All-In With Gitta Kulczycki

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Gitta Kulczycki likes to lay her cards on the table, which is a strategy that has served her well in a career that’s included stops in health-care, tech, and higher education. As our new Vice-President (Finance and Administration), she’s set to go all-in when it comes to knowing her team and addressing the goals laid out in For the Public Good.

We sat down with her to learn about her U of A experience so far, the shift from Ontario’s PSE sector to Alberta’s, and her thoughts on leadership.

What was it about this opportunity that attracted you to the University of Alberta?

This is a great university. It has a stellar reputation, nationally and internationally. It has a new senior team, a great new president. I came from a very good institution and I would say the U of A is in that next league at the very top of the country. So, it was a great opportunity for me to be able to come here.

How have you been settling in?

It’s been good. I have been here since the end of October and I have got myself reasonably settled. Of course, I’m still coming up a big learning curve; I have lots to learn, lots of people to meet, and I need to get to know issues and files — what makes this place special. All of that will be a work in progress for a while, I think.

Have you had a favourite find or discovery about the U of A so far?

I really admire the quad, especially the way the lights were put up because, of course, in the winter there is so much darkness. Putting up all those lights — the colored and the white lights — it’s just quite beautiful out there. I can see it quite a bit, many hours in the morning and in the evening. It’s beautiful.

Are you enjoying being back in Alberta?

Yes, I am! Although, I’d have to say — extreme cold — I could do without it in March. My husband sent me a picture last week of uh, snow drops blooming in London. So the weather gives me a bit of pause but it has been a very welcoming place. Both the people you meet in the community as well as the people you meet in the University, they have been very, very welcoming.

You’ve worked all over Canada — in Calgary, in London and Kitchener-Waterloo in Ontario, and in New Brunswick. Does that give you a different perspective on your job?

I think it does. Experience in different communities, experience in different industries, experiences in very different jurisdictions actually does give you a view on how many different ways there are to look at things. So, yes, I would say it does give you a kind of different view.

How would you characterize the Albertan jurisdiction at this point?

Let’s talk about Edmonton. As a new comer, I would say that it is very noticeable, how friendly Edmonton is. It is very, very noticeable. I came from Ontario. In higher ed, there is a very arm’s length relationship between the universities and the government. Here in Alberta, I’m still getting accustomed to it, but we kind of live in each other’s pockets — there is a very close relationship. It is quite, quite different. The institutions of Alberta have been such beneficiaries of a very successful economy. Other jurisdictions, Ontario being one of them, have not. So you really appreciate that difference when you come here.

Who is Gitta Kulczycki as a leader?

I would say that I am very open. I don’t micro-manage. I have a high expectation of people, as much as I have a high expectation of myself. I like to see people develop, have opportunities.
I am willing to tackle any subject. There’s nothing sacred as far as I am concerned. I’m also willing to have people challenge me, ask questions. I always put my cards on the table, don’t keep any of them under the table.

What will we learn about working with you?

I like to laugh at work. You spend too much time at work not to have fun. We have to be able to laugh at our own selves and things that we do. When we make mistakes — just learn from it and move on.
Also, I’m an optimist! I look at things with a can do attitude — whether it’s faith in myself or faith in my team.

What do you hope that the rest of your first year will hold?

Well, I guess I would like to be able to say at the end of one year, that I have gotten to know the people. I can’t know the whole organization because it’s huge, but to know the people I’d be dealing with regularly reasonably well — certainly to know my team, my portfolio well.

And then to be able to move forward on a couple of big initiatives that we need to work on, including the development of a new budget model and also getting ready for what will be a different labour environment with the new legislation that’s coming. So I’d like to say that, even though they won’t be done at the end of the year, all of those things will have a fair bit of momentum.