Friday, January 30, 2015

President Samarasekera's Weekly Bulletin--Jan 30

This week I was in Ottawa, where I had a number of productive meetings covering a range of issues. First, I met with the deputy minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada to discuss how recent changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program have affected universities, and the University of Alberta more particularly, in the area of faculty and staff recruitment and retention.

I also had two meetings with Industry Canada—one with Minister James Moore and the other with ministry officials—where I both thanked them for government investments in research and continued to stress the need for and benefits of Canada Foundation for Innovation and Tri-Council funding. In addition, we discussed the upcoming inaugural competition for the Canada First Research Excellence Fund. I was pleased to assure the minister that the U of A will be ready to meet the tight timelines thanks to the preparatory work of VP (Research) Lorne Babiuk in conjunction with the deans and many others across the university.

Finally, I met with Rona Ambrose, minister of health. I am looking forward to hosting her next Friday when she expects to be here on campus for an announcement related to glycomics.

I was delighted upon my return from Ottawa to see how Quad has been transformed in my absence. No doubt many of you have already seen the beautiful snow and ice sculptures erected for Green & Glow Winterfest—the first event of many that will unfold over 2015 to celebrate the U of A Alumni Association’s centennial. With the weather taking a wintry turn today, the timing will be perfect for various activities planned for the weekend—all of which culminate in a 30-foot column of fire on Saturday night. I invite faculty, staff, and students to come out and welcome our alumni back to campus.

Along with alumni, the U of A is welcoming students from across Alberta and Western Canada to the inaugural Alberta Student Leadership Summit this weekend. The summit has come together because of the efforts of many groups, led by the Office of the Dean of Students, the Students’ Union, CAPS, and Residence Services, all of which are involved in helping students explore and ignite their potential for leadership.

As you know, we’ve identified student leadership development as a priority at the U of A, and many units and faculties have developed leadership programming or are in the process of doing so. I’d like to highlight today that recruitment began this week for the pioneer class of the Peter Lougheed Leadership College. Information about the program and application deadlines can be found here.

Next week, the agenda for General Faculties Council, which meets on Monday afternoon, includes a number of items related to students, including enrolment management and student mental health and wellness. You can see the full agenda at the University Governance website.

Until next Friday,


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Resource Management Model Project Campus Forum (Feb. 10)

Earlier this month we wrote about the launch of the Resource Management Model Project, which is an exploratory initiative that will examine and evaluate the potential of introducing responsibility centred management (RCM) to the University of Alberta. For a quick overview of the project, please see our blog post from Jan. 21, 2015 or visit Change@UAlbertra for a detailed description.

As we mentioned, we will hold a campus forum on this topic. During the forum we will discuss why the university is evaluating this alternative to our current model and we will explain how the project has been structured. We hope to use this forum as a chance to answer questions the community might have about the project.

Campus Forum
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
Noon – 1 p.m.
L-1 Humanities Centre
Note: The event will also be live streamed.

We invite all faculty and staff to attend. To register for the event, please click here.

Phyllis Clark
Vice-President (Finance and Administration)

Kerry Mummery
Dean, Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Green & Glow Winterfest

If your travels take you to North Campus, you may have noticed some unusual activity in Quad over the past couple of weeks. Snowblowers? Wooden forms? An ice wall? You’re probably wondering what this is all about.

The University of Alberta’s Alumni Association is kicking off a celebration of its 100th anniversary with an incredible weekend of winter fun: Green & Glow Winterfest, Jan. 29-31. The three-day festival will kick off Thursday evening with a talk by Daily Planet host Dan Riskin, ’97 BSc. Friday and Saturday nights will see North Campus’s Quad transformed into an oasis of light, fire and snow. Activities and entertainment will include live music, custom light and art installations, soundscapes, an ice bar and plenty of family-friendly activities. Festivalgoers can even expect one of the largest ice structures ever built in Edmonton, a lantern parade Friday night and a 30-foot column of fire on Saturday.

Green & Glow is the first in a yearlong celebration of our alumni community. In 1915, the first graduates from the University of Alberta came together with the belief that they could do more together than they could separately and they formed the University of Alberta Alumni Association. One hundred years later, more than a quarter of a million alumni are leaving their mark on their communities and their world. The Alumni Association serves to connect this far-flung but likeminded community back to the university and to their peers. Green & Glow Winterfest, and the rest of 2015, is about celebrating this inspiring group of people with fellow alumni, staff, faculty, students and community.

I hope you’ll join us on Quad to take in all of the winter magic and fun. For the full schedule of events and more info, please visit

Robert Moyles
Interim Associate Vice-President Alumni Relations/Executive Director Alumni Association

Monday, January 26, 2015

Librairie le Carrefour Announcement

Following extensive consultation with the Francophone community over the past year, I am pleased to announce that the Librairie le Carrefour will begin a new phase - online.

Given the fiscal realities facing both educational institutions and book retailers, we are re-imagining our concept of a bookstore. Students and all Canadians are increasingly seeking services online, and we are responding to that preference. Before the start of the next school year, the physical space at the Cité Francophone will be closed and Librairie le Carrefour will open as a full-service, comprehensive, online bookstore.

We are committed to our long-standing relationship with the region’s Francophone community. Our expert staff will continue to be accessible and available, providing good advice and a helping hand to students, residents in the Campus St. Jean area, and schools across Edmonton. We will also be establishing a consultative committee to meet annually and advise the University on Francophone bookstore services and we will continue to be present at community events whenever appropriate.

At the heart of every University of Alberta decision, you’ll find our students. The need to serve Campus Saint-Jean students is well-recognized by the Dean, Pierre-Yves Mocquais, who is exploring options with the Bookstore for providing an on-campus location for the sale of textbooks and other materials.

This solution is both responsible and innovative. We look forward to the next chapter of Librairie le Carrefour with your continued support.

Gerald Beasley
Vice-Provost and Chief Librarian

À la suite d’une série de consultations au cours de la dernière année avec la communauté francophone, je suis heureux d’annoncer que la Librairie le Carrefour entame un nouveau chapitre de son histoire : en ligne.

La réalité financière, tant au niveau de l’éducation postsecondaire que du domaine de la vente de livres, nous a amené à repenser, à ré-imaginer le concept de la librairie. Les étudiants et tous les Canadiens sont de plus en plus à même de consommer leurs services en ligne et, aujourd’hui, nous entendons répondre à ce choix. Ainsi, d’ici le début de la prochaine année scolaire, l’emplacement du Carrefour à La Cité francophone aura été fermé et la Librairie le Carrefour sera ouverte, et pleinement opérationnelle, sous un format de service de librairie en ligne.

Nous sommes engagés à bien desservir la communauté afin de maintenir nos excellentes relations établies au fil des ans. Nous continuerons d’être accessibles et disponible. Les employés actuels du Carrefour continueront d’appuyer les étudiants du Campus Saint-Jean (CSJ), les élèves et le personnel des écoles d’Edmonton, mais également de toute la province, ainsi que les membres de la communauté francophone et francophile dans son ensemble afin de répondre à leurs besoins. Nous nous engageons aussi à mettre sur pied un comité consultatif qui se rencontrera annuellement afin d’émettre des conseils à l’Université en matière de services francophones au niveau de la librairie. De plus, nous continuerons d’être présents aux événements de la communauté lorsque cela sera nécessaire.

Au cœur même de nos décisions, nous retrouvons les étudiants. Parlant des étudiants du CSJ, ceux-ci pourront acheter leurs manuels des cours à la Librairie principale et en ligne. En outre, la nécessité de bien servir les étudiants du Campus Saint-Jean est une priorité du doyen du CSJ, Pierre-Yves Mocquais. Ce dernier explore présentement diverses options avec la Librairie afin de fournir un service sur le Campus pour la vente de manuels et autres matériels.

Cette approche est à la fois responsable et innovatrice. Nous sommes convaincus que le prochain chapitre de la Librairie le Carrefour sera une réussite grâce à votre appui inconditionnel et continu.

Gerald Beasley, Vice-provost (Learning services) et Bibliothécaire en chef de l'Université de l'Alberta

Friday, January 23, 2015

President Samarasekera's Weekly Bulletin--Jan 23

I began my week in Ontario attending and speaking at the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada’s professional program for presidents. This full-day session brought seasoned leaders together with new presidents to discuss challenges and opportunities in higher education—some of which keep us awake at night! We discussed a wide variety of topics, including sustainable funding models, vision-setting and development, government advocacy, crisis management, and digital learning models including blended learning. For me, it was a great opportunity to be a mentor in a forum that led to a highly productive transfer of knowledge and advice about lessons learned over the years.

Following the AUCC conference, I travelled to California, where I held a number of advancement meetings and events. The highlight was an evening event with about 30 key University of Alberta alumni, donors, and friends. Andrew Leach, Enbridge Professor of Energy Policy, spoke on Alberta's energy market outlook, which provoked lots of spirited discussion. I thank him for a superb presentation. I would also like to thank Jeanne Yang, doctoral student in music, who gave a wonderful piano performance and received a standing ovation.

On campus, the week opened with a visit from Ed Holder, Canada’s minister of state for science and technology, who chose the U of A as the site of the national announcement of a $9-million funding increase to Canada’s Research Support Program, bringing its total to $342 million per year. As many of you know, this program provides funds to cover the indirect or “hidden” costs of research (such as IT, libraries, and utilities), and the increase is a welcome indication that the federal government recognizes these costs are a significant part of the investment needed to sustain excellence in research.

Mario Pinto, new president of NSERC, accompanied Minister Holder. Before the announcement, both toured the lab of Amit Kumar, NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Energy and Environmental Engineering, where they were able to see first-hand the benefits of both direct and indirect federal research funding. Minister Holder noted in his remarks that he was especially pleased to have been able to speak with graduate students and post-doctoral fellows about their work, as well as with staff from support units such as the machine shop, which provide critical research services. My thanks to Amit Kumar and his research team for helping to make the visit such a success.

On Wednesday, Vice-President (Finance and Administration) Phyllis Clark and Dean (Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation) Kerry Mummery, co-chairs of the Resource Management Steering Committee, provided a detailed update here on Colloquy of the work being undertaken to research and assess the viability of adopting responsibility centred management practices at the U of A. As they stressed in their post, we are entering an exploratory phase in which a number of working groups will be investigating how the university generates and allocates resources now, and whether we might benefit from moving to a different model. Please check Change@UAlberta under Action Plan Item 2: Sustainable Finances for more information on the Resource Management Model Project.

Next week, International Week begins on Monday—for the 30th year! Long one of U of A’s signature annual events, I-Week attracts participants from all over the world and brings thousands of members of the community to our campus. Let me thank the hundreds of student volunteers, in particular, whose contributions are critical to the event’s success each year. More information on this year’s events is available at the I-Week webpage.
Until next Friday,


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Broaden your worldview during International Week (Jan 26-30)

Are you ready for week of dialogue, discussion and celebration?

International Week 2015 (running January 26-30) is upon us and the entire community—students, faculty, staff, and the broader Edmonton community—is encouraged to get engaged and involved.

Through 50+ events—speakers, workshops, exhibits, films and cultural performances—I-Week will try to make sense of the world’s most current and pressing conflicts and how we can create a better world through possible solutions.

This year’s theme focuses on the plight of refugees and displaced persons. According to the UN Refugee Agency, 51.2 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide in 2013 alone; if these 51.2 million were a nation, they would make up the 26th largest in the world. And the impacts are felt the most in developing countries, which host 86 percent of the world’s refugees.

We will have the opportunity to explore these challenges, and many other global issues, through the lenses of some great speakers. Awarding-winning journalist Gwynne Dyer will examine the global effects of recent conflicts in Afghanistan, Libya, and the Ukraine. Nigerian human rights advocate Obiageli Ezekwesili, a driving force behind the #bringbackourgirls campaign, will explore the tactics and broader implications of Boko Haram in Africa, just as the extremist group claimed responsibility this week for a January 3 attack that killed as many as 2,000 civilians. UAlberta alumnus Jennifer Hyndman, who is now Director of the Centre for Refugee Studies at York University, will also speak to the struggles of displaced people and share ideas on how the world can better respond through action and intervention.

Our campus community is shaping I-Week programming too. Dozens of presentations and exhibitions are initiated by our student groups, professors and staff: film screenings followed by discussions, a Human Library where human 'books' will share life experiences in which they were mischaracterized or misunderstood, and a poetry slam exploring poverty. There are also events to celebrate our cultural diversity—performances on the SUB stage every lunch hour, a global fashion show, and a Musical Cafe featuring Latin, Celtic and African sounds from Edmonton-area artists.

On behalf of the University of Alberta International team, I encourage you to take in as much of I-Week as you can. All events are free and open to everyone. Meet new people, discover new perspectives, and broaden—or perhaps even change—your worldview…you won't be disappointed.

Britta Baron

Vice Provost and Associate Vice-President (International)
University of Alberta International

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Exploring possibility of new resource management model for the university

This month, after extensive preparations by the Resource Management Steering Committee, academic and administrative staff members from across the university began exploring and evaluating the potential of introducing responsibility centred management (RCM) to the University of Alberta.

You may have heard about this initiative since it has been a topic of discussion in several forums, from President Samarasekera’s weekly bulletin to Deans’ Council to General Faculties Council. As chairs of the Resource Management Steering Committee, we are writing today to tell you a little bit about RCM and the purpose, process and timing of this exploratory initiative, which we have named the Resource Management Model Project.

RCM is a method that a number of universities in North America have adopted to manage their resources. In RCM, revenues are allocated to the faculties that generate them; faculties are responsible for financing their expenses; central administration costs are allocated to faculties based on agreed-to assessments; and a central pool of resources is allocated to compensate for imbalances and to support university priorities.

In essence, RCM gives more accountability and responsibility to faculties for financial decision making.  It creates incentives for faculties and units to generate revenue and maximize their resources. Universities that make the transition to a resource management model based on RCM do so because they believe it will improve their ability to meet their academic objectives, especially in the face of increasing resource pressures.

A move away from the U of A’s more traditional incremental budgeting to RCM would be a significant change and administration is being correspondingly circumspect in this evaluation. Over the next several months, a number of individual working groups will study various elements of the university’s current model, and, from there, imagine how the university might fare under RCM. (You can find more information about this project here, including the names and composition of the working groups). All of the working groups are under the direction of the Resource Management Steering Committee, and include representative vice presidents, deans, chairs, and administrative staff.

The goal of the steering committee is to collate the findings of the working groups, draft a report, and present it to incoming president David Turpin over the summer. We expect the report to contain a comprehensive analysis of the university’s current budgeting and resource allocation practices. It will also contain a resource management model outlining how RCM might work at the University of Alberta. While the specific features of the proposed model could take any number of shapes, the model will nevertheless adhere to a number of process principles based on the supremacy of academic priorities, transparency and accountability.

We want to assure you that no decision has been made to move to RCM. We simply do not know yet if it is the right thing for the U of A. The purpose of this project is to do the background research and modelling needed to assess its potential value and viability for the U of A. Changes to the university’s budget model will not be made before David Turpin and his leadership team have had sufficient opportunity to review and assess the findings, and to decide next steps.
We should also highlight that this project will have no impact on current budget planning for 2015-2016—this planning is proceeding as in the past and next year’s institutional budget will be taken through the governance approval process as part of the university’s 2015 Comprehensive Institutional Plan.

We are committed to a transparent process for this period of research and evaluation. Please visit Change@UAlberta, where detailed information about the project can be found under “Sustainable Finances” (Action Plan Item 2). A campus forum on this topic will be held in February. Please do not hesitate to write to us at with any concerns or questions.

Phyllis Clark
Vice-President (Finance and Administration)

Kerry Mummery
Dean, Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation

Friday, January 16, 2015

President Samarasekera's Weekly Bulletin--Jan 16

I write today from Banff, where the executive team has been on strategic retreat. As you know, our university is heading into a period of significant transition with the arrival of a new president and the appointment of a new provost. As an executive, we are committed to facilitating a smooth and effective leadership transition, providing president-elect David Turpin with our best advice and strategic thinking as he takes on the presidential role. Over the last two days, we have engaged in reflection and discussion, detailing both successes and lessons learned over the last 10 years as well as identifying key challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for the U of A. We will be sharing these insights with David over the coming months.

My highest priority over the next months of my presidency will be to continue to work with the Alberta government to ensure that investment in post-secondary education remains a key provincial priority. This past Tuesday, I continued that conversation with the deputy minister of innovation and advanced education at one of our regular meetings. In addition to government advocacy work, I will be focused on advancement and stewardship, strengthening long-cultivated philanthropic relationships.

Before heading to Banff this week, I had the pleasure of hosting my annual event for U of A night staff on Tuesday night. Because they always work the night shift, these staff members are unable to attend the regular President’s Staff Picnic in June. While most of us are asleep, these staff members provide the critical maintenance and cleaning services needed to keep all of campus’s daytime activities going. Although it may be hidden, the work is critical, and on behalf of all us who work by day, I extend my warmest thanks to the U of A’s night staff.

I also had fun this week meeting a number of the residents of Lister Hall, as they passed through my office to take photographs with me for their annual scavenger hunt.

Next week, the Honourable Ed Holder, minister of state for science and technology, and Dr. B. Mario Pinto, president of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, will be on campus for a special federal announcement on the Government of Canada’s Indirect Costs Program. Everyone is welcome to join them Monday at 10:30 a.m. in 2-100 ETLC Solarium.

Finally, a reminder to RSVP if you plan to attend the celebration I’ll be hosting for Carl Amrhein on February 5 at 3 p.m. in the PAW Centre Social Street of the Van Vliet Complex. Please register here.

Until next Friday,


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Alberta Student Leadership Summit 2015

As the new year begins, I want to share some information with you about the upcoming Alberta Student Leadership Summit. The U of A is hosting this inaugural event on Saturday, January 31, 2015 in CCIS. While the Summit is open to post-secondary students from across the province, we’d like to make sure that undergraduate and graduate students from the U of A know about and sign up for the event.

This conference is a wonderful opportunity for students to develop their leadership skills and abilities. Planning the Summit has been a collaboration of many University partners during the past year led by student services’ professionals from several units, including the Office of the Dean of Students, the Students’ Union, Residence Services, Student Group Services, and CAPS: Your U of A Career Centre, who have been partnering on the Emerging Leaders Program.

The goal of the event is to provide post-secondary students with a venue to learn, collaborate and share best practices surrounding leadership. This year’s theme, Reflection into Action, is based on the idea that students often recognize issues on their campuses and in their communities, but struggle with where to start, how they can get involved, and how they can have an impact.

More than 40 concurrent sessions are planned, with more than 65% of those featuring presentations from undergraduate and graduate students. This will enable attendees to learn from their peers’ experiences as well as from community leaders and professionals. The event also features keynote speakers Miki Agrawal, entrepreneur and best-selling author, and Michael Walters, City of Edmonton Councillor and community builder.

I encourage you to share this opportunity with your students. The day will be filled with a variety of valuable information for students, from presentations on balancing a busy life and self-care for student leaders to sessions on building better communities and tactics for volunteer development.

The U of A has a long history of helping students to become leaders, and we’re very excited to support this new opportunity for current students.

Robin Everall
Interim Vice-Provost and Dean of Students

Correction: This post originally included the GSA in the list of units that have partnered on delivering the Emerging Leaders Program and Alberta Student Leadership Summit. Although the GSA was a member of the ALSS Advisory Committee, they are not a partner in the Emerging Leaders Program.

Friday, January 9, 2015

President Samarasekera's Weekly Bulletin--Jan 9

Happy New Year! I hope you had a chance to recharge over the holidays. It has been a cold and busy week, with the launch of winter term. In addition to the work going on in classrooms across the university, there is much being done in units and offices helping to ensure that students can add and drop courses as needed, buy books, update their U-Passes, and more.

Before everyone’s calendar begins to fill up with various obligations, I would like to invite all faculty, staff, and students to a celebration in honour of Carl Amrhein’s major contributions to the University of Alberta over his 11 years as provost and vice-president (academic). It will be held in the PAW Centre Social Street of the Van Vliet Complex on February 5 at 3 p.m. All are welcome. Please register here.

Just before the university closed for the holidays, there were a couple of important developments that I’d like to highlight now in case they were missed. First, we received word from the provincial government that all five of the U of A’s proposed market modifiers were approved. As Interim Provost Olive Yonge noted on Colloquy, these market modifiers will help us to preserve and increase the quality of the programs involved and ensure they remain competitive with similar programs in Canada. With provincial approval in place, the next step is to take the five proposals through university governance systems for final approval.

Second, Olive and I were pleased to be able to announce on Colloquy that Richard Fedorak, professor of medicine (gastroenterology), has been appointed interim dean of the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry for a three-year term, effective February 1. I would like to thank Acting Dean Lorne Tyrrell for stepping into the role for two months and for chairing an ad hoc committee that recommended Richard Fedorak for the appointment. I extend a warm welcome to Richard as he becomes a member of the senior leadership team.

Until next Friday,