The University of Alberta and Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry Academic Restructuring Initiative

The following is intended to provide background information on the process of academic restructuring underway at the University of Alberta and to outline the guiding principles, objectives and key considerations for academic restructuring in the FoMD; as well as the process and timelines.

Institutional context: The University of Alberta for Tomorrow (UAT)

The U of A is in the midst of a period of fundamental systemic reform, to address current financial pressures and enhance delivery on our academic mission. President Bill Flanagan’s institutional vision, the University of Alberta for Tomorrow (UAT), will require significant changes in both the academic and administrative areas.

  • Academic Restructuring focuses on the organizational structure of the university:
    • Based on scenarios provided by the Academic Restructuring Working Group (ARWG), in early December the General Faculties Council provided its final recommendations for academic restructuring to the Board of Governors for review.
    • Final recommendation and approval of any changes to academic structure reside with the General Faculties Council and the Board of Governors.
  • Service Excellence Transformation (SET) focuses on transforming our institutional business processes, units and tasks with a concentration on:
    • examining academic support functions
    • redesigning services and processes
    • redesigning procurement practices
    • reviewing the current approach to space and facilities

Academic Restructuring and Service Excellence Transformation work in parallel with one another.

What are the goals of the University of Alberta for Tomorrow initiative?
  • to be leaders in interdisciplinary teaching and research
  • to enrich student experience, with expanded range of work-integrated learning opportunities
  • to be an active, impactful partner in the community
  • with fundamental systemic reform, to set a bold new direction for the university of tomorrow
Why now? And why so fast?

We must act now and act strategically:

  • The U of A is at a critical turning point, precipitated by multiple significant pressures.
  • We face an anticipated 33 per cent cut ($216M) to the U of A’s Government of Alberta grant over three years.
What is ‘academic restructuring’?

Academic restructuring involves reimagining the units that deliver our core missions of teaching and research:

  • It includes looking at the units (Faculties, Schools, Departments, Divisions) that house our academic programs.
  • It is not the restructuring of our programs (majors, minors, certificates, curricula).
How can you be part of the change?

Stay informed through:

Share your feedback through:

Engage and participate in:

  • UAT and SET town halls
  • ThoughtExchanges

Academic restructuring in the FoMD

As change occurs across the University, we must also focus on our academic structures within the FoMD. We must determine the optimal structure to make our Faculty more nimble and collaborative and reduce administrative costs.

The Office of the Dean has established The Department Chair’s Service Transformation Working Group (STWG), to support the University of Alberta for Tomorrow and inform the ARWG from within our Faculty. 

What is the Department Chair’s Service Transformation Working Group (STWG)?

Appointed by the Dean, this is an internal advisory group for the Dean. The STWGs mandate is to reimagine how we organize ourselves for teaching, learning, research, service and administration. The STWG is working to:

  • reconsider (reduce) the number of academic units (departments) and simplify our administrative structure
  • rethink the configuration or structure of departments
  • improve efficiency and effectiveness
  • identify areas and functions where specialization of roles would better serve our students
  • foster collaboration and interdisciplinarity
  • be aspirational and focused on the future
  • develop improved structures that promote excellence in education, research and service
Who are the members of the STWG?
Brenda Hemmelgarn (Chair); Hanne Ostergaard (Co-Chair); Narmin Kassam, Medicine; David Williams, Surgery; Lee Green, Family Medicine; James Young, Physiology; Derek Emery, Radiology; Charles Holmes, Biochemistry; Asha Rao, Staff; Daniel Skubleny, Student.
What are the guiding principles of the STWG?
  • The group will act in the best interests of the entire FoMD.
  • The group will be consultative and transparent.
  • Recommendations will be made based on data and evidence as much as possible
  • Recommendations will be future focused, ensuring that we build upon our reputation and excellence i education, research and innovation in the provision of clinical care
  • Recommendations will consider the overall structure of the Faculty to support more collaboration in research and teaching, creating a leaner, more agile and more coordinated organizational structure, focusing on synergies and interdisciplinarity where appropriate
  • Recommendations will align Faculty and department support structures to be more streamlined, efficient and effective.

We have put together a Staff Advisory Team (SAT), which will report to STWG, representing all members of the Faculty and identifying and proposing solutions to any issues relevant to staff.

How were the members of the SAT selected and who do they represent?

The SAT selection committee considered candidates’ broad knowledge of the FoMD and one or more SET functional work streams; their passion to make a difference; and the skills they would bring to the group.

The resulting 20-member team represents departments, units, SET functional work streams (human resources, information technology, external engagement, finance, general administration, student services), all staff categories (APO, MAPS, NASA), varying degrees of seniority (0-5 years, 5-10 years, 10-15 years, 15-plus years) and equity-seeking groups.

Who are the members of the SAT?
  • Heather Allan, graduate program administrator, Medical Genetics
  • RaeAnne Barkhouse, academic divisional administrator, Medicine
  • Kris Benson, project lead, MedIT
  • Taniya Birbeck, director of administration, Postgraduate Medical Education
  • Dancy Bogdanovic, assistant chair of administration, Physiology and Pharmacology
  • Kenton Boutillier, Indigenous student supports and services lead, Division of Community Engagement
  • Judith Chrystal, department relations associate, Pediatrics
  • Kyla Denisuik, managing director of advancement, Dean’s Office Administration
  • Margo Desmarais, finance team lead, Medicine
  • Shannon Erichsen, team lead in undergraduate surgical education, Surgery
  • Nicole Firth, education program supervisor, Pediatrics
  • Janet Horyn, assistant chair of administration, Surgery
  • Blair Kopetski, financial administrator/executive assistant, Cell Biology
  • Kathleen Kruper, human resources, finance and research administrator, Oncology
  • Sonia La Giorgia, research administrative assistant, Emergency Medicine
  • Chesceri Mason Gafuik, department business administrator, Obstetrics & Gynecology/Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences
  • Wendy Nickolson, finance manager, Dean's Office Administration
  • Mark Perreault, assistant chair of administration, Family Medicine
  • Suzanne Roy, assistant chair of administration, Dentistry
  • Colleen Sunderland, research analyst, Office of Research

Cheryl Deslaurier, chair and change liaison
Hanne Ostergaard, STWG representative
Megan McDougald, SET representative

Consultation and process

We are currently in the consultation phase regarding FoMD restructuring:

  • Department-based discussions led by Chairs are ongoing.
  • Conversation with the Dean zoom events are planned every two weeks through the end of March, 2021. Stakeholders include faculty, students and staff.
  • Non-department based forums are ongoing with stakeholders (faculty, staff, students).
  • Individual input is welcome. Please email the dean at

We will develop models and scenarios to provide sound evidence to UAT and the ARWG. A proposal that reflects input from ARWG will eventually go to the Faculty Council.