issues, through open and inclusive discussion, without advocacy or partisanship. Couchiching builds on its history and commitment to a balanced perspective to inform Canadians who care deeply about public issues and to create an environment that leads to a more vigorous civil society.


Photo information: Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs President Dr. Rima Berns-McGown and Lakehead University President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Brian Stevenson display their newly-signed Memorandum of Understanding documents following a signing at the Institute's annual Summer Conference at Geneva Park.

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