Friday, May 22, 2015

President Samarasekera's Weekly Bulletin--May 22

I would like to begin my bulletin this week by echoing Interim Provost Olive Yonge’s words of congratulation to this year’s University of Alberta undergraduate teaching award winners posted yesterday on Colloquy. Colleagues, family, and friends gathered with Olive on Thursday in Lister Centre to pay tribute to the 2015 winners of the Rutherford Award, William Hardy Alexander Award, and Provost’s Award for Early Achievement in Undergraduate Teaching. I’d like congratulate and thank Brian Maraj (physical education and recreation), Masoud Ardakani (engineering), Adrienne Wright (medicine and dentistry), Jerome Melancon (Augustana), Yumi Sieben (arts), and Dominic Sauvageau (engineering) for devoting energy and imagination to making the classroom experience what it is meant to be—a genuine and powerful exchange of questions, ideas, and knowledge between individuals.

This week, the IC-IMPACTS board met at the U of A for the first time. As you know, the U of A is a lead partner in IC-IMPACTS, a Canadian network centre of excellence focused on research related to developing integrated water management systems, building safe and sustainable infrastructure, and improving public health outcomes for communities in India and Canada. Since its inception in 2012, IC-IMPACTS has funded 13 projects. Along with the three lead partners (UBC, U of T, and U of ), 91 other partner organizations are now involved, bringing together 158 researchers and providing training for 94 graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and other research associates. My thanks to Thomas Thundat for his leadership on behalf of U of A.

With spring in full bloom, I am reminded that convocation will soon be here. Last Friday, Deputy Provost Roger Epp served as keynote speaker at Yukon College’s morning and afternoon convocation ceremonies in Whitehorse. In the afternoon, he was able to congratulate this year’s class of U of A BSc graduates in northern environmental and conservation sciences who have earned their degree close to home thanks to our partnership agreement with Yukon College launched in 2010.

Next Tuesday, President-elect David Turpin will also attend a convocation ceremony to receive an honorary degree from the University of Manitoba in recognition for his distinguished research career and his outstanding leadership in post-secondary education. A richly deserved honour!

Until next Friday,


Thursday, May 21, 2015

2015 University of Alberta Awards for Teaching Excellence

Please join me in congratulating this year’s recipients on their outstanding contributions to student learning and the advancement of the teaching enterprise at the University of Alberta.  Each of them is being celebrated for creating challenging but successful learning environments and experiences for students. These awards recognize and publicize excellence in teaching to the University and the wider community, encourage the pursuit of teaching excellence, and promote informed discussion of teaching and its improvement.

This year’s award winners are:

2015 Rutherford Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching

  • Brian Maraj (Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation)
  • Masoud Ardakani (Faculty of Engineering)

2015 William Hardy Alexander Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching

  • Adrienne Wright (Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry)
  • Jerome Melancon (Augustana Campus)
  • Yumi Sieben (Faculty of Arts)

2015 Provost’s Award for Early Achievement of Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching

  • Dominic Sauvageau (Faculty of Engineering)

I’d also like to thank everyone who was involved in the nomination process - the nominators, contributors (students, colleagues, alumni, and external peer evaluators), administrative staff, and each of the candidates.  Thanks also to the members of the GFC University Teaching Awards Committee (UTAC) for their thorough review of this year’s submissions.  Your time and commitment are truly appreciated.

Congratulations again to this year’s honourees,

Olive Yonge
Interim Provost and Vice-President (Academic)

Friday, May 15, 2015

President Samarasekera's Weekly Bulletin--May 15

With my weekly bulletins, I have been able to share the full range of my activities as president of the University of Alberta—activities that are largely focused on the administration and advancement of the institution. However, even though I have now been in administrative roles for 15 years, I have always felt that one of the most powerful activities we undertake as academics is teaching. That’s why this week has been a real pleasure for me. I’m in Vancouver teaching a course in continuous casting of steel billets, blooms, and slabs with metallurgy colleagues from Toronto, Illinois, and New York. The course—now in its 30th year—attracts people from around the world working within the continuous casting industry in roles that range from the shop floor to research to management. Founded by my PhD supervisor and mentor, Keith Brimacombe, the course is, for me, a cherished annual opportunity to share my research with those who are in the best position to translate it into practice.

While here in Vancouver, I was also able to host a major alumni event with 100 people in attendance on Wednesday evening. Thomas Thundat, CERC in Oil Sands Molecular Engineering, joined me in Vancouver and gave the keynote address. My thanks to Thomas for taking the time to be part of the event and help in our efforts to steward and build alumni engagement.

In Edmonton, Debra Pozega Osburn, vice-president (university relations), hosted more than 200 people at the third annual Community Connections Awards on Thursday to recognize the major contributions of three award winners:

  • UAlberta Advocate Award: Jack Francis, volunteer curator of the U of A’s agricultural museum on South Campus

Held in the atrium of City Hall, the awards ceremony itself is a demonstration of the strong ties that exist between the U of A and the communities we often serve most directly. In addition to family and friends, many of the community and campus partners that our award recipients work with attend the event to celebrate not only the work of the individuals involved, but also the work that they’ve done together. Congratulations to this year’s award winners! For more information on their work and the awards, please visit the Community Connections Awards website.

Before closing this week, I’d also like to congratulate Kerry Mummery on his reappointment as dean of the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, approved at last week’s Board of Governors meeting and announced on Monday. Under Kerry’s leadership, the faculty’s stature in research and athletics has grown both nationally and internationally. Within the faculty, Kerry has led a review of undergraduate curricula, innovative new interdisciplinary programming, and the expansion of much-needed teaching, research, and athletic and fitness facilities. Please join me in congratulating Kerry on a well-deserved reappointment.

Until next Friday,


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

2015 Community Connections Awards

Spring is a time to celebrate—and on Thursday (May 14), Chancellor Ralph Young and I will be doing just that as we host this year’s Community Connections Awards.  The annual event gives us all a chance to celebrate the University of Alberta’s connections to the communities it serves, and I invite you to join us.

Thursday, May 14
12:30p.m. – 1:30p.m.
City Room, City Hall
A dessert reception will follow the presentation

Entering their third year, the Community Connections Awards honour the people and initiatives that unite the U of A and the broader communities that we serve. The awards also offer us the chance to celebrate the outstanding accomplishments of those extraordinary individuals and groups who have made it their mission to live the university’s public promise and long held tradition to “uplift the whole people.”

This year we’ll be celebrating the work of:

Candace NykiforukThe Community Scholar Award

Associate Professor, School of Public Health

Dr. Nykiforuk is a passionate advocate for public health, and her work encourages communities to seek opportunities that shape and support healthy living. Her efforts have led to the creation of the Alberta Policy Coalition for Chronic Disease Prevention, which encourages provincial policy changes for the betterment of public health. She and her team have also developed the "Community Health and Built Environment" suite of projects, to help communities identify and produce community interventions that help people make healthier decisions in their everyday lives.

Adopt a Heritage Chicken Program - The Community Leader Award

The Poultry Research Centre, Faculty of Agriculture, Life and Environmental Studies

This unique program at the university farm allows members of the local urban community the chance to connect with both their agricultural roots and a very real food source. In addition to fresh eggs, each person who adopts a heritage chicken participates in “free range learning.”  They gain knowledge about their heritage chicken’s history, general egg production, and the researchers who care for and study the program. The project also helps to bust food production myths and misconceptions.

Jack Francis - UAlberta Advocate Award

ALES Museum

Following his distinguished 43-year career as an animal technician in the Faculty of ALES, Jack Francis has spent an additional 15 years preserving both the U of A’s and Alberta’s rich agricultural history. Mr. Francis has served as the curator of the ALES Agricultural Museum since he first proposed the idea to the dean all those years ago. Mr. Francis recognized the university’s potential to help preserve local history, and has been the driving force behind the museum’s growth, community outreach, and ongoing success.

 I hope to see you at this year’s celebration.

Debra Pozega Osburn
Vice President (University Relations)

Monday, May 11, 2015

Dean of the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation Reappointment

I am pleased to announce the reappointment of Dr. Kerry Mummery as Dean of the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation. Following a duly constituted Dean Review Committee has concluded its deliberations, and the Board of Governors have approved the Committee’s recommendation that Dr. Mummery be reappointed for a second five-year term of office, to be effective on July 1, 2015.

In his first term as Dean, Dr. Mummery provided the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation with a strong voice and has been respected as a leader during what has been a time of growth and development for the faculty. Under his leadership, a number of facilities projects have been completed, including the Saville Community Sports Centre, PAW Centre and the renovations to Van Vliet and University Hall, which will now bring the Faculty together physically. A review of undergraduate curriculum has resulted in significant program changes both in kinesiology and in recreation, sport and tourism. The Faculty has attracted several new professors and established its first endowed professorship, initiated a strategic review of research, and increased levels of grant funding. Dr. Mummery has been a strong advocate for research, teaching, and the learning experience of graduate students in the Faculty. He has been proactive in building effective relationships with other faculties, for purposes that include the development of new interdisciplinary programs, as well as with external partners.

The University of Alberta is fortunate to have Dr. Mummery outstanding leadership. We wish Dean Mummery continued success in his next five years.

I wish to thank members of the Dean Review Committee for their commitment and hard work, and to thank all of you who participated in the review process.

Olive Yonge
Interim Provost and Vice-President (Academic)

Friday, May 8, 2015

President Samarasekera's Weekly Bulletin - May 8

It has been an eventful week both on and off campus, with a number of activities coming to successful conclusion. Earlier today, David Turpin and I announced that, following an international search, the Board of Governors has approved the appointment of the University of Alberta’s own Steven Dew as provost and vice-president (academic), effective July 1, 2015. A longtime leader and associate dean within the Faculty of Engineering as well as an outstanding teacher and researcher, Steve brings a breadth of administrative and academic experience and skill to the U of A’s leadership team. If you missed the email earlier today, a full announcement notice is available on Colloquy.

On Monday, David Turpin and I also had the pleasure of announcing that the search for a new vice-president (advancement) had also come to a successful close. Heather McCaw, currently associate vice-president (development) at the University of British Columbia, will be joining the executive team on September 15, 2015. She will come to us with more than 25 years’ experience in university fundraising and strategic business partnerships. You can learn more about Heather in the announcement posted on Colloquy on May 4.

With these two appointments now in place, the transition between leadership teams at the U of A is nearly complete. At every point, David Turpin has played a leadership role in the process and sends his thanks to all the members of both search committees for their time, commitment, and wise advice. I have full confidence that the transition in July will go very well with such a strong team now in place.

Off campus, we have all been caught up in the historic change of the provincial election. Once again the U of A community has proven itself to be deeply engaged in the democratic process, with many individuals running and being elected to office—including premier-designate Rachel Notley, who earned her BA in political science here in 1987. (A complete list was posted on Colloquy on May 8.) I look forward to having the opportunity of congratulating premier-designate Rachel Notley in person once she is in office. With a new team in government, and the transition that is likely to follow, our team here has begun the process of preparing for and building a forward-looking and effective relationship with our new partners in the legislature.

A note of congratulations to close this week: Last Saturday, board chair Doug Goss received an honorary degree from NAIT in recognition of his dedicated service to their institution and many other public, private, and charitable organizations in Edmonton, including Fort Edmonton, the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation, the Minerva Foundation, and the United Way.

A sincere thank you to all who joined me this afternoon for a celebration of the work we have achieved together under Dare to Discover. Thank you!

Until next Friday,


Provost & Vice-President (Academic) Announcement

We are delighted to announce that after an international search, the Board of Governors, with unanimous support from the advisory committee, has approved the appointment of a new Provost and Vice-President (Academic).

Steven Dew, an experienced Faculty of Engineering administrator, and award-winning professor and researcher, has been appointed to the chief academic officer role, effective July 1, 2015.

Steven has been Associate Dean (research & planning) in the U of A Faculty of Engineering since 1999, and a professor in electrical and computer engineering since completing his PhD here in 1992. During that time, he has helped stimulate and manage Engineering’s growth –– 52 per cent growth in faculty members, 60 per cent growth in undergraduate students, 180 per cent growth in graduate students, 265 per cent growth in external research funding, and 380 per cent growth in research chairs.

In addition to his contributions in Engineering, Steven brings to the provost role a focus on excellence, and an outstanding track record of fostering collaboration and building consensus across the institution and beyond, while successfully leading large multi-stakeholder initiatives.

One example of Steven’s reach stems from his work as co-chair of the committee to develop a campus-wide set of graduate student attributes for the GFC Committee on the Learning Environment. He has also played a critical role in numerous university-wide committees related to research and scholarship, graduate studies, international engagement, curricula, academic leadership and information technology.

Steven was responsible for securing the acquisition of and ongoing operations support for $85- million, open access nanotechnology facilities used by 340 research and industry groups. He was the key organizer, lead proposal author and member of the National Operations Committee for the Helmholtz-Alberta Initiative. He was also the driving force behind organizing the Sino-Canadian Energy and Environment Research and Education Initiative with Tsinghua University that involves 23 projects across four faculties.

With research expertise in the areas of nanofabrication, Steven has published more than 175 papers including being co-editor of the book, Nanofabrication Techniques and Principles (2011). He is a recipient of the Killam Annual Professorship, the McCalla Research Professorship, and the Douglas R. Colton Medal for Research Excellence, as well as being a three-time recipient of the Faculty of Engineering Teaching Award.

Steven is a NINT Fellow; vice-chair of the national committee developing standards for nanotechnology under the International Standards Organization; founding member of the Canadian Engineering Graduate Consortium; visiting team member for the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board; past board member of TRLabs, a not-for-profit corporation and Canada’s largest telecommunications research organization, now called TRTech; and corporate member for TRTech.

Honoured to be selected for this key position, Steven looks forward to working closely with President Turpin, the Deans and other members of the leadership team, as well as so many outstanding people from across our university and in the broader community, to help guide the U of A to even higher levels of achievement and contribution.

We would like to thank Olive Yonge for taking on the role of Interim Provost and Vice-President (Academic) during the transition period. Her steady hand and wise leadership has been instrumental during the last several months.

Thanks and appreciation also to the members of the advisory committee for their hard work and commitment. Together we were able to identify and attract an outstanding candidate to this key role.

Please join us in congratulating Steve on his new position within the U of A community.

Indira V. Samarasekera, O.C.
President and Vice-Chancellor

David H. Turpin, CM, FRSC

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

2015 Alberta Election

With last night’s election, May 5 became a day of historic change for Alberta.  President-Elect David Turpin and I would like to congratulate the new government. We look forward to meeting with Premier-Designate Rachel Notley and her team and will continue our work with our partners in the Ministry of Innovation and Advanced Education to ensure that Alberta’s outstanding post-secondary education sector is strengthened to the benefit of Albertans.

Throughout the history of our university and this province, students, alumni, current and former faculty and staff have been active and engaged citizens and leaders. As in past elections, many individuals from the University of Alberta family took a leading role in the democratic process in this election as well, taking up the call of public service and running as candidates in the election. Congratulations and best wishes to the following U of A students (current and former), alumni, and staff who were elected last night to sit as Members of the Legislative Assembly in Alberta (in alphabetical order):

  • Drew Barnes
  • Deron Bilous
  • Lorne Dach
  • Thomas Dang
  • David Eggen
  • Richard Feehan
  • Rick Fraser
  • Dave Hanson
  • Bruce Hinkley
  • Sarah Hoffman
  • Danielle Larive
  • Rod Loyola
  • Brian Mason
  • Marg McCuaig-Boyd
  • Rachel Notley
  • Shannon Phillips
  • Colin Piquette
  • David Shepherd
  • Lori Sigurdson
  • Richard Starke
  • David Swann
  • Wes Taylor
  • Bob Turner
  • Denise Wollard

On behalf of the University of Alberta, my thanks to all for their leadership and dedication to public service.

Indira V. Samarasekera
President and Vice-Chancellor

*Note: This list will be updated as the university continues to learn more about Alberta's new MLA's and their connections to the U of A.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Appointment of Vice-President (Advancement)

We are delighted to announce that the Board of Governors, with unanimous support from the advisory committee, has approved the appointment of a new vice-president of advancement who will lead efforts to build on the record levels of philanthropic support and alumni relations activity we have achieved in recent years.

Heather McCaw has been appointed Vice-President (Advancement), effective September 15, 2015.

Heather is currently Associate Vice-President (Development) and Co-director of the University of British Columbia’s $1.5-billion fundraising and alumni engagement campaign. She has more than 25 years’ experience in university fundraising and strategic business partnerships, the majority gained at UBC.

At UBC, Heather has been responsible for more than 160 staff across three campuses, a central office and 16 decentralized fundraising units. Her team has consistently raised more than $200 million annually for UBC programs, endowments and capital projects. She was also one of the pioneers of UBC’s successful International Fundraising program.

Heather’s wealth of experience in leading ongoing development activities, and her successful track record in principal and major gift fundraising, along with stakeholder and alumni engagement, is extremely impressive. Equally impressive is her ability to lead a collaborative approach to fundraising in a centralized/decentralized, multi-campus reality. She will be a tremendous asset to the U of A leadership team.

In addition to her university experience, Heather has been vice-president of two associated consulting companies, Give Canada Fundraising Corporation and Spectrum Marketing Corporation. These organizations specialize in securing strategic business partnerships and multimillion-dollar donations on behalf of non-profit clients that have included the United Way of the Lower Mainland, the Rick Hansen Foundation, the universities of Calgary and Victoria, and the Toronto Rehab Foundation.

We would also like to take this opportunity to thank Colm Renehan for agreeing to continue in the role of Interim VP (Advancement) until September 15, and for his ongoing leadership and dedication to advancing the U of A.

Thanks and appreciation also to the members of the advisory committee for their hard work and commitment to ensuring we were able to identify and attract an outstanding candidate to this key role.

Please join us in welcoming Heather McCaw to the U of A community.

Indira V. Samarasekera, O.C.
President and Vice-Chancellor

David H. Turpin

Friday, May 1, 2015

President Samarasekera's Weekly Bulletin – May 1

I spent this week in Hong Kong, where I hosted an event with our Hong Kong Alumni Chapter and also attended a number of meetings with the Worldwide Universities Network (WUN). Among the 65 people who attended were Canadian Consul General Ian Burchett and Alberta Representative in Asia Gary Mar. My thanks to Tim Caulfield, Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy, for coming with us and presenting a dynamic keynote address.

Discussions later in the week at the WUN meetings were productive. We were hosted by the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kue Young, dean of the School of Public Health; Heather Zwicker, incoming dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research; and Gordon Houlden, director of our China Institute, joined me for the meetings where it was announced that two new universities, the University of Basel in Switzerland and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, had joined the network, bringing the total number of member institutions to 19. In addition, we reviewed the progress that has been made on WUN’s 4 Global Challenges: Global Higher Education and Research, Public Health (Non-communicable Disease), Responding to Climate Change, and Understanding Cultures. Gordon led a collaborative meeting of the Global China Group, one of 90 specific research projects currently working under the umbrella of these four main themes. Many U of A researchers are involved in other projects. Since its inception, WUN has become the leading international network for global challenge research collaborations, with more than 2,000 individuals from the partner institutions working together around the globe. I would like to thank Stefan Scherer for his efforts as the WUN co-ordinator for the U of A. Stefan has played an instrumental role in ensuring that the U of A plays a leadership role within the organization.

Shifting my focus back to campus where exams and marking for the winter term are wrapping up, let me thank you for all of your efforts to inspire, teach, and support students over the 2014–2015 academic year. Every faculty and staff member at the U of A plays a part in delivering on the university’s core mission, and the U of A’s reputation for providing an exceptional student experience results from your dedication and commitment. Thank you!

I would also like to congratulate the campus community for being named one of Canada's Greenest Employers for the seventh year in a row. The Office of Sustainability deserves a great deal of thanks for their efforts, as do a large number of partner units, groups and individuals who have made sustainability an everyday priority on each of our campuses. During these last few weeks of the term, events such as our annual Eco Move Out have served as a visible reminder of our community’s commitment to sustainable living. Along with Eco Move Out, our Sustainability Awareness Week, Green and Gold Community Garden, One Simple Act on Campus initiative, and Sustainability Enhancement Fund were cited as reasons for the designation.

This week, we also learned that Erasmus Okine, associate vice-president (academic) and associate vice-president (research), has been appointed vice-president (research) at the University of Lethbridge, effective July 1. Erasmus has been an integral member of the U of A community for 30 years, first as a graduate student, then as a researcher, professor and administrator. His contributions to the Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences, and to both the Provost’s Office and VP Research have always reflected his commitment to excellence. Please join me in congratulating him on his new appointment.

In closing, let me once again invite all faculty, staff and students to my farewell thank-you event next Friday, May 8, at 1:30 p.m. in CCIS. Everyone is welcome. If you haven’t already registered, please do so here:

Until next Friday,