It’s graduation weekend at Providence University College and Theological Seminary in Otterburne.

Academic Provost for the school for the past three years, Dr. Nicholas Greco says he has enjoyed celebrating along with students during his 16 years as a faculty member at the school. Greco says this year, there are approximately 108 total graduates receiving their certificates and diplomas on Saturday at the Otterburne campus. He tells us why this number is higher than in past years.

“It is higher because we have the first groups of students that started our programs in downtown Winnipeg 20 months ago. There are 27 students that will graduate from the very first intakes of students. So, we're getting to see even some of the fruits of some projects that we started a number of years ago. And it's particularly exciting to see those students from Providence downtown crossing our stage in Otterburn this weekend.”

Greco says that the students who are receiving their Associate of Arts degree in Business Administration will be able to work almost anywhere in this province.

And we hear that many of them want to stay in Manitoba and contribute to Manitoban society. And so, we're looking forward to seeing where they end up and we'll certainly be following to see how we might be able to support our alumni as they continue on wherever they live in Canada.”

Looking ahead to the next school year, Greco says they will be offering several new programs including a Bachelor of Science and Environmental Science. He says Providence already has an Environmental Scientist on staff and they won’t need to build any new infrastructure.

“And because of our location here in rural southern Manitoba, we thought what a wonderful place to be able to explore the outdoors and figure out what's going on, especially in terms of environment. And this is such an important part of many of our students’ lives. They want to make sure that the environment is well taken care of and we believe that there is a Christian impulse to take care of God's creation, and so we've introduced this program so that students can get skills to be able to enter into a workplace that is very much needed, one that means being aware of the world around us and making sure that it lasts for a while.”

Greco notes that when it comes to the growth of the Providence campus both in Otterburne, but especially their Winnipeg classrooms.

“It is growing. It's not growing exactly as we expected. We had hoped to have about 1000 students downtown this year, but because of cuts that the federal government has made to the number of student visas to international students, we're expecting much fewer than that (next school year). Now we're looking to have perhaps 1/4 of that number downtown (Winnipeg). So, we're not sure how many we will have next school year.”

Greco adds, right now Providence has been allotted 37 International Students for the 2024-2025 school year. This number is significantly lower than their current number of international students, which is 461.

“So, we're obviously disappointed with the federal government's decision and we appreciate that the Manitoba government has offered us what they felt that they could. But it still means we need to do something different in terms of international undergraduate students. And so, we're shifting to new graduate level programs for international students.”

Greco says they are not going to online instruction, rather they will stay with in-person education and utilize the fact that there is no cap from IRCC (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada) for graduate education.

“So, the good news is that Providence has programs that we can offer to graduate level international students that will allow them to learn in areas like TESOL, Teaching English to Students of Other Languages as well as Educational Leadership. Those are two programs that are starting in September 2024 and January 2025 which will serve our international students, whether they decide to stay and contribute to Manitoba society or go back home and serve their home country.”

As Greco shares his optimism for what’s ahead for Providence, he also looks back on the year that was.

“It's been a wonderful school year with lots of ups and lots of downs. We grew, I think, we doubled our student numbers in the last three years, which is just an amazing thing. Our Otterburn campus is alive and well, and we're really enjoying serving students, and of course, serving the Lord as well, while we do all of that.”

2024 graduation celebrations for Providence University College and Theological Seminary will take place starting on Friday, April 19 with an afternoon tea hosted by the Alumni Relations, in the Student Life Centre, with the graduation ceremony happening Saturday, April 20 at 1pm in the Providence Gymnasium. Which will then be followed by a graduation reception starting at 3pm in the Student Life Centre, Otterburne Campus.