Friday, August 22, 2014

Front Row Seats to the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final

Over the Labour Day weekend university faculty, staff and students will have the opportunity to see the world’s top triathletes as they compete in the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final.

The City of Edmonton is hosting the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final from Aug. 26 – Sept. 1, 2014. More than 6,000 athletes, support teams, officials, family and friends from more than 130 countries will be visiting our city over the long weekend. The race grand stand is in Hawrelak Park and race routes run along and through the north end of campus showcasing the university to millions of television and online viewers, and giving us a front row seat to the events.

University of Alberta buildings will remain open during this time and foot traffic across North Campus will be largely unaffected. However, road closures will have an impact on vehicular and bicycle traffic getting to and from campus. Please check race times and the maps before you leave and remember to plan for extra time to get to your destination. Route details, parking and shuttle information are all available on the ITU World Triathlon website. Campus road and parking closures are listed below. More information is available on University of Alberta Facilities and Operations' site.

Please feel free to come out to cheer on the athletes as they pass our campus. Let’s help the city makes this a spectacular event.

Road closures

The City of Edmonton will close and barricade roads for the race routes from Aug. 29 - Sept. 1 including periodic closures of 111 Street, 90 Avenue, 87 Avenue, Groat Road, Saskatchewan Drive and Emily Murphy Park Road.

Please remember to check race times and maps before you leave and plan for extra time to get to your destination.

Parking and Shuttle Service

There will be no public access to parking lots 89 and E during the triathlon, and limited access to lots U and N. Parking Services will notify affected permit holders and advise them of alternate parking options. The City of Edmonton will be running a Park & Ride service at the University of Alberta.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Grants 3.0 Launched

The advancement of knowledge through the investigation of novel ideas and the application of knowledge for the betterment of our world is a fundamental responsibility of universities. Faculty members need to be supported with infrastructure and administrative tools that allow them to carry out this important work. With that in mind, we are pleased to announce that the University of Alberta launched Grants 3.0 on August 18. This powerful grant management tool is a major upgrade to the Researcher Home Page and will be a great help to University of Alberta researchers in managing grant funding.

Researcher Home Page is an online tool that enables faculty members to track expenditures in their grants. This improved self-serve resource is the culmination of more than a year of software development, several years of experience with the previous version (Grants 2.0) and the incorporation of valuable feedback from users. The result is a tool that is simpler to use with several useful new features. For example, faculty members will be able to initiate research proposals online, directly from their Researcher Home Page.  As well, they will be able to monitor their requests for new research projects online with the new Grants Life Cycle feature, in which completion of each stage for setting up a project is displayed in a clear diagram that includes completion dates. Similar easy-to-use online features are also available for amendments to existing projects.

The upgrades to Researcher Home Page are designed to enable faculty members to spend less time on grant administration and more time on their research. It will also further streamline and automate procedures in the Research Services Office. This aligns with the University of Alberta’s goal of efficient administration, the third point of its four-point Action Plan.

The Grants system – which enables the combination of pre-award activities for research grants with post-award financial management in one platform – is a large component of the university’s financial system. We are seeing the benefits of this software in a number of areas. Earlier this year, the Auditor General issued one of the best reports the University of Alberta has received. This financial management system has resulted in better accountability to funders, our board of governors and the people of Alberta.  We believe the system will be further enhanced with Grants 3.0.

We encourage faculty members and other users to watch for information and resources on how to maximize use of the new Researcher Home Page via email and on the RSO website.

Lorne A Babiuk      
Vice-President (Research) 

Mike MacGregor
Vice-Provost and AVP (Information Technology)

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Falling Walls UAlberta: Promote your research and win a trip to Berlin

The University of Alberta is proud to host and to invite you to its inaugural Falling Walls Lab. Falling Walls is an international research competition developed in Berlin, where young academics from all fields of study have the opportunity to present their ideas to a panel of distinguished judges in a Dragons' Den-style competition. Participants are given three minutes to explain their idea, discovery or research project. The winner of the Alberta competition earns the chance to travel to Germany to participate in the Falling Walls international finale.

Only 20 locations from around the world have been invited to participate in the Falling Walls Lab competition. The fact that the U of A is on the list is a testament to the quality, passion and talent of our researchers and thinkers. Graduate students, post-docs and academics under the age of 35 are encouraged to apply. The application deadline is Aug. 25, 2014.

About the Falling Walls Lab

​​UAlberta’s Lab will showcase the quality, passion and talent of Alberta's next generation of research leaders and innovative thinkers. On Sep. 25, upwards of 20 U of A finalists ​will ​present their idea, discovery or research to a distinguished panel of judges from academia, business and government. The grand prize is a trip to Germany to participate in the Falling Walls international finale​, including air travel, accommodation and a ticket to the international Falling Walls Conference on Nov. 9.

Who can apply

Academics under the age of 35 from all fields of study, including graduate students, post docs, researchers, and scholars are all invited to apply. The only requirement is that applicants have innovative ideas, research projects, entrepreneurial initiatives or social initiatives that could break down walls or improve society.

​​Applications and deadline

The application form is online and quick to complete. The deadline is Aug. 25. Semi-finalists will be chosen by a UAlberta selection committee and invited to a presentation training session on Saturday, Sep. 20  from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The session will conclude with participants presenting their idea to the selection committee. Up to 20 finalists will be invited back to participate at Falling Walls UAlberta on Sep. 25 from 6 to 8:30 p.m.

​​IP protection | Stage of idea/project

Presentations should be high-level and free of confidential details. Presenters must have a key role in the idea or project. Permission must be obtained if the idea/project is not theirs alone. Presentations should be simple: highlight the problem being addressed and the vision or proposed solution. Ideas can be a project in progress, one already completed or an idea under development.

​​Meet the jury

​​Falling Walls UAlberta event jury: Richard Fedorak and Jillian Buriak (University of Alberta), Dan Rizzoli (acting deputy minister, Innovation ​and Advanced Education, Government of Alberta), Cory Janssen (entrepreneur and University of Alberta alumnus), Zainul Mawji (vice president operations ​and strategy, TELUS) and Paula Simons (Edmonton Journal).

​​Berlin’s jury will be lead by Professor Carl-Henrik Heldin, Chairman of the Board of the Nobel Foundation, and will be co-chaired by Dr. Martin Sonnenschein, Managing Director Central Europe at A.T. Kearney and Founding Partner of the Falling Walls Lab. Other jury members will include representatives from highly regarded universities from across the globe, members of industry, the media, and internationally focused political organizations. A complete list of jury members can be found here.

Visit the U of A Falling Walls Lab website for more details including videos of the Berlin Lab, a list of previous lab presentations and videos of Berlin’s past winners.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Advisory Review Committee for the VP University Relations

Vice-President Debra Pozega Osburn has advised President Indira Samarasekera that she would like to stand for a second term of office.  In consultation with the Chair of the Board of Governors, Mr. Doug Goss, President Samarasekera has asked that an Advisory Review Committee for Vice-President (University Relations) be struck. This process has been initiated and the committee will be finalized on August 15, 2014. Details, as they are confirmed, will be placed on the President’s website  along with the position description for the Vice-President (University Relations).

UAPPOL provides members of the university community the opportunity to contribute to the process. Individuals are welcome to express their views on current issues, leadership, and future direction of the Office of the Vice-President (University Relations). An anonymized summary of the feedback will be provided to Dr. Pozega Osburn during the review process. Dr. Samarasekera invites you to submit your comments and/or suggestions by 4:30 pm, September 5, 2014, to:

President Indira Samarasekera
c/o Catherine Swindlehurst, Secretary to the Advisory Review Committee
2-24 South Academic Building
University of Alberta
Phone:  (780) 492-9592  Fax:  (780) 492-9265  Email:

All submissions shall be in writing and must include a written or email signature.  Non-tenured faculty and staff may request that their submission be passed to the committee anonymously.

Responsibility for the administration of the review process is housed in the Office of the President. Please feel free to contact Catherine Swindlehurst should you have any questions regarding the review process.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Announcement regarding VP (Advancement) O'Neil Outar

I write to announce that Vice-President (Advancement) O'Neil Outar has accepted the position of senior associate dean and director of development for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and will be leaving the University of Alberta as of August 31, 2014. In his new position, O’Neil will lead the fundraising enterprise for the largest of Harvard’s seven faculties; the Faculty of Arts and Sciences includes Harvard College, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Applied Sciences, and Continuing Education, as well as libraries, museums, and athletics.

Since his arrival in 2010, O'Neil has shown tremendous leadership in organizing and professionalizing the U of A’s first Advancement portfolio. During his tenure, the U of A has raised more than half a billion dollars. A single-year record was set in 2011-2012 with $163 million raised.

Record numbers of alumni donors and volunteers are now engaged with the university through a variety of strategies and initiatives, including the “Do Great Things” campaign, Venture Mentoring Service, and several new alumni outreach programs. During O’Neil’s tenure, alumni engagement has increased by more than 40 per cent. A renewed Alumni Association Charter is in place and the impact of our alumni in the broader community has been powerfully captured through the Alumni Impact Survey released in September 2013. Under O’Neil’s leadership, the Advancement team has won numerous awards from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education for work ranging from “Together We Can”—the U of A’s most recent institutional fundraising video—to the case for support for the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services, to numerous articles, design features, and photographs produced for our alumni magazine, New Trail.

O’Neil has also successfully implemented new administrative systems within Advancement to better allocate resources, inform goals, and measure outcomes. These have been, and will continue to be, instrumental in setting and charting the course for the U of A’s next major fundraising campaign. Most important, he has created an integrated, sustainable, and successful organization of talented Advancement professionals across the university whose work will continue to build a strong and diversified funding and advocacy base for the university well into the future.

Upon O’Neil’s departure, Colm Renehan, current Associate Vice-President (Office of University Development), will take on the role of Interim Vice-President (Advancement), subject to approvals. As AVP, Colm has been responsible for co-ordinating university-wide priorities, managing outreach to leading individual donors, and overseeing major gifts, as well as annual and planned giving. Colm has 25 years of experience in advancement. Prior to coming to the U of A, Colm served as Vice-President for Advancement at Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass., and before that held senior fundraising portfolios at MIT. He holds a bachelor degree in social science from University College in Dublin, two master’s degrees—one in social work from Temple University and the second in management from Lesley University—and a PhD in higher education administration from Boston College.

In closing, I wish to thank O'Neil Outar for creating a "best in class" Advancement portfolio, one that has attracted a great team and garnered external recognition. I am grateful to O'Neil for putting in place the scaffolding on which the U of A can continue to build and escalate its fundraising and alumni relations enterprise. My congratulations to O'Neil on his new position at Harvard, and on behalf of all of the members of the U of A community, I extend our best wishes for his future success.

Indira V. Samarasekera
President and Vice-Chancellor

Friday, July 11, 2014

President Samarasekera's Weekly Bulletin—July 11, 2014

This week, I had the opportunity to sit down with the 2014-2015 executive teams of the Students’ Union and Graduate Students’ Association. At each meeting, I was pleased to meet both the newly elected members as well as welcome former members back in their new roles. In both cases, we launched productive discussion of our priorities for the coming year and I look forward to meeting again over the course of the next 12 months.

In general, I spent the week meeting with colleagues from both the university and other institutions to work on current initiatives and prepare plans for the upcoming academic year.

The university also received two pieces of good news this week. First, let me congratulate the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry for passing with tremendous success a very demanding peer review accreditation process for the MD program. Led jointly by the Committee on Accreditation of Canadian Medical Schools (CACMS) and the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), the review found that our MD program complies with all 132 accreditation standards; as a result, the program earned an unqualified eight-year accreditation. My thanks to FoMD administration, faculty, staff and students whose efforts ensured that this process ended so successfully. I would like to especially commend Dean Doug Miller for his leadership. He has been named the new chair of CACMS and is now the Canadian member on the U.S. Liaison Committee on Medical Education.

The U of A’s Protective Services (UAPS) also received a major commendation this week, although of a different order. NAIT has contracted UAPS’s services to manage its security division for an initial term of one year. NAIT reached out to the U of A because of the quality of professionalism and customer service our protective services provide. This partnership represents a new source of revenue for the university and is a testament to the high regard in which Bill Mowbray, director of UAPS, and his organization are held within Campus Alberta’s security community.

Over the next few weeks, I will be travelling to South Asia where I’ll be participating in a review committee for the Institute for Technology (Bombay). Like many of you, I will be taking some vacation and am excited to have the chance to visit my mother and family and friends in Sri Lanka. During my absence, I will take a break from the weekly bulletin but will resume writing again later in August.

Until then,


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Digital Learning Update

In spring 2012, President Samarasekera established a digital learning visioning committee in order to determine how the University of Alberta fit into the post-secondary digital learning landscape and to seek opportunities for growth. From that report, the Digital Learning Pilots: Research & Development Project Committee (DLP: R&D) was formed in January 2013 to implement its vision, with a focus on managing a select number of MOOC and blended classroom pilots that would “offer the highest quality digital learning environment to enhance in-class experience and create a strong online learning presence."

Since it began its work, DLP: R&D has managed the production of MOOCs and blended courses and significantly strengthened the U of A’s national and international leadership in the field of digital learning. The committee not only led the creation, launch, and implementation of U of A’s first MOOC (Dino 101) and a series of core blended courses in the Faculty of Education, but also established innovations in digital learning pedagogy and the field of automated assessment, developed a MOOC business model, contracted partnerships with Udacity and Coursera to provide large-scale IT infrastructure to deliver the courses, and resolved many technical, procedural and policy issues that arise when open courses are delivered, such as registration, tuition, course credit, copyright, and proctoring exams.

Outcomes indicate that Dino 101 and its associated on-campus courses, Paleo 200 and 201, have performed very well, with excellent participation and completion rates.   Pilots of blended courses developed and tested a selection of pedagogical strategies for both online and face-to-face portions of the courses, as well as various types of course design and delivery models (e.g., courses that were team taught, media intensive, more practical than theoretical, or had high enrollment). RLP: R&D also conducted research into both professor and student experience teaching and learning in a blended classroom.

Throughout its work, DLP: R&D has constantly evolved to better manage and deliver digital learning at the U of A. It has now successfully fulfilled its mandate and has recently been disbanded. Three entities are the natural outgrowth of its activities.


First, in May 2013, the Provost’s Digital Learning Committee (PDLC) was established to capture and translate the innovations and outcomes being achieved by the DLP: R&D throughout the broader teaching and learning community across campus. Through the PDLC, close collaborations have been built and will continue with the Centre for Teaching and Learning, Information Services and Technology, as well as other digital learning experts across the academy. A successful conference on blended learning was hosted by PDLC earlier this year.  Funding put in place for PDLC formed the basis of a competitive seed funding program, similar to the Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund, targeted to blended learning.  This has resulted in nine awards being distributed in the first year of the program.


The second major outgrowth of the DLP: R&D committee’s work is the recent launch of a U of A not-for-profit spin-off, Onlea. This company has been formed for two main reasons. First, while online delivery platforms such as Coursera and Udacity are ideally positioned to market and host large scale online learning experiences, their core business and expertise is not founded in advanced pedagogies or technical production of learning content and objects. And, second, through the pilot projects undertaken by DLP: R&D, it is clear that members of the committee have developed this desired technical and systems expertise and now have an opportunity to provide these services to institutions across the globe.

Several international institutions have already expressed significant interest in accessing U of A expertise and services. However, providing these services on a global scale falls outside our core mission and current funding model. As a result, Onlea has been established by four founding members with an equal interest in the corporation: Jennifer Chesney (Associate Vice-President, University Digital Strategy, University Relations), Glen Loppnow (Associate Dean, Learning and Innovation, Faculty of Science), Jonathan Schaeffer (Dean, Faculty of Science), and the U of A. Onlea will be the sole source provider for an initial three-year service contract with the U of A.

Onlea has been created with the participation of the founding members as per U of A policy and procedure, faculty agreement guidelines, and conflict-of-interest protocols. Portions of the budget that were already allocated to DLP: R&D for the production of digital learning experiences will now be allocated to the service contract.

Digital Learning Oversight Committee

A new oversight committee—the third offspring of the DLP: R&D—is now being formed, charged with the responsibility for setting the vision and direction of the university’s overall digital learning strategy.  It will also vet, prioritize, and recommend for funding any U of A proposals to create online and blended courses through the services of Onlea.  The oversight committee will be co-chaired by Deputy Provost Olive Yonge and Associate Vice-provost (Academic Programs and Instruction) Robert Luth.

My thanks to all of the members of DLP: R&D for their tremendous work and leadership over the last two years. Through much time and effort, you have helped to move several important initiatives forward and set the standard of excellence in digital learning experiences. Thank you.

Carl Amrhein
Provost and Vice-President (Academic)

Friday, July 4, 2014

President Samarasekera's Weekly Update - July 4, 2014

I mentioned last week that I would use this week’s bulletin to update you on some of the major initiatives and projects undertaken by Vice-President (Facilities and Operations) Don Hickey’s portfolio over the last year. Many of their efforts are highly visible across campus. I've watched with interest the dramatic evolution of the Physical Activity and Wellness Centre nearing completion on the corner of 114 Street and 87 Avenue. The PAW Centre is a joint effort of the University of Alberta, the Students’ Union, the Graduate Students’ Association, the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, and private philanthropy and just one example of several partnerships that lie behind the construction of new facilities on U of A’s campuses. Other ongoing or recently completed examples include the Camrose Performing Arts Centre, a partnership with the City of Camrose, Camrose County and Augustana Faculty; the upcoming installation of an Islamic garden within the Devonian Botanic Garden with the Aga Khan University; the Medical Isotope and Cyclotron Facility with Alberta Health Services, National Resources Canada, and Advanced Cyclotron Systems; and the Innovation Centre for Engineering (ICE) with the Faculty of Engineering.

Increasing the number of student residences has also been a main priority of the U of A and thus of Facilities and Operations over recent years. Many studies have shown us that living on campus increases students’ academic success and co-curricular engagement, so our long-term goal is to provide space for 25 per cent of full-time undergraduate and graduate students. In the last year, two residential projects were completed in the East Campus Village and the next stage of development in that region of campus is underway. A new women’s residence is also being built in collaboration with St. Joseph’s College with an anticipated completion date in fall 2015.

Building and operating U of A’s facilities to high environmental standards continues to be both a major priority and achievement for the Facilities and Operations team. The Camrose Performing Arts Centre, for example, has been awarded Four Green Globes and features the largest photovoltaic array in Canada. In 2013-2014, the highly successful Energy Management Program—in place since 1975—was reborn as the Envision Program.  Since the inception of the EMP, the university has saved $288 million and reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 2.3 million tonnes.   The new Envision Program includes plans to incorporate renewable energy generation strategies, such as photovoltaic, solar thermal heating, and possibly, geo-thermal. The aim is to continue reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 30,000 tonnes a year.

In addition to building and operating facilities, Don Hickey’s team has led the process of amending the Long Range Develop Plan for both South and North Campus. Don also led the proposal for creating a land trust approved at last month’s Board of Governors meeting. In this proposal—as in all of the portfolio’s efforts—the aim is to create and implement ideas and planning that sustains and facilitates the core mission of the university as well as the academic and research success of students and faculty.

I’d like to close this week with a warm welcome to new faculty members and deans who began appointments with the U of A on July 1. We are delighted that you have chosen to join the U of A and look forward to working with you in the years to come.

Until next week,


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Dean Selection Committee, Faculty of Engineering - Call for Consultation

Dr. David Lynch has announced that he will step down as Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, ending his term effective June 30, 2015. In accordance with GFC regulations, a Dean Selection Committee has been established.

It is my pleasure to announce to you the members of the 2014-2015 Dean Selection Committee, Faculty of Engineering. Please find the committee membership list, attached.

As its first action, the selection committee asks for your advice and opinion on the leadership needs of the faculty in the years ahead and any other key issues. You are urged to express your views on the priorities, current issues, and the future direction of the faculty. All feedback will be collected on a consultation form, and may be shared with the selection committee. To facilitate the committee’s work, please submit your comments by Tuesday, July 15, 2014.

We encourage you to nominate individuals who you feel would be suitable candidates. In addition, individuals who wish to stand as candidates are invited to apply.

The selection of a Dean is vital to the success of the Faculty. I therefore ask you all to take the time to give some thought to the future of this Faculty. Your views are important to us.

Thank you for your assistance.
Carl G. Amrhein

Faculty of Engineering

Carl G. Amrhein, Chair, Dean Selection Committee
Provost and Vice-President (Academic)

Lorne Babiuk, Vice-Chair, Dean Selection Committee
Vice-President (Research)

Mazi Shirvani
Vice-Provost and Dean, Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research

Robert Burrell
Chair, Biomedical Engineering

Tony Yeung
Professor, Chemical and Materials Engineering

Janet Elliott
Professor, Chemical and Materials Engineering

Simaan AbouRizk
Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Duncan Elliott
Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering

Brian Fleck
Chair, Mechanical Engineering

Tian Tang
Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering

Jason Carey
Professor, Mechanical Engineering

Raymond Matthias
Manager, Student Services

Nelson Amaral
Professor, Department of Computing Science
GFC Member

Keith Franklin
Operations Manager nano-FAB, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Faculty of Engineering

Mark Flint
Chief Executive Officer
Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists

Luke Wegren
Vice-President Finance, Engineering Students Society
Undergraduate Student

Jeremy Wohland
Graduate Students’ Association
Graduate Student

Total Members: 17


Office of the Provost and
Vice-President (Academic):

Kathleen Brough
Portfolio Initiatives Manager
2-40J South Academic Building
University of Alberta
Phone: 780-492-6655

Faiza Billo
Faculty Relations Assistant
2-40 South Academic Building
University of Alberta
Phone: 780-248-1047

Search Consultant:

Colleen Keenan
Odgers Berndtson                                                                          
200 Bay Street, Suite 3150
South Tower, Royal Bank Plaza
Toronto, ON
Phone: 416-366-1990

Friday, June 27, 2014

President Samarasekera's Weekly Update - June 27, 2014

I want to begin this weekly bulletin with a sincere note of appreciation. June 30 marks the last day for our colleagues who decided to participate in the voluntary severance program last fall. On behalf of the entire University of Alberta community, I would like to thank them for their years of service and the major contributions they have made to campus life, our students’ experience, the effective administration of the university and the advancement of knowledge. Their collective expertise, institutional memory and creative energy will be missed in faculties and units across campus. Let me also extend our best wishes for their continued success in future endeavours, whether in retirement, ongoing professional development or employment in another organization.

Implementing the voluntary severance program was one of many strategies undertaken by the Provost’s Office over the last year to deal with budgetary challenges, all of which I have covered in earlier bulletins. Today, let me highlight a few of the other initiatives and projects undertaken by the Provost’s Office in 2013–14, as I continue my review of the activities of each vice-presidential portfolio that I began a few weeks ago.

In the last year, the office moved forward a major review of graduate education, which included the important development of a new four-year funding model for graduate students. Significant progress was also made on the digital learning strategy, including the development and highly successful launch of Dino 101, the U of A’s first massive open online course, as well as the piloting of a number of blended learning courses.

Over 2013-2014, many of the recommendations of the Provost Portfolio Review were implemented through a reorganization of the office. Working closely with the deans, ideas for future revenue generation have been proposed and are now in process. The successful passage of the Students’ Union proposal for a fall reading week was also the result of dedicated efforts by members of the provost’s team working in conjunction with SU executive leadership.

Next week, I will complete my review of senior administrative portfolios.

Until then,