Faculty of Science Strategic Plan 2015-2020

Strategic Plan Progress Report - 2015


Understand the Past, Shape the Future

The Faculty of Science Strategic Plan is centred on 10 BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) that are intended to 1) advance the Faculty’s research, teaching, and administrative agendas, and 2) position the Faculty of Science as a leader in response to the major drivers of change in the post-secondary sector. Each major recommendation is a BHAG, with targets set high enough to require a concerted five-year (or more) effort to attain the goal. Even achieving major progress towards realizing these goals represents an important advance in the Faculty of Science’s position as a national and international leader in research and teaching. All BHAGs are easily measured, and progress will be regularly updated.

This document represents the Year One progress towards achieving the 10 goals. In the following, all numbers reflecting the current status are from November 1, 2015.


BHAG #1: The ratio of number of undergraduate students (UG) to graduate students (GS) is currently 5.5 to 1 (UG2GS). Within 10 years, the Faculty of Science must bring the UG2GS ratio down to at least 4:1. For this strategic plan, an intermediate objective of a UG2GS ratio of 4.5:1 will be targeted.

Responsibility: Dean
Action Items (2014-15):
  • Embrace the Registrar’s new enrollment program that allows Faculties to adjust their admission average (as opposed to a fixed average, as has been previously the case). Completed.
  • Reduce undergraduate enrollment to between 6000 and 6100 for Fall 2016. This eliminates unfunded students. Completed.
  • Stabilize graduate student funding to reach a target of 1,080 students. Completed.
  • Provide funding to departments to bring highly qualified potential graduate students for a visit. Completed ($25K level per Department).
Action Items (2015-16):
  • Provide new funding (up to $250K) for graduate recruiting. Completed.
Goal: 4.5:1
        September 2014: Ugrads 6,253; Grads 1,180; UG2GS = 5.30 (official numbers)
        September 2015: Ugrads 5,985; Grads 1,078; UG2GS = 5.55 (not official until December)

The reduction in graduate students is fallout from the 2013 budget year, where the University was subject to an enormous cut in budget. One of the responses in Science was to reduce our graduate population by 10%, a consequence of losing $1.4M in teaching assistantship funding. The reduction in undergraduate population was planned. For the past six years, the Faculty of Science has exceeded the number of admissions for which it has government funding. In times of budgetary pressures, it is not prudent to exceed our government admission target.


BHAG #2: Increase the total number of non-CRC and non-honorific research chairs and professorships by 10, from 26 to 36. These chairs could be leveraged through NSERC, AITF, donations, or other funding sources.

Responsibility: Dean, Department Chairs, Associate Dean (Research), Advancement
Action Items (2014-15):
  • New Endowed Professorship in Paleontology. This will add a new professor who will start July 1, 2016.
  • Encouraging faculty members with large industrial research grants ($100k/year for five years) to apply for an NSERC Industrial Research Chair. Under way.
  • Engaging provincial research funding agencies. Under way.
  • Engaging donors on support for research chairs and professorships. Under way.
Action Items (2015-16):
  • Continue with above initiatives. Under way.
Goal: Increase by 10.
        September 2014: 26
        September 2015: 24
  • + Frank Hegmann (started AITF Strategic Chair in Terahertz Science and Technology, Jan. 2015)
  • - Tracy Ravio (AIHS Chair reached end of term, non-renewable)
  • - Clayton Dickson (AIHS Chair reached end of term, non-renewable)
  • - Mario Feldman (CIHR Chair, left the University of Alberta)

BHAG #3: Create 10 new spin-off companies (with a 5-year survival rate of at least 75%) and 10 new licensing agreements by members of the Faculty of Science.

Responsibility: Associate Dean (Research), Researchers
Action Items (2014-15):
  • New Companies
    • Jon Veinot, Applied Quantum Materials
    • Christine Szymanski, VaxAlta
    • Pierre Boulanger, MedROAD
    • Richard McCreery, Nanolog Audio Incorporated
  • Licensing Agreements
    • Christine Szymanski, exclusive license to VaxAlta, Aug 28, 2014
    • Robert Wolkow, exclusive license to Quantum Silicon, Aug 28, 2014
    • Gane Wong, exclusive option to GenSight Biologics, SA & MIT, Jan 9, 2015
    • Richard McCreery
      • Non-exclusive license to Dr. Scientist Sounds, March 12, 2015
      • Non-exclusive license to NRC, Feb 26, 2015
Action Items (2015-16):
  • Partnership with UASolve. This will make it easier to create companies and work on industrial contracts. Under way.
  • Discussions on a new fund for providing seed funding for new Faculty of Science start-up companies. Under way.
Goal: 10 spin-off companies + 10 licensing agreements
        September 2015: 4 spin-off companies + 4 licensing agreements
        It is too early to tell whether the spin-off companies will survive for five years or more.
Other Action Items:
  • Hire a Director of Research to engage government and industry. Betty Peavey assumed this role in January 2015. Completed.
  • Create Science Research Fellowships to recognize strong researchers who have not yet been recognized for their work. Four Fellowships were awarded commencing July 1, 2015. Completed.
  • Create Science Student Entrepreneurship Prize. The 2015 Ross and Verna Tate Science Entrepreneurship Prize of $50,000 was awarded to Alieo Games, co-founded by Neesha Desai and Kit Chen. There will be a 2016 competition. Completed.
  • Discussions on an undergraduate course in entrepreneurship. Under way.

Student Experience

BHAG #4: Increase to 20% (from 5%) the number of Science course sections that integrate new teaching methods such as online learning, blended delivery, active learning, discovery learning, “flipped” classroom learning, technology-enhanced learning, interdisciplinary experiences, experiential learning, and study abroad.

Responsibility: Dean, Associate Dean (Learning and Innovation)
Action Items (2014-15):
  • Create the position of Associate Dean (Learning and Innovation). Completed (Glen Loppnow was appointed to this role for a three-year term).
  • Introduce a Teaching Innovation Fund. Completed.
  • Increase our number of MOOC courses. Under way. In addition to Paleontology 200/201: Dinosaur Paleobiology (Dino 101), the joint Arts-Science computer gaming certificate course STS 351/352: Understanding Video Games is available. New courses for 2015-16 including three one-credit paleontology courses and a one-credit Arctic course (they debut to the public in January 2016 but will not be available for University of Alberta credit until September 2016). Started our first specialization with Coursera: the six-course Software Product Management certification began October 5. Several other courses are in the early stage of development.
  • Increase number of blended courses. A blended course considers the strategic use of technology to improve teaching and learning. Under way. New blended courses for 2014-15 were launched in Calculus (MATH 114), Chemistry (CHEM 101), Planning (HGP 100) and Computing Science (CMPUT 174). The Centre for Teaching and Learning is financially supporting the creation of blended versions of Biological Sciences (BIOL 108) and Mathematical and Statistical Sciences (Calculus for the Life Sciences).
  • Increase the number of experiential courses. Under way. Under the Science Abroad banner, The Southern African Field School was piloted starting in May 2015. Students can spend up to four months in Africa getting up to five courses towards their degree. The first offering of the Spring trio of modules was received strongly positive reviews by the 18 students who took the African field school.
  • Create Science Teaching Fellowships to recognize excellent teachers and given them a chance to develop innovative Science education programs. Completed (two Fellowships were awarded commencing July 1, 2015).
Action Items (2015-16):
  • Continue with the above initiatives. Under way.
  • Add in additional instructional design resources as needed. Under way.
  • Initiate a proposal to develop electronic textbooks (e-textbooks).
Goal: 15% increase
        2013-14: 5%
        2014-15: 15.6%

The Faculty of Science lists 511 courses in the Calendar. In 2014-15, 255 individual courses were offered in the Fall and 278 in the Winter, many of them multiple section courses. Eighty of the courses (15.6%) incorporated some form of innovation, including team teaching, online learning, blended learning, discovery learning, demonstrations, and active learning. A few of these innovations are:
* Blended: 1 of 3 sections of CMPUT 174, 6 of 9 sections of CHEM 101/103 (includes SCI 100), 2 of 3 sections of MATH 114 (includes SCI 100), MATH 115, 1 of 1 section of HGP 100.
* Online learning: 1/1 section of PALEO 200, 1/1 section of PALEO 201.
* Experiential learning: Southern African Field School.

BHAG #5: Grow the Science Internship Program by 400%. This growth will bring program enrolment up to 250 from its current level of approximately 50.

Responsibility: Assistant Dean (Programs & Operations)
Action Items (2014-15):
  • Hire an Academic Director for the SIP program. Completed (Frank Nargang has taken on this leadership role).
  • Conduct an in-depth review of the Science Internship Program. Completed.
  • Hire a full-time SIP manager. Completed.
  • Allow four-month internships. Completed.
  • Allow B.Sc. General students to enrol in SIP. Completed.
  • The selection and customization of centralized software (ORBIS) to act as an online portal between students and employers was implemented. Departments are now capturing job postings and student applications on the system for better data collection and recording. Completed.
  • Increase the pool of SIP employers. Ongoing.
  • Encourage students to enrol in SIP. Ongoing. Developed one SIP info session in September that includes all departments. Started career-related forums focused on professional program sessions. Created a science career mixer. Created promotional material for both students and employers.
  • Redesigned SIP website to include new copy, testimonials, separate sections for students and employers. Completed.
Action Items (2015-16):
  • We are student rich, and placement poor. Hire a person to contact potential employers. Under way.
  • Develop a consolidated SIP capstone course. Under way.
Goal: 250
        September 2013/14: 66
        September 2014/15: 68
       Most of the structural changes that are a prerequisite for success have been put in place.

BHAG #6: Reduce the number of students in the Required To Withdraw (RTW) category from approximately 6.25% of the total undergraduate population to 4.75%.

Responsibility: Associate Dean (Undergraduate), Assistant Dean (Programs & Operations), Associate Chairs (Undergraduate)
Action Items (2014-15):
  • Increase the number of highly qualified (90% and up) high school students accepting admission to the Faculty of Science. For the 2015 admission year, there were admission difficulties due to new University of Alberta technology and business processes. We have been assured by the Registrar's Office that these problems have been fixed for the 2016 admission cycle.
  • Communicate better with all students about the academic support services available in the Faculty of Science and across the university. Completed. Communication by email, through the Science student newsletter sent twice monthly. SciTV screens rotate relevant, timely messages to students around key dates.
  • Work more closely with Student Success Centre (oversees Fresh Start program) to direct students to specific success workshops (in some cases setting as conditions of probation). Under way – two separate initiatives:
    1. Arts is piloting a new communications course for students in Fresh Start and we are participating by recommending a small number of Science students to the first cohort in Fall 2015.
    2. For Fall 2015 term several RTW students with successful appeals have academic skill development workshops added as probation conditions and success will be evaluated next spring.
  • New first year course (InSCIte, the Science 100 successor), Science Summer Academy (pre-first year program for international students), and peer mentoring as part of Leadership Certificate will help students who are potentially at risk.
  • Orientation of transfer students. Targeted session started in Fall 2013 specific to transfer students, focusing on transfer credit, courses needed to complete degree, research opportunities, and services available.
  • Early Alert program participation. Led by the Dean of Students, Early Alert is a software program that will help us identify students at academic risk and connect them with resources early on. Science will participate in this new initiative.
Action Items (2015-16):
  • Assessment of current projects under way.
  • Data analysis of student success. Is there a correlation between high school admission average and the number of students RTW?
Goal: 4.75%
2012/13:        7.1% (high school admission average 76%)
2013/14:        6.0% (high school admission average 80%)
2014/15:        5.1% (high school admission average 82%)

The above numbers are noisy and can vary significantly from year to year. An individual year’s number may not be meaningful; a multi-year trend is more informative.

Graduate Students

BHAG #7: Increase from 18.8% to 23% the number of graduate students holding major scholarships (those more than $11k/year).

Responsibility: Associate Dean (Graduate), Associate Chairs (Graduate)
Action Items (2014-15):
  • Encourage and support NSERC CREATE grants. Under way. Our first CREATE grant was awarded in Winter 2015 (Jonathan Veinot, Chemistry). Graham Pearson (EAS) was invited to submit a full CREATE grant proposal for 2016.
  • Develop new graduate student recruitment strategies. Under way.
  • Provide increased, flexible funding to recruit highest quality graduate student applicants through entrance scholarships. Under way.
  • Provide increased, flexible funding to recruit highest quality graduate student applicants through outbound and inbound recruiting visits. Under way.
Action Items (2015-16):
  • Provide new funding (up to $250K) for graduate recruiting. Completed.
Goal: 270
        September 2014: 18.8% of graduate students (222)
        September 2015: 19.3% of graduate students (208)

This BHAG has been revised. Given that the graduate population size is changing, it made more sense to express the increase in number of major scholarship holders as a percentage of the size, rather than as an absolute number.

BHAG #8: Reduce the average completion time for M.Sc. degrees to 2.25 years (from the current 3.6 years) and Ph.D. degrees to 4.75 years (from 5.75 years).

Responsibility: Associate Dean (Graduate), Associate Chairs (Graduate)
Action Items (2014-15):
  • Encourage timely completion of master's and doctoral programs. Completed and ongoing.
  • Account for departures from desired completion times. Under way.
  • Explicitly tie GTA funding to timely completion of graduate programs. Completed.
Action Items (2015-16):
  • Identify an appropriate metric for measuring the time to completion (see Note below).
  • Ensure candidacy exams are ideally completed in two years, and in no more than three. Under way.
  • Examine number of course requirements. Under consideration.
       M.Sc.: 2.25 years
       Ph.D.: 4.75 years
        September 2014: 3.6 (M.Sc.) and 5.75 (Ph.D.)
        September 2015: 2.85 (M.Sc.) and 5.5 (Ph.D.)

The above numbers may fluctuate slightly and can vary significantly from year to year. An individual year’s number may not be meaningful; a multi-year trend is more informative. Also, the numbers vary greatly from Department to Department, and vary within a Department.

Computing this metric exposed numerous challenges. The official FGSR numbers seem to exaggerate the reality of the situation. Do we use:

  • Time to convocation?
  • Time to submission of completed document?
  • Time to defense date?
  • Time excluding leaves (e.g., maternity, compassionate)?

We need to define a metric that properly reflects the time required to complete a graduate degree.

Community Engagement

BHAG #9: Triple the growth of the summer camps program, from approximately 300 campers to 900.

Responsibility: Assistant Dean (Programs & Operations)
Action Items (2014-15):
  • Full-time camp program manager hired. Completed.
  • Increase capacity of the camps 45% (554 total spots) for summer 2015. Completed.
  • Create a paleontology camp. Completed.
  • Create a general science camp. Completed.
Action Items (2015-16):
  • Add new camps. Under way.
Goal: 900
        Summer 2014: 302 spots filled of 391 (77% sold out)
        Summer 2015: 521 sports filled of 554 (94% sold out)

Administrative and Financial

BHAG #10: Initiate projects that will result in an additional $2 million per year of new revenue.

Responsibility: Dean, Department Chairs, Advancement
Action Items (2014-15):
  • Several initiatives under way. Unclear if or how much additional revenue each will bring in.
  • Create a professional M.Sc. in Planning for September 2016. Under way.
  • Create a professional M.Sc. in Environmental Monitoring. Under way.
  • Create a Southern African Field School. Pilot project completed (18 students). Pilot being assessed for 2016 offering.
  • Double the size of the Integrated Petroleum Geosciences M.Sc. program. Under way. Grew from 23 in 2014/15 to 29 students in 2015/16.
  • Launch M.Sc. program in Multimedia. Program was launched in the Fall/2015 with an initial cohort of 10 students.
  • Create a course-based M.Sc. program in Statistical Machine Learning with Xi’an Jiaotong University in China. Under way. A partnership MOU has been signed.
  • Launch a for-profit MOOC in Software Product Management. Currently being piloted.
  • Create a Science Summer Academy, a pre-first-year program for international students. To launch in summer 2016.
  • Introduce fees for Chemistry labs to help recover costs. Completed.
  • Increase efforts in fundraising. Under way.
Action Items (2015-16):
  • Many of the revenue generation ideas given above are multi-year projects. Continue to develop these projects.
Goal: $2M
        2013-2014: $0 of new revenue.
        2014-2015: $100,000 of new revenue.
  • It is too early to report new revenue for most of the projects under way.