His is a familiar and affable face throughout the Niagara College community – a fact backed up by the greetings and waves when Jordan Charron walks through the campus hallways.
Why the familiarity? Charron, the new Course-Based Project Manager for the Research & Innovation division, has held several roles on both campuses at the College, working in partnership with faculty, Associate Deans, Deans, students and internal and external stakeholders since arriving here in 2011.
He has taught in the School of Business and the School of Community Services, and has most recently been the Academic Business Manager with the Community and Health Studies Division. He also served on a two-year secondment as Manager of Enrolment and Registration.
Charron is also no stranger to the academic environment at large, having been a learner – undergraduate and postgraduate – for much of the last decade.
This year, he will complete his Doctorate in Education in Educational Leadership from Western University, a program he’s worked on since 2016. Previous to that, he earned a postgraduate certificate in Strategic Management from Harvard University Extension School (2015) and attained his Masters of Business, Sport Management from Deakin University in Australia (2008) and a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Bishop’s University (2006).
“After my EdD, that’s it,” he jokes. “It’s all very fascinating, but I’m not planning on more studying – for now anyway.”
All this education and experience for the 36-year-old has helped shape in him a broad understanding of not only Niagara College’s DNA, but also managing expectations of students, academics and community stakeholders.
“I’ve been lucky in my career here to have positions that required relationship building internally and also externally with industry partners in the community.”
Charron’s liaison and leadership acumen will be called upon in managing myriad course-based projects – a method of experiential learning that offers students the opportunity, through their course work, to collaborate with community/business partners to solve real-world challenges.
The College, in fact, has a strong history of applied education, and its current strategic vision is focused on this hands-on experience model to give students true-to-life skills in preparation for the real world.
“For our part in the Research & Innovation division, we want to help support current practices and enable the expansion of new projects,” says Charron.
As part of its mission, the R&I division interacts with hundreds of small- and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) – in various sectors like agriculture, food and beverage and advanced manufacturing – and assists with matching and managing specific real-world applied research projects with external partners and expert faculty at the College.
As examples of this course-based learning collaboration at R&I, Charron points to recent successful outcomes from programs like the Renewable Energies Technician, which saw a commercial energy audit for the Niagara Regional District Airport. The industry partner wanted help reducing their energy costs for operating their facilities, so the students, guided by professor Jeffrey Manser, conducted an on-site audit, analyzed the energy bills and suggested recommendations about the facility to the Airport partner.
Another partnership involved the Broadcast, Radio, TV & Film class, with professor William Boehlen, creating a five-minute promotional video for the Boys & Girls Club of Niagara to use in their recruitment, information, training and fundraising initiatives.
NC Horticulture professor Mary Jane Clark has also successfully incorporated applied research into her greenhouse classroom for the past few years. Most recently, her students researched optimal propagation methods for oak seedlings using the RootSmart tray. The goal of the long-term research is to grow the oak trees until they are ready to be transplanted back into the Chautauqua community in Niagara-on-the-Lake as an urban reforestation project.
And earlier this summer, students from the Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management Program conducted a number of trials during course work for a new lager for Wayne Gretzky Estates Craft Brewing.
All of these projects are meant to enhance the learning experience for students and even provide them with spin-off employment opportunities, says Charron. At the same time, community industry partners are finding real solutions to their day-to-day challenges.
“And for faculty, it’s an opportunity to add a valuable project into their learning objectives, keeping them connected to industry.”
He says along with seeing increasing interest from faculty, the demand from industry continues to grow, and Charron is enthusiastic about lending support when needed. This could include helping with curriculum integration and development, or assisting in the design of evaluation methods.
“There will be a time for Research & Innovation to be involved and times when we don’t need to be as involved – so we will just offer support to the faculty in the great work they’re doing.”
In identifying and recruiting qualified projects across College-wide programs, Charron also acts as the liaison with community partners eager for applied research help.
“Part of my first phase is going to be helping faculty define and collect metrics to celebrate the successes of the course-based projects already in the works in classrooms,” he says. “We’d like to be able to track everything so these successes can be recognized and celebrated.”
In his role, he’s looking forward to continued collaboration with the college community as a whole, while also forming new relationships.
He draws a parallel with his experience in team building in the world of sports, a passion of his and something that’s been a constant in his life, since a young age. Growing up, he played travel hockey, at times in the role of captain, inspiring his fellow teammates. He still plays in a recreational hockey league and for the past five years, has volunteered as an assistant coach for Brock University’s lacrosse team.
“It’s about bringing people together to create achievable goals… sometimes it might be to win a championship or it may be to create a cool project.”
In his spare time, when he’s not golfing, skiing or spending time with family, Charron volunteers for the community as much as possible. He was recently appointed chair of the Community Investment Panel for United Way Niagara, and he’s also a member of the Recreation Master Plan Advisory Committee for the City of St. Catharines. The Niagara native lives in St. Catharines with his golden retriever Hunter.
Jordan can be reached by email at: email@example.com