Faculty of Science Strategic Plan 2015-2020

Strategic Plan Progress Report - 2017




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.

Action Items (2016-17):

  • New graduate funding model proposed that gives Departments greater flexibility to attract the best students and grow the graduate program. Under way.

Action Items (2017-18):

  • No actions being taken. This goal is unachievable, nor is significant progress possible.

Goal: 4.5:1


  • 2013-14: Ugrads 6,350; Grads 1,150; UG2GS = 5.50

  • 2014-15: Ugrads 5,985; Grads 1,078; UG2GS = 5.55

  • 2015-16: Ugrads 6,140; Grads 1,137; UG2GS = 5.40

  • 2016-17: Ugrads 6,212; Grads 1,159; UG2GS = 5.36


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 period 2008-2013, 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.

Given the current financial circumstances in Alberta, it is unlikely there will be any growth in the undergraduate program for the foreseeable future. Resources are being expended to a) increase the size of the professorate (graduate student supervision capacity), and b) increase the number of excellent graduate students. In the end, we will likely see only small improvements to this BHAG metric.



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. Done. The Phillip Currie Professorship in Paleontology was hired in 2016 and begins July 1, 2017.

  • Encouraging faculty members with large industrial research grants ($100k/year for five years) to apply for an NSERC Industrial Research Chair. Under way, but challenging because of the economic conditions.

  • 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.

Action Items (2016-17):

  • Continue series of Industry Mixers. These sessions have been well received by industry and led to multiple NSERC Engage grants.

  • Continue period events with companies with Edmonton Research Park.

  • Ongoing discussions with a number of individuals/organizations that might consider funding a Chair position.

Action Items (2017-18):

  • Continue aggressive engagement with industry (35 contacts in previous year)
  • Pursue endowed opportunities (especially for "hot" area of artificial intelligence)

Goal: Increase by 10.


  • 2013-14: 26

  • 2014-15: 24

  • 2015-16: 23

  • 2016-17: 26 (includes 5 new Artificial Intelligence Chairs announced but not yet filled)


This BHAG will be difficult to achieve for two reasons:

  • The AITF has stopped funding chairs pending their reinvention as part of a single Alberta Innovates organization. AITF Chairs have expired and there is no information as to when/if the Chairs will be renewed.
  • The current economic conditions in Alberta have reduced the amount of R&D spending by the oil and gas companies.



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

  • New Companies
    • AMII, PFM Manufacturing

    • Ratmir Derda, 48Hr Discovery

    • Jon Veinot, Applied Quantum Materials

    • Christine Szymanski, VaxAlta

    • Pierre Boulanger, MedROAD

    • Richard McCreery, Nanolog Audio Incorporated

    • John Davis, Resolved Instruments

    • Three companies are in the process of being incorporated

  • Licensing Agreements
    • Christine Szymanski, exclusive license to VaxAlta

    • Robert Wolkow, exclusive license to Quantum Silicon

    • Gane Wong, exclusive option to GenSight Biologics, SA & MIT

    • Richard McCreery, non-exclusive license to Dr. Scientist Sounds; non-exclusive license to NRC

    • Robert Campbell, exclusive license to Harvard College and Q-State BioSciences Inc

    • David Wishart, non-exclusive license to OMx Personal Health Analytics Inc

    • Gane Ka-Shu Wong, non-exclusive license to GenSight Biologics, SA and MIT

Action Items (2015-16):

  • Partnership with UASolve. This will make it easier to create companies and work on industrial contracts.This has not led to any new activity.

  • Discussions on a new fund for providing seed funding for new Faculty of Science start-up companies. Continuing.

Action Items (2016-17):

  • Hired a facilitator for faculty startup companies. Done.

  • Investigating directing resources to support faculty startup companies. Under way.

Action Items (2017-18):

  • None planned.

Goal: 10 spin-off companies + 10 licensing agreements


  • 2014-15: 4 spin-off companies + 4 licensing agreements

  • 2015-16: 5 spin-off companies + 7 researchers with licensing agreements

  • 2016-17: 5 spin-off companies + 7 researchers with 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


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 the number of experiential courses. The Southern African Field School was piloted starting in May 2015 and is now a regular offering.

Ongoing Action Items (2015-16):

  • Increase our number of MOOC courses. Ongoing. 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). Completed our first specialization with Coursera: the six-course Software Product Management certification (revenue generating). Mountains 101 (joint with the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreational Studies) launches in January 2017.

  • Increase number of blended courses. A blended course considers the strategic use of technology to improve teaching and learning. Ongoing with numerous successes.

  • Science Teaching Fellowships to recognize excellent teachers and given them a chance to develop innovative Science education programs. Completed (two Fellowships were awarded commencing in 2015 and two more in 2016).

Action Items (2015-16):

  • Add in additional instructional design resources as needed. Ongoing. Hired a new Director of Teaching and additional instructional design resources to meet the growing demand.

Action Items (2016-17):

  • No specific actions being undertaken as progress is excellent.

Action Items (2017-18):

  • No actions being undertaken as goal has been achieved.

Goal: 15% increase


  • 2013-14: 5%
  • 2014-15: 15.6%
  • 2015-16: 21%
  • 2016-17: 35%


This BHAG has been met, but more analysis is need before declaring success. We are looking to more precisely define which courses should be properly credited towards the BHAG. A possible change in definition might result in the measured percentage improvement.


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. Completed. A Work Experience Coordinator was hired to assist with securing additional placements available for our students. This one year contract has been extended to another year.

  • Develop a consolidated SIP capstone course. Completed. A common SIP capstone course, INT D 400 was introduced and offered for the first time in Fall 2016. The course brings all returning interns (from all disciplines) together into one class to share their internship experiences, as well as to focus on professional development skills including written and verbal communications.

Action Items (2016-17):

  • Build an extensive marketing campaign for students to increase awareness and value of the program with the goal of increased participation. This includes video, social media campaign, ambassadors to share their internship story.

  • Develop two awards to recognize outstanding SIP students, as well as to provide travel assistances to those who wish to do an internship abroad.

  • Work with the International Internship group out of UAI with the goal of developing and placing more students internationally.

Action Items (2017-18):

  • There is a shortage of students interested in taking SIP. Reevaluate our strategy for engaging students.

Goal: 250


  • 2013-14: 66

  • 2014-15: 68

  • 2015-16: 84

  • 2016-17: 97


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:

  • 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. We continue to face challenges with timely admission, but did see improvements for Fall 2016. While we continue to target recruitment efforts at high achieving students, and the number of highly qualified applicants (90% or higher admission average) accepting our offers and registering for courses is up, whether or not this will be a continuing trend remains to be seen when we have data from a couple more years (Fall 2014, 383 students; Fall 2015, 385 students; Fall 2016, 528 students).

  • 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. We only get 1 or 2 spots in this new course so drawing any conclusions about effectiveness will be impossible. Instead we will have to wait to see if Arts reports success for their cohort and then decide if we want to work with Arts to offer a section of the course for Science students who end up in academic difficulty due to language issues.

    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. The numbers were small and not all students decided to follow through and return on Probation so it isn’t possible to draw any conclusions. Even for Fall 2016-2017, only 8 of the 73 students who appealed and were placed on probation have workshops assigned as part of the conditions, so the numbers will always be small.

  • 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. The Summer Academy was put on hold, InSCIte has registrations for the first time for Fall 2016 and the Leadership Certificate has not yet launched.

  • 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. Completed.

  • 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. Early Alert still has not been launched.

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?

Action Items (2016-17):

  • Surprisingly large improvements for the past three years. Continue data analysis to better understand the reasons (one or two years of data may not be insightful).

  • BHAG goal has been reached, but success will not be declared until there is one more year under the 4.75% target.

  • Will continue to refine and improve processes here (early identification of problem cases; information sessions; etc.). Every drop in the RTW% represents giving more students opportunities to succeed.

Action Items (2017-18):

  • This BHAG is considered completed.

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%)
  • 2015-16:        4.1% (high school admission average 83%)
  • 2016-17:        4.27% (high school admission average 83%)


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


Increase the number of major graduate student awards (at least $10,000) from 14.5 per capita to 25.
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):

  1. Provide new funding (up to $250K) for graduate recruiting. Completed.

  2. Graham Pearson was successful with a CREATE grant.

Action Items (2016-17)

  • Emulate Biological Sciences success in other Departments

Goal: 25 awards per 100 students


  • 2013-14: 11.2 awards per 100 students
  • 2014-15: 14.4 awards per 100 students
  • 2015-16: 15.0 awards per 100 students
  • 2016-17: 21.5 awards per 100 students
  • 2017-18: 19.9 awards per 100 students

The University has made revisions as to how this metric is to be reported.
The numbers reported have been changed to reflect the new metric.


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 per capita (100 students), rather than as an absolute number.The success in 2016 is largely due to a more than doubling of the number of major scholarship holders in Biological Sciences. We need to work on sustaining their efforts, and adopting them in the other Departments.


Reduce the average completion time for M.Sc. degrees to 2.25 years and Ph.D. degrees to 4.75 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. Done.

  • 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.

Action Items (2016-17):

  • New graduate funding model makes Departments responsible for allocating funds to students (and, hence, discourages funding students beyond a reasonable time).

Goals: M.Sc.: 2.25 years; Ph.D.: 4.75 years


  • 2014-15: 2.9 (M.Sc.) and 5.4 (Ph.D.)
  • 2015-16: 3.1 (M.Sc.) and 5.7 (Ph.D.)
  • 2016-17: 2.8 (M.Sc.) and 5.7 (Ph.D.)
  • 2017-18:  No final data yet

The University is making revisions to how this metric is to be reported.


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.

For 2016-17 we have decided to use with the official numbers as are provided to the Government. This simplifies our work and reduces confusion. It has resulted in a revision of the numbers above.

Community Engagement


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. Completed. Four new camps were introduced, these included Nature Kids, Forensic Mysteries, 3D Printing and Design, and Computing Science Advanced.

Additional items (2015-16):

  • Additional: extended summer camps season from 7 weeks to 8. Completed.

  • Additional: partnered with the Centre for Autism Services Alberta to pilot camp a camp specifically designed for them.

  • Hired 16 staff members (students), providing additional instructional support to keep our leader/camper ration low.

Action Items (2016-17):

The summer camps have grown much quicker than anticipated. The team has done an outstanding job of building up a highly successful, highly regarded program. With the BHAG almost realized in only two years (impressive!), it is appropriate to challenge the team to continue their momentum. Hence, they have been given a VBHAG – a Very Big Hairy Audacious Goal – to reach 2,000 campers per year.

  • Reach 1250 camper.s

  • Build a new registration system.

  • Add more all girl science camp sessions.

  • Introduce additional camps, which may include more advanced computing science camp (9-11), new 7-8 interdisciplinary science camp or medical science camp, Kerbal Space Challengers (7-8 or 9-11),  interdisciplinary camp on the science of Pokemon (3-4 or 5-6), and possible camp on the creation of movies or videos.

  • Offer a selection of camps out of the Edmonton area.

Action Items (2017-18):

  • This BHAG is well in hand with a new goal of 2,000 (!) participants. No new action items needed.

Goal: 2000


  • 2013-14: 302 spots filled of 391 (77% sold out)
  • 2014-15: 521 sports filled of 554 (94% sold out)
  • 2015-16: 869 spots filled of 900 (96% sold out)
  • 2016-17: 1,188 spots filled

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. Completed. Begins in September 2017.

  • Create a professional M.Sc. in Environmental Monitoring. On Hold.

  • Create a Southern African Field School. Pilot project completed (18 students). Completed. Now offered annually.

  • Double the size of the Integrated Petroleum Geosciences M.Sc. program. Under way. Growth potential currently limited.

  • 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. Completed. Program is in early stages of growth.

  • Launch a for-profit MOOC in Software Product Management. Completed and generating revenue.

  • Create a Science Summer Academy, a pre-first-year program for international students. Planned but first offering delayed.

  • Introduce fees for Chemistry labs to help recover costs. Completed and generating revenue.

  • Increase efforts in fundraising. Total Fundraising revenue for 2015-2016: $14,338,305 -- this represents a 10.5% increase from 2015

Action Items (2015-16):

  • Many of the revenue generation ideas given above are multi-year projects. Continue to develop these projects.

Action Items (2016-17):

  • Continue revenue generation from Chemistry lab fees.

  • Continue revenue generation from Software Product Management specialization (Ken Wong) on Coursera. The program is expected to have paid off all costs and be profitable by the end of 2017.

  • Initiate Software Design Architecture specialization (Ken Wong) on Coursera. This will be a revenue generator, with an expected cost recouping in 1.5 to 2 years.

  • Investigate revenue-generating course-based M.Sc. degrees.

Goal: $2M


  • 2013-14: $0 of new revenue.

  • 2014-15: $100,000 of new revenue.

  • 2015-16: $540,000 ($100K, Chemistry lab fees; $440K from Software Product Management MOOC).

  • 2016-17: $500,000

This BHAG has proved difficult to achieve, given the regulations imposed on new programs and fees. However, if some of these rules get relaxed in the Government's review of PSE tuition, Science is ready to proceed with new revenue-generating proposals.