Friday, July 3, 2015

Announcement - Deputy Provost Appointed

I am very pleased to announce that Dr. Wendy Rodgers has accepted the position of Deputy Provost for the period of July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2018.

Wendy received her PhD from the University of Waterloo and in 1993 joined the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation. Her research interests are social psychology of exercise, health and lifestyle behaviour and theoretical and practical issues of program initiation and maintenance. In 2001, Wendy was awarded a McCalla Research Professorship and in 2009 a Killam Annual Professorship.

Since 2011, Wendy has served as Vice-Dean for the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation. She also served as Associate Dean (Research) from 2001 to 2003.

With Wendy's outstanding record of administrative and academic achievements, I am confident that the University community will experience a smooth transition over the next year.

I would like to thank everyone who contributed advice concerning this appointment.

Steven Dew
Provost and Vice-President (Academic)

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Letter to the University Community

Dear colleagues,

I am truly honoured to become president of the University of Alberta, an institution I have long admired.  Over the last six months, I have had the pleasure of meeting many of you, and with your help, have begun to develop a much fuller understanding of exactly how and why the University of Alberta has emerged as one of Canada’s leading universities and one of a small group of the world’s leading public institutions. I am fortunate to follow in the footsteps of President-Emerita Indira Samarasekera and her predecessors and to continue the legacy of excellence so firmly established.

Throughout the winter and spring, I have met with faculty, staff, students, deans, vice-presidents, community leaders, and officials from all three levels of government. I took a moment last week to reflect on my activities since the New Year and estimate that I’ve been involved in about 250 such meetings. All of them have been extremely helpful and instructive; I have learned a great deal about our university and the fundamental role that it plays in the social, cultural, and economic development of our city, province, and country.

I’ve encountered a tremendous sense of pride in the U of A that spans disciplines and campuses. Meeting with 17 Faculty Councils, I heard about the opportunities and challenges facing each faculty, as well as those facing the university community as a whole. Common themes ran through these meetings, and I received helpful advice about how we can begin to address these together. I look forward to hearing more on topics such as enhancing strategic faculty and student recruitment, celebrating and strengthening the U of A’s diversity, enriching the learning and research environment, and continuing effective engagement with various external communities.

Since January, I have also co-chaired two search committees for the selection of the new provost and vice-president (academic) and the vice-president (advancement). Through these opportunities, I have not only gained direct experience with policies, processes, and procedures specific to the U of A, but also gathered valuable insight into its collegial academic and administrative culture. I am delighted to have Provost and Vice-President (Academic) Steve Dew and Vice-President (Advancement) Heather McCaw join an outstanding group of vice-presidents on the executive team.

I would like to thank everyone I’ve met for your wise counsel and thoughtful advice, and to acknowledge I still have much to learn. In the coming weeks, I will begin working with the senior team to establish the process that will be used to develop the next iteration of the U of A’s strategic plan. If you have any advice for the senior team or me about the nature of the planning process, please contact me at I anticipate having this process in place in early fall. As it unfolds, there will be several opportunities for all members of the U of A community to engage and provide input on the future directions of the university.

Finally, I’d like say a few words about Edmonton and Alberta. My wife, Suromitra Sanatani, and I have been so warmly welcomed into this community—we have never felt anything like it. We have been impressed with the genuine enthusiasm and passion we’ve encountered. It is clear that the University of Alberta matters to each of you and to Edmontonians and Albertans. So many people we’ve met speak with fierce pride about the U of A and have shared with us their belief that this university—having already made countless contributions—has the potential to have an even greater impact on the well-being of the city, province, and country.  These feelings of pride and potential have resonated strongly with me, and I feel privileged to work with each of you to make that potential a reality.

Yours sincerely,

David H. Turpin, CM, LLD, FRSC
President and Vice-Chancellor

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

UAlberta faculty members called to serve in Alberta Government

I am delighted to share good news and congratulations on this my last day as president of the University of Alberta. This afternoon, the Government of Alberta announced that Carl Amrhein, Professor of Geography and former Provost and Vice-President (Academic), will become Deputy Minister of Health (effective August 4) while Philip Bryden, Professor of Law and former dean, will take up the dual position of Deputy Minister of Justice and Deputy Solicitor General (effective July 6).

Both Carl and Philip bring extensive research and administrative experience to these positions. Last November, Carl was seconded to the provincial government as official administrator in the Ministry of Health and has been working with the Conference Board of Canada to develop a national strategy for post-secondary education in response to changing global trends. While on administrative leave during the 2014-15 academic year, Philip, an expert in administrative law, was the Schulich Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Dalhousie University’s Schulich School of Law in the fall and Visiting Professor at the University of Adelaide’s Adelaide Law School through the winter.

Today’s announcement follows last week’s news that Premier Rachel Notley has selected Andrew Leach, Associate Professor of Business,and one of the U of A’s most active public intellectuals, to chair the Alberta Government’s climate change advisory panel.

The University of Alberta strives to be a public institution devoted to promoting and facilitating research and teaching to the benefit of the public we serve. As an institution, we aim to inspire leadership and citizenship, by actively engaging with our communities and providing the knowledge and expertise needed for community development and sound public policy. Having two of our leading faculty members appointed to senior positions in Alberta’s public service and another chosen to lead a major advisory panel is an affirmation of the critical role we play within society as well as a strong commendation of  our colleagues’ individual achievements,  research and administrative talents, knowledge, and public leadership.

Please join me in congratulating them and thanking them for their service to Alberta.

Indira V. Samarasekera
President and Vice-Chancellor

Friday, June 26, 2015

President's Farewell Bulletin--June 26

Dear colleagues and friends,

Today I send my last weekly bulletin. Next week on Wednesday, July 1, we will welcome David Turpin as he formally steps into the role of 13th president and vice-chancellor of the University of Alberta. Few universities are fortunate to attract a leader with such an extensive record of excellence and achievement across the full spectrum of an academic career—from research to teaching to administrative leadership at every level. Although I have known him for years, in meeting and talking with him frequently over the last six months, I have come to admire his thoughtfulness, creative thinking, strategic approach, and wisdom even more, and have no doubt that with his leadership the U of A’s future will be very bright.

I am certain of this because I also know that he will have the privilege of leading a community of faculty, staff, and students whose dedication and commitment to this institution is a formidable force—especially so, when they are united by a vision and mission in the service of the public good. Ten years ago, we created a vision called “Dare to Discover” and we focused our energies on building the four cornerstones we believe define a world-class public university. By doing so, we made our students’ academic and co-curricular experiences better. We built a learning and research environment that allows for award-winning teaching and cutting-edge research. We gained a reputation for being an academic community where exceptional teams of talented people can thrive. We made the U of A an active and engaged part of the broader community. We firmly established the U of A as a leader among Canada’s research-intensive universities and built an international reputation for excellence that has attracted exceptional international partners and networks.

Thank you for all that you have done to fulfill the vision and mission of “Dare to Discover”. An effort of this magnitude takes the dedication of everyone. Thank you for your energy, creativity, and hard work. Thank you for the many, many ways in which you have inspired me to reach higher and further than I first thought possible. Thank you for your support and friendship. As I said at my last convocation, being president of this great university has been the best experience of my life and I have all of you to thank for that.

I wish all of you the very best for the future and look forward to meeting again when we come together to celebrate David Turpin’s installation next November.

Goodbye and good luck!


Friday, June 19, 2015

President's Weekly Bulletin--June 19

The highlight of this week came yesterday with the Alberta Government’s announcement of reinvestment in post-secondary education. The change in direction was a strong endorsement of the value that the government places on the work we do as educators and researchers. For those of you who may not have seen my Colloquy post yesterday, let me reiterate the key changes relating to PSE that are contained in Bill 3, the government’s interim supply bill:

  • The 1.4 per cent cut to the Campus Alberta grant announced in the March provincial budget will be reversed.
  • There will be an increase of two per cent to the Campus Alberta grant for both 2015–2016 and 2016–2017.
  • Funding for targeted enrolment will be restored.
  • Domestic tuition and mandatory non-instructional fees (MNIFs) will be frozen for two years at 2014–2015 levels
  • Market modifiers approved earlier this year will be rolled back; however, universities will receive base funding to cover the losses incurred by the rollback.

All of this represents an important step forward. Challenges remain and there will be lots of work to do in the coming months as the government undertakes a full review of how Campus Alberta is funded. By the end of the month, we should know more about the details of yesterday’s announcement as they relate to the U of A in particular. We have been assured by government that they are aware we have fully prepared and begun implementing our 2015–2016 budget and they have no expectation that internal decisions will be reversed. The task of managing the announced changes now falls to President-Elect David Turpin and incoming Provost Steve Dew. Given that we do not yet know some of our main costs for this year, such as academic staff salaries and benefits, the impact of yesterday’s news will only become clear over time.

As I come closer to my final day, the rest of this week involved a number of “lasts.” Today I met for the last time with the Board of Governors. On Wednesday, I attended my last meeting of Deans’ Council, where I was able to gather final thoughts and advice to pass on to David Turpin next week when I meet with him. It was also the last Deans’ Council meeting for Fern Snart, dean of education, and David Lynch, dean of engineering, both of whom have held their positions throughout my entire presidency—David for longer than that with a total of 20 years as dean. Both Fern and David have been outstanding leaders within their faculties, the university, and the broader community, inspiring many within their sphere of influence to also strive for excellence. Thanks in part to their active and highly effective outreach efforts, the U of A is now considered an integral part of many communities, playing a key leadership role across many sectors here in the city as well as across Alberta, Canada, and the world. Please join me in thanking David and Fern for their tremendous service to the U of A.

Yesterday, I also hosted my last Quaecumque Vera Honour Society Luncheon for donors who have made bequests to the university in their wills. Let me take this opportunity to thank them and all of the university’s donors for their generosity, vision, and steadfast support and friendship. With their support of endowed research chairs, research institutes and centres, student scholarships, and more, the U of A attracts top faculty and students and is able to provide the funding needed to achieve research excellence across the disciplines. Thank you to all!

Until next Friday,


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Alberta Government reinvests in Campus Alberta

Today we have received a clear message that the Alberta government sees post-secondary education as a true public good with broad social and economic benefits for all Albertans. Bill 3, the government’s interim supply bill, provides critical reinvestment in Campus Alberta universities and colleges that is an important first step to establishing stable and predictable funding to our sector for the future. A total of $133 million is being reinvested in Campus Alberta in 2015-2016.

On behalf of all faculty, staff, and students at the University of Alberta, I thank the government for this reinvestment and for the bold message it sends:  instead of shrinking public investment in post-secondary education, the Alberta government has chosen to reinvest and reinforce the message that Albertans need access to high quality post-secondary education to succeed as citizens and individuals and to build strong socially and economically diverse communities. Indeed, throughout the history of the province, the U of A has been a foundational public institution, providing educational programs and research that launched and continue to feed the development of the province’s key industries. As important, this institution also fosters understanding, enables advances in social justice, cultural diversity, and sound public policy, and inspires an entrepreneurial mindset that leads to social and technical innovation throughout our communities.

Today's announcement includes the following highlights:

  • The 1.4% cut to the Campus Alberta grant announced in the March provincial budget will be reversed.
  • There will be an increase of 2% to the Campus Alberta grant for both 2015-2016 and 2016-2017.
  • Funding for targeted enrolment will be restored.
  • Domestic tuition and mandatory non-instructional fees (MNIFs) will be frozen for 2 years at 2014-2015 levels.
  • Market modifiers approved earlier this year will be rolled back; however, universities will receive base funding to cover the losses incurred by the roll-back.

Over the next couple of weeks, we will learn more about the specific details on how these decisions will impact the U of A. At this point, the government has noted that they are aware that universities have prepared and begun implementing their 2015-2016 budgets and do not expect internal decisions to be rescinded. President-elect David Turpin and incoming Provost Steve Dew will be working with deans to amend the U of A’s 2015-2016 budget as detailed information comes from government later this month.

The government has also indicated today that they will be launching a comprehensive review of current Campus Alberta funding models with the goal of achieving sustainable funding models for the future that will give Alberta’s post-secondary institutions the stability we need to make sound, strategic decisions for the benefit of our students and researchers.  This is welcome news, opening up a major opportunity for us to provide leadership across the sector and to reinforce the enormous positive impact that the U of A has on Alberta.

Much work remains to be done over the coming weeks and months. However, today marks a major step forward in the establishment of positive, forward-looking conversation about sustaining and strengthening Alberta’s post-secondary sector for the benefit of all.

Indira V. Samarasekera
President and Vice-Chancellor

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

2015 Information Technology Award Winners

It is with great pleasure that the Office of the Vice-Provost and Associate Vice-President (Information Services and Technology) announce the winners of the 2015 Information Technology Awards. My office received a number of outstanding nominations clearly indicating the calibre of talent we have employed at our institution. We would also like to thank the nominators for taking the time to recognize the efforts of your colleagues.
And the winners are….

Robert Brennan, Information Services and Technology

Competency Based Assessment (CBAS) Team

Mirella Chiodo, Mike Donoff, Paul Humphries, Fred Janke, Kay Kovithavongs, John Chmelicek, Darren Nichols, Shelley Ross, Shirley Schipper

Darcy Frank, Campus Saint-Jean
Goetz Dapp, Canadian Centre for Welding and Joining

Peter Davis, Faculty of Nursing

Robin Sawh, Information Services and Technology

The awards will be presented on Wednesday, June 24, 2015 as part of IST's CONNECT Conference.

Please join me in congratulating this year’s winners!

Mike MacGregor
Vice-Provost and Associate Vice-President (Information Services and Technology)

Friday, June 12, 2015

President's Weekly Bulletin--June 12

Yesterday, spring convocation came to a close and with it, my last convocation ceremony as president. As you might imagine, it was an emotional morning, not only for the graduates and their families, but also for me. There, with the solemnity and beauty of the convocation ceremony matching that of my installation nearly 10 years ago, I felt like I had come full circle. So many people played a part in making the day special, and I would like to thank them.

First, I must thank Corinne Callihoo (Assistant Registrar, Convocation & Ceremonies) and her team from Convocation & Ceremonies in the Office of the Registrar, including Laura Connell and Carolyn Kauffman. Under the direction of Vice-Provost and University Registrar Lisa Collins, Corinne and her colleagues work tirelessly to ensure that every single convocation ceremony is the best possible experience for graduates and their families. They mobilize staff and faculty from across the entire Registrar’s Office and university campus to help with everything from robing the platform party to gowning and marshalling the graduands. The attention to detail that is required to present such an elegant and professional program repeatedly over many days every spring and fall is staggering, and Corinne and her team handle it all with grace, good humour, and organizational skills that are second to none.

This year, they also worked with others across campus to surprise me with memorable and lasting gifts. The first came on Wednesday afternoon when members of Chorale Saint-Jean arrived unexpectedly to perform in person the song that has been a centrepiece of convocation since Professor Emeritus France Lavasseur-Oimet composed it for the university’s centenary, “Je te retrouve” or “I Remember You.” My thanks to director Laurier Fagnan and all of the members of Chorale Saint-Jean for taking time during the day to come and perform. I was very moved.

Yesterday, I also received three paintings by U of A alumnus Ian Sheldon on the theme of storm watching across the Alberta prairie landscape and skies. The paintings are beautiful and I am deeply touched to receive such perfect mementos of my presidency. In particular, it was wonderful to receive one of the paintings as a personal gift from the artist himself. Ian attended yesterday’s ceremony and I was so pleased to meet him and thank him. Thank you to members of the Registrar’s Office, Chancellor’s Office, Board Office, and Provost’s Office who played a role in the surprise.

Convocation is also the special responsibility of Chancellor Ralph Young, members of the Senate, and the staff in the Senate Office. Each chancellor puts his or her own unique stamp on the convocation ceremony and works with Convocation & Ceremonies to implement changes and additions to the ceremony. The chancellor and Senate Honorary Degrees Committee also work with care and rigour to select each honorary degree recipient. My thanks to members of the HD committee for their service and insight in making these very important selections. Once the honourees are selected, the team in the Senate Office takes care of every detail relating to the HD recipient’s experience from first notification through to conferral and special receptions. It’s a critical role, and I would like to thank Chancellor Ralph Young and Derek Roy-Brenneis (Executive Officer of the Senate), along with Karen Gibson, Amissa Jablonski, and Tiffany Smith, for ensuring that every HD recipient is welcomed into the U of A family with genuine warmth and admiration for their contributions to society.

I would also like to thank the members of the President’s Standing Committee on Convocation for providing insightful and wise advice to me, Chancellor Young, and all those mentioned above. Convocation is the university’s most important ceremony, and finding that perfect blend of tradition and innovation is essential as we strive to make the ceremony meaningful for each generation of graduates.

Finally, let me thank the team in University Relations for their coverage of this year’s convocation. Their outstanding efforts over the last two weeks have exemplified the best in digital storytelling. Using the university’s homepage and social media, they have shared stories and photographs on behalf of the university and allowed graduates and other members of the wider community to share theirs.  Please visit the #UAlberta15 Storify page to see your photos and social media clips.

As I have mentioned many times over the years, convocation is one of my favourite times of the year. My warmest thanks to all those involved for the work that you’ve done over the years to ensure that this ceremony represents the very best of the University of Alberta for our new graduates.

Until next Friday,


Friday, June 5, 2015

President Samarasekera's Weekly Bulletin —June 5, 2015

My week began as I wish they all could, with excitement and joy, as I attended the first of this year’s convocation ceremonies. Convocation is one of the most important events in the annual academic calendar because educating students and seeing them launched into the world is the most important public good that we do. During their time on campus, it is our responsibility to equip our students with the skills that they’ll need to carry out their future professions and to pursue their passions for discovery and innovation—but it is also our job to provide our students with the inspiration needed to live the university’s promise of uplifting the whole people. Our graduates must be prepared to take on the responsibility to do the public good. And I am pleased to say that I believe that this year’s 6,649 new graduates are ready to take up the challenge. Our Augustana graduates kicked things off on Sunday, as they marked their collective achievement and their promise to uplift our future generations by planting their annual Class Tree.

On Monday I was able to attend my 399th and final GFC meeting, as the Registrar’s Office took the day to shift everything needed for convocation from Augustana to North Campus. During GFC there were two items that stood out. The first was a presentation by university secretary Marion Haggarty-France. Marion provided GFC with a preview of the Council Chamber, which is currently under renovation. The Council Chamber will serve as the new home of GFC and will be the site of the council’s 400th meeting this fall. It is my hope that the new chamber will provide the perfect setting to continue the university’s pursuit of excellence through many thoughtful conversations and collegial debates.

The second item of note during GFC was Chancellor Ralph Young’s informative overview of the Senate's roles and responsibility. In addition to explaining the Senate’s mandate to inquire, promote, and connect, Chancellor Young described a number of the Senate’s current initiatives, including U School, the Emil Skarin Fund, and the selection of honorary degree recipients. At the end of his presentation, a student member asked why we give honorary degrees. A good question—one that brings me once again to convocation, which is where I have spent the remainder of my time this week.

So, why do we give honorary degrees? Because our honorary degree recipients are exemplars in their fields who have valuable insights to share with our students and our new graduates. This week, our graduates have played audience to the stirring remarks of Russell Schnell, Robert Church, David Hancock, Jane Ash Poitras, Xian-En Zhang, Danny Gaudet, and Dennis Slamon. As an example of the encouragement that our honorary degree recipients can offer, I was particularly struck by the words of Robert Church. Dr. Church made the honest admission that when he first graduated, he had no idea where his U of A degree would eventually take him—a feeling that I’m sure many graduates past and present can relate to. He went on to explain that it was the pursuit of his “24/7 passion” that eventually led him to become the genetics pioneer that we know him as today. Before he concluded, he told the graduates to remember always that they are “part of a broader community, and we all have an obligation to the betterment of future generations both in this province and worldwide.” It’s a lesson that he learned during his time as a U of A student, and I believe that it is a lesson that our new alumni will continue to uphold.

I hope that you’ll join me in once again congratulating our newest alumni from Augustana; Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences; Law; Education; Native Studies; Science; Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences; Medicine & Dentistry; Rehabilitation Medicine; Public Health; and Extension. Please remember that you too can follow the convocation ceremonies by viewing the livestreams, stories, and photos on the convocation website.

Until next Friday,


Monday, June 1, 2015

Truth and Reconciliation Event - June 2

Date: Tuesday, June 2, 2015

North Campus Locations: L-149 ECHA and Cameron Library 

Augustana Campus Location: Roger Epp Room (8:45 a.m. start)

Time: Doors open at 8:00 a.m.
(Mayor's video message at 8:50 a.m.; Ottawa live stream at 9:00 a.m.)

On June 2, 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) will release its final report on Indian Residential Schools in Canada. The University of Alberta, the City of Edmonton, the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations, the Province of Alberta’s Ministry of Aboriginal Relations, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada-Alberta Region, the Edmonton Catholic School Board and the Edmonton Public School Board are partnering to deliver local events commemorating this historic milestone.

The University of Alberta will be among the main live stream sites in Edmonton for the viewing of the event. The U of A supports the greater community around Edmonton in understanding the past and as such is committed to provide community gathering spaces on campus for this momentous event.

The U of A invites all staff, students, and all community members to gather together at our designated campus venues in L1-490 Edmonton Clinic Health Academy (ECHA) and the Cameron Library to view the live stream of the report’s release. Doors at both venues will be open as of 8 a.m. for seating. The event program will start at 8:50 a.m. with a video message from Mayor Don Iveson, followed by the live stream from Ottawa at 9 a.m. Alternatively, the live stream link is at for desktop viewing.

Other events occurring in the Edmonton area will include a sacred fire that will be tended in front of Edmonton City Hall for 4 days in parallel with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s closing events taking place across Canada. The sacred fire was started at sunrise (approximately 5 a.m.) on Sunday, May 31 and will continue to burn until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, June 3.  Survivors, their families and all citizens are invited to burn their tears at the fire. The ashes collected at the sacred fire will be sent to the TRC to commemorate this time in our history.

For more information about the local Truth and Reconciliation Closing Events, please visit the City of Edmonton website. For more information about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the national closing events, please visit the TRC website.