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By Eva Lam

Students don’t come to the G. Raymond Chang School to learn macram? — and Anita Shilton is just fine with that.

No offense to basket weavers, but the new dean of Ryerson’s School of Continuing Education said it is precisely the emphasis on timely, applicable programs that makes the school the best of its kind in Canada. “(Our students) are working people generally and they need a lot of flexibility,” she said, calling the Chang School “a school for real people.

“They need immediate relevance.They need innovative programs that help them bring more value to their workplaces so they can have increased opportunities for themselves and for their families. “That’s what we specialize in, and I think that’s what makes us unique.”

Shilton, who began her five-year term as Dean on Jan. 30, hopes to ensure that the Chang School, which has more than 64,000 registrants annually and offers more than 70 certificate programs, continues to be the leader in Canada. Shilton, replacing former Dean Marilynn Booth, cited the bridging programs for new immigrants and internationally educated professionals as an example of the Chang School’s “very innovative approach” and added that programs are often done in partnership with the municipal, provincial and federal governments.

“It’s this collaboration with community, faculty, employers and government partners at every level (that) strengthen our offering, increase our reach, and deliver what most helps people as they seek to integrate themselves into the Canadian economy of today and tomorrow,” she said.

Shilton already has a wealth of real-world experience behind her.She worked on international development issues throughout the ’70s before spending the ’80s working in the public sector. At the municipal level, she was involved with the integration of heritage language classes into schools in the Toronto District School Board.

At the provincial level, she was involved in public education programs on issues such as the determinants of health and how to improve equitable access to the health care system for multicultural communities. Shilton, who is bilingual, was also involved in the implementation of the French Language Services Act. Most recently, she worked in the private sector with some of Canada’s largest and most respected financial corporations, both internally and externally, as a consultant.With companies such as Mercer Delta Consulting and Canada Trust, she worked primarily in organizational and leadership development, helping business leaders to consider how “their articulated values (are) reflected in the way they run their business.

“And that’s what we’re trying to do with the Chang School,” Shilton said, listing some of the school’s values as accessibility, flexibility, relevance and teamwork. Shilton is also committed to being in touch with the students.

CESAR President Jeremy Salter said Shilton has promised an open-door policy and has already responded to students’ concerns. When Salter raised the CE students’ issue with attending classes littered with trash, Shilton immediately ordered about 120 garbage and recycling receptacles.

Ryerson President Sheldon Levy said all the good things he’d heard about Shilton have proven true. “She is someone who is able to be both a strategic thinker, good in public… a good colleague. I think she is going to be a great, great part of the community.” Shilton recognizes that the world is changing rapidly, at both the economic and social level. She draws from personal experience, and added that she “struggles with every new technology I have to learn.

“I also know that in order to survive in my different jobs that I have had, I had to learn really quickly and I would look to colleagues and I would look to continuing education opportunities to help me evolve.”

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