Thursday, April 17, 2014

President Samarsekera's Weekly Bulletin--April 17, 2014

The highlight of this week was officially welcoming the Right Honourable Kim Campbell, PC QC OBC QC, as the Founding Principal of the Peter Lougheed Leadership College. Since her arrival on campus last week, it has been a privilege to spend time with Kim Campbell and to hear her vision for the college and for developing student leaders.

Wanting to understand the university and the expertise that exists here across disciplines and faculties, Kim Campbell is eager to meet with the community. One of her main tasks will be to work with the internal community on all our campuses to find ways to build upon existing and add new leadership programming for the college. This past week, she spent her days meeting with many senior leaders, faculty, students, and staff to seek input and ideas. She will continue to reach out over the coming months. She also sat down with one of our U of A writers for an interview late last week, now available for viewing at the Peter Lougheed Leadership College website.

In addition to this work with our own community, Kim Campbell will work closely with Dan Buchner, the newly appointed Vice-President Leadership Development at the Peter Lougheed Leadership Institute at The Banff Centre. Together they will ensure that the vision, mission, and goals of the two partner institutions align under the broad banner of the Peter Lougheed Leadership Initiative. Of greater interest, though, will be the work they do to pinpoint and then facilitate collaborative projects and programs that will add value to the experience of both U of A students and Banff Centre participants.

Finally, Kim Campbell’s role as ambassador for the Peter Lougheed Leadership College and the U of A will fuel the college’s future success. As an active and admired international voice with an extensive record of leadership on the global stage, she will introduce the college and the U of A to new audiences nationally and internationally. She has stressed her desire to serve as a conduit for bringing global leaders to our students. With her passion and enthusiasm for our project, I truly believe that under her direction we will build a college that will provide extraordinary opportunities for students to explore diverse modes and definitions of leadership and test their own potential to create and inspire positive change in others.

Last Sunday, I hosted an event organized by the Advancement team where scholarship and bursary donors came together to meet several student award recipients. It was tremendously rewarding to witness the moment of recognition in which both donors and students realized the human face and impact of philanthropic giving. Students shared stories relating how their scholarship or bursary made a difference to their own academic success and our donors could see for themselves that their gifts matter. Such a wonderful moment of connection that I immediately recommended we do more of this kind of stewardship.

With the tragic events in Calgary this week, I am even more aware of how fortunate we, in the academy, are to play a role in nurturing a young person’s talents and potential. I hope that all of you will have time to relax and refresh with your families and friends over the long weekend.

Until next time,


U of A's role in the Galleria project

There is a historic relationship between Edmonton’s success and the success of its post-secondary institutions in shaping the talent, skills and creativity of its people. As the city advances, so too do the institutions; as the institutions advance, so too does the city. Post-secondary institutions and their cities are inextricably intertwined. The Galleria represents a transformative opportunity for both.

The Galleria project is more than much-needed space for the University of Alberta—it is consistent with the university’s vision of an urban, linear campus connected by LRT where students, faculty and members of the public move freely around the city to access world-class teaching and research experiences offered at Edmonton’s post-secondary institutions. Imagine the vibrancy that 5,000 art, design and music students, faculty and staff will bring to the downtown core. Imagine the potential when students and professional artists interact through linkages with the Winspear, Citadel and Art Gallery of Alberta. The creative energy will be palpable!

Yes, the university has identified climate-controlled access to the Galleria from the LRT as critical for our students, faculty and staff, and the patrons of the performances at the Galleria theatres and concert halls. A pedway is one solution, but there are others.

It makes sense that the Galleria and the Royal Alberta Museum should be linked to the LRT through climate-controlled walkways, just like the Winspear, the Art Gallery of Alberta, the Citadel and the Edmonton Public Library. A city that is expanding LRT and trying to encourage transit use over personal vehicles should offer safe, comfortable access (free of snow and treacherous ice) between LRT stops and destination points; it makes transit use much more attractive and will encourage regular trips between campuses, bringing the vibrancy of the university downtown and the downtown vibrancy to the U of A.

Edmonton is evolving. The University of Alberta is evolving. In the city vision, Edmonton is described as “a northern city of art, ideas, research and energy”. So too is the U of A a place “of art, ideas, research and energy.” The university is a place where there is daring, a willingness to try. The City of Edmonton is populated with people of that same spirit. Edmonton is the place that has what it takes to make a seemingly audacious concept like the Galleria, with its innovative business model, take hold, grow and prosper. It’s a project that has the potential to accelerate the city’s evolution, and the University of Alberta is excited to play a role—to be a partner in building this city.

Carl Amrhein
Provost and Vice-President (Academic)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

U of A extends condolences to sister institution

We are saddened and shocked by the tragedy which took the lives of five students last night. On behalf of the entire University of Alberta community, I extend condolences to the families and friends of the victims. I have reached out to President Elizabeth Cannon to let her know that our thoughts are with the students, faculty, and staff of U of C in this time of great sadness.

Upon hearing news late yesterday that one of the victims of this terrible incident was a student of the Alberta College of Art and Design, I would also like to extend our sympathies to their students, faculty, and staff as they deal with this grave loss.   
Indira Samarasekera
President and Vice-Chancellor

Updated April 16, 2014

Appointment of the Founding Principal of the University of Alberta’s Peter Lougheed Leadership College

I am delighted to formally announce the appointment of the Right Honourable Kim Campbell PC, CC, OBC, QC, 19th Prime Minister of Canada, as the Founding Principal of the University of Alberta’s Peter Lougheed Leadership College, effective April 1, 2014 for a two year term.

Kim Campbell brings a formidable record of national and international leadership. She served as Canada’s first female Prime Minister in 1993. She held cabinet portfolios as Minister of State for Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Minister of National Defence, and Minister of Veterans’ Affairs. From 1996-2000, she was the Canadian Consul General in Los Angeles.

Since holding public office, Kim Campbell’s international work has focused on international politics, democratization, climate change, women’s rights, and Canada-U.S. relations. She is a founding member of the Club of Madrid, an organization of former heads of government and state who promote democratic values. She is Chair Emerita of the Council of Women World Leaders and served as president of the International Women's Forum. The U of A recognized her many outstanding contributions to public service with an honorary degree in 2010.

Since its inception in 2001, Kim Campbell has been closely connected to the Centre for Public Leadership at Harvard University’s J. F. Kennedy School of Government. One of its inaugural fellows in spring 2001, she taught there for three years, developing courses focused on democratic transition and consolidation as well as gender and power. While there, she worked with many leading leadership scholars and experts including Ron Heifetz, Marty Linsky, David Gergen, and Warren Bennis. She also sat on the admissions committee for the Kennedy School. Kim Campbell continues to visit and speak at the Centre for Public Leadership where she remains an honorary fellow.

Today, Kim Campbell is an advisor to a number of other international organizations, notably serving as Chair of the Steering Committee of the World Movement for Democracy and Trustee for the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence at King's College London.

As Founding Principal of the Peter Lougheed Leadership College, Kim Campbell will engage and consult widely with both internal and external communities and committees to develop the programming for the U of A’s PLLC. She will work closely with the Leadership Academic Coordinating Committee, deans, undergraduate and graduate student leadership, and others to coordinate existing leadership activities on campus and serve as a catalyst for the creation of innovative new programming. She will also act as a diplomat and champion for the college, building awareness and forging opportunities for collaboration and cooperation with local, national, and international organizations and individuals.

Given her extraordinary background and experience, it will be a tremendous privilege to work with Kim Campbell as we build upon Peter Lougheed’s legacy at the University of Alberta.

Kim Campbell’s appointment was formally announced this morning at a joint press conference with The Banff Centre, our partner in the Peter Lougheed Leadership Initiative. Please join me in welcoming the Right Honourable Kim Campbell to the University of Alberta.

Indira V. Samarasekera, OC
President and Vice-Chancellor

Friday, April 11, 2014

President Samarasekera's Weekly Update - April 11, 2014

With classes ending this week, and everyone busy closing out the term and preparing for finals, I send just a short note of thanks today. I want to thank all of you for your outstanding efforts both inside and outside the classroom this year to engage, inspire, and support students. Teaching well takes time, imagination, and energy—as does providing the administrative, technical, and physical services needed to ensure that students’ full learning experience is at the best possible. When I witness how our students grow as learners, as practitioners of and thinkers in their chosen disciplines, and as fully-rounded individuals, I feel so privileged—as I hope you do—to be part of an institution that plays such an important role in helping people understand their talents and achieve their potential. Your work and leadership matter and I thank you.

In closing, I would also like to highlight the statement of condolence that I posted on Colloquy yesterday. I feel honoured to have met and worked with the Honourable Jim Flaherty and am terribly saddened by his sudden loss. His commitment to public service and to Canada will be sorely missed. 

Until next Friday,


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Statement on the passing the Honourable Jim Flaherty

On news of his sudden passing today, I would like to extend sympathy and condolences to the family and friends of the Honourable Jim Flaherty on behalf of the University of Alberta. We thank him for his extensive service to his country and his strong support of higher education and research throughout his years as Minister of Finance. In meetings over the years, and when participating in roundtables or in committees, I saw very clearly that he understood how Canada’s prosperity and well-being was founded upon the development of talented people and the institutions that enable them to reach their potential. While Finance Minister, he supported the Canada Excellence Research Chair program, the Vanier Graduate Scholarships, Banting Post-doctoral Fellowships, the Knowledge Infrastructure Program and most recently, the Canada First Research Excellence Chairs.  Canada is stronger for his leadership and service.

Indira Samarasekera
President and Vice-Chancellor

Friday, April 4, 2014

President Samarasekera's Weekly Update—April 4, 2014

I write to you this week from the annual general meeting and conference of the World Universities Network (WUN) in Cape Town, South Africa. WUN is a partnership of seventeen research intensive, publicly funded universities from 10 countries and five continents. The main goal of the network is “to accelerate the creation of knowledge and to develop the people required to address the challenges and opportunities of our rapidly changing world.” The network focuses on four global challenges—adapting to climate change, global higher education and research, public health, and understanding cultures—and helps to fund more than 100 active inter-disciplinary research groups working on a number of projects relating to these four broad themes.  The U of A has more than 15 faculty members engaged in WUN projects, either as lead or partner investigators.

I’ve been privileged to be the chair of WUN for the past two years and this week passed that responsibility to Max Price, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town. Each year, all of the presidents of the partner institutions meet at the AGM and, in addition to conducting the business of the organization, hold discussions around global higher education issues. This week, we held two sessions primarily concerned with sustaining the academy, particularly through mentoring and developing post-doctoral fellows and early career faculty members. We considered which mechanisms and tools need to be in place to ensure quality supervision and appropriate resources in the initial stages of academic careers. Also, we discussed how international networks such as the WUN can extend and strengthen opportunities for young academics to participate in research projects of global reach and influence.

The U of A’s partnership in the WUN is one of several strategies undertaken in recent years to increase our international reach and influence. In late February, Vice-President (Research) Lorne Babiuk traveled to Tsinghua University in Beijing. Tsinghua has selected the U of A as one of its five international partners. Lorne succeeded in moving a number of proposed projects forward during his visit and continues to identify other partners in China interested in investing in collaborative research activities. Likewise, he has recently secured new agreements under the Helmholtz-Alberta Initiative (HAI), which now encompasses infectious and neuro-degenerative disease research, in addition to the original energy and environment research projects. Plans are underway to further expand the HAI research collaborations to include medical imaging, as well as terrestrial and ecosystem resource informatics.

This morning, we were honoured to welcome representatives from the provincial and federal governments to the U of A in two separate visits. Dean Allen Berger hosted the Honourable Dave Hancock, Premier of Alberta and the Honourable Verlyn Olson, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, for a tour of Augustana campus and to discuss Augustana’s unique role within the Campus Alberta system.

We also welcomed Minister of State (Western Economic Diversification), the Honourable Michelle Rempel to Agri-Food Discovery Place on South Campus. Minister Rempel announced $1.6M support for a unique extruder for the Animal Nutrition and Ingredient Development Program, in the Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences. The extruder – a new platform technology and the only one of its kind in Canada – will be used to develop new pet foods and novel ingredients for food and feed application.   

Finally, I would like to congratulate Petros Kusmu, and the rest of the Students’ Union Executive, for successfully bringing the Fall Reading Week proposal to fruition. On Monday, Provost Carl Amrhein signed the revised UAPPOL Academic Schedule Procedure to include a Fall Reading Week beginning in the 2015-16 academic year.

Until next week,


Monday, March 31, 2014

Open house for East Campus Village

As a part of the university’s extensive efforts to expand student housing options, new residences are being planned on university properties in the East Campus Village. On January 8, the university held the first open houses showing the site options and conceptual plans for a residence on Saskatchewan Drive between 110 and 111 Street and infill housing on 89 and 90 Avenues. Based on feedback received during this process, the plans have been revised and developed further.

Faculty, staff, and students as well as the general public now have another opportunity to view the preliminary designs and see how these designs for both the Saskatchewan Drive residence and the infill housing meet the infill guidelines. The open houses are opportunities for the community  to provide feedback on the plans. University staff will be on hand to answer your questions.

Please drop in between noon and 1 p.m. on Wednesday, April 2, 2014 in the west atrium of the Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Science (CCIS) to view the plans. The west atrium is located behind the Starbucks, under the Solar System Installation. There will not be a formal presentation at this session.

If you are unable to attend the afternoon open house, a second open house for the general public will be held the same day from 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. in the Telus Atrium (111 Street & 87 Avenue.)

Materials presented at the open houses will be posted to the Community Relations website the following day. Comments will be accepted until April 13, 2014.

If you have any questions, please contact Emily Ball at 780.492.4345
We look forward to seeing you there.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada - Expression of Reconciliation

The following expression of reconciliation was read by Chancellor Ralph Young at the Truth and Reconciliation National Event held in Edmonton on March 29, 2014:

The University of Alberta is an educational institution whose campuses are situated on territory that is encompassed by Treaty Six and that includes traditional places of dwelling, meeting, and trading for Aboriginal peoples, among them the Cree, Dene, Nakoda Sioux, Saulteaux, Blackfoot and M├ętis.

I have come here today to affirm the University of Alberta’s commitment to supporting the goals of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. We are grateful for the work that the Commission has undertaken, and we are proud that Commissioner Chief Wilton Littlechild is a University of Alberta alumnus.

The university recognizes that of the 139 residential schools located across Canada, Alberta had 25—the largest number of residential schools of any province. We acknowledge that the impacts of the residential school system continue to affect the lives of the 12,000 survivors—and of the countless intergenerational survivors—living in Alberta, some of whom are members of our university community. We acknowledge, furthermore, that the Indian Residential School system represented an attempt to assimilate Aboriginal people into Canadian society—and that there are many ongoing issues that continue to challenge the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians.

The university therefore takes seriously its responsibility to its 39,000 students—and to the broader community—to ensure that all of our graduates understand the negative impacts of colonization and the importance of building more respectful relationships.

The University of Alberta is working hard to become a leader in this regard.

It is home to the only Faculty of Native Studies in Canada and has recently instituted mandatory credit courses in Aboriginal/Indigenous Education, Histories, and Contexts in the Faculty of Education. These initiatives resonate with the university’s stated promise of “uplifting the whole people,” as articulated by our first president, Henry Marshall Tory. We acknowledge, however, that the upholding of this principle requires that it be renewed in every generation, taking into account and learning from an honest understanding of our past and present.

In 2011, the University of Alberta finalized an Aboriginal Strategy document, which stated that in order to fully realize President Tory’s vision, “we must create campus communities where Alberta’s Aboriginal histories resonate in every corner, where barriers Aboriginal students face in pursuing their education are eliminated, and where Aboriginal thought and knowledge inform the finest scholarly works.”

Our Aboriginal Strategy document includes the following goals:

  • “To recognize in policy and practice that the university is located in a territory with long-established and diverse Aboriginal societies”;
  • “To support curriculum development and content integration of Aboriginal perspectives and cultures across the academy”;
  • “To construct a gathering place and other university spaces that are welcoming for Aboriginal peoples including students, faculty and staff”;
  • “To work with all units of the university to encourage their leadership teams to develop plans creating welcoming environments within their units that acknowledge and celebrate Aboriginal history and share contemporary practices and accomplishments of Aboriginal peoples”; and
  • “To work with Aboriginal communities in order to learn about the ways in which Aboriginal perspectives might inform research paradigms and to contribute to the ongoing public conversations about the relationships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians.”

By putting these words into action, we aim to support the Truth and Reconciliation Commission not only in engaging the Canadian public about the history of residential schools but in taking steps toward the visioning, creation and maintenance of healthy and respectful relationships with Aboriginal peoples.

As a symbol of our commitment, we now offer a copy of this statement—and of the full Aboriginal Strategy document—to the Bentwood Box.

President Samarasekera's Weekly Update—March 28, 2014

This week opened with a meeting of General Faculties Council on Monday afternoon. Over the last few years, the Students’ Union has proposed that the University of Alberta adopt a fall reading week. These proposals have been fined tuned over those years with discussions finally coming to fruition over the last several months. After serious and thoughtful consultation between students and the Registrar’s Office, deans, and others, a broadly-supported proposal was brought to the provost for final approval earlier this year. Provost Carl Amrhein invited Petros Kusmu, SU president, and Dustin Chelen, Vice President (Academic), to present this proposal to GFC so that an advisory vote could be taken before Carl made his final decision.  After thorough discussion on Monday afternoon, GFC voted overwhelmingly in support of instituting a fall reading week. Beginning in fall 2015, “Green and Gold Week” will occur during the week of Remembrance Day, extending the small break currently in place in the calendar. The provost will formally approve Green and Gold Week at a signing ceremony this coming Monday.

Another major discussion item at GFC focused on graduate attributes and competencies outlined in a report by a subcommittee of the Committee on Learning Environment. Compiled through extensive study of the literature and a major survey of more than 5000 U of A students, the report lists seven attributes and competencies: ethical responsibility, scholarship, critical thinking, communication, collaboration, creativity, and confidence. The provost is seeking advice on how best to promote these competencies and attributes so that they can be effectively incorporated into the design of programs and courses. A variety of viewpoints were shared and debated which will assist him as he continues to move these forward.

Following GFC, I traveled to Ottawa for meeting with the U15 Group of Canadian Research Universities. On Tuesday, we announced that the U15 has joined the Global Network of Research Universities, a group which includes the Association of American Universities, the League of European Research Universities, The Russell Group, the China 9 grouping of leading Chinese universities, and the Australian Group of Eight research-intensive universities. The Global Network promotes research collaboration among its members and also strives to be the voice for research universities, advocating on an international scale for the role that we play in addressing and solving global challenges.

This morning, Vice-President (Research) Lorne Babiuk was proud to host the Honourable Ed Holder, Minister of State (Science and Technology) on north campus for this year’s formal announcement of Canada's newest Canada Research Chairs. The U of A has seven new CRCs, one advancement to Tier 1, and three renewals. With these 11, the U of A is now home to nearly 100 CRCs across the humanities and social sciences, health and natural sciences, and engineering.

Tomorrow, Chancellor Ralph Young will be delivering an expression of reconciliation on behalf of the U of A to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada currently holding hearings at the Shaw Conference Centre. Once the U of A statement is formally read, we will post it on Colloquy. I would like thank all of the faculty, staff, students, and alumni who organized and participated in TRC events both on and off campus over the last week.

Finally, in closing let me highlight two extraordinary student achievements from the last week. The Golden Bears hockey team won the national championship last weekend. In addition, The Gateway was named Outstanding Student Newspaper by the 2014 Canadian Community Newspaper Awards. One of The Gateway’s staff writers (and incoming editor-in-chief), Andrea Ross (Arts), won Best Campus Feature Story for her writing on U of A’s anatomical gifts program. Congratulations to all!

Until next week,