From the President’s Desk: Changes to Senior Leadership Structure of U of A

As part of University of Alberta for Tomorrow, we are together undertaking a comprehensive review of every office, faculty, department and…

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As part of University of Alberta for Tomorrow, we are together undertaking a comprehensive review of every office, faculty, department and unit on campus to more sharply focus activities and resources on preserving and strengthening excellence in teaching, research, and the student experience. Our shared goals are to reduce administrative costs, enhance opportunities for better coordination and alignment in purpose and services, and streamline operations and processes. My office is no exception. Administrative restructuring must include all aspects of administrative services on campus, including leadership positions in the President’s Office. So I write today to inform you of some important changes in the leadership structure of the University of Alberta.

First, the current offices of University Relations and Advancement will be merged into one office of External Relations under the leadership of one vice-president, rather than two. University Relations and Advancement work closely together in a number of areas of communication, external relations, and stakeholder engagement. One focuses on distinct areas of expertise related to advancement, alumni and donor relations and the other on communications, government relations, stakeholder relations, reputation and issues management. The separation of the two portfolios in 2011 supported the modernization and development of both units. With that foundation in place, a merger now will preserve those gains and allow for better integration and alignment, particularly in terms of enhancing engagement with community, government, and other external audiences and stakeholders.

To facilitate this change, the planned VP (Advancement) search has ceased and a new VP (External Relations) search will be launched immediately. Once the VPER is in place, Interim VP (Advancement) Kelly Spencer will continue to lead Advancement as Chief Advancement Officer, reporting to the VPER; and Catherine Swindlehurst, current Interim VP (University Relations) and Chief of Staff, will return to her strategic role in the President’s Office under a new title as Chief Strategy Officer. I would like to express my thanks to both Catherine and Kelly for their outstanding contributions during their time serving in their interim roles and I look forward to continuing to work with them.

The second change in the leadership team is in the Governance Office. Early in July, the two roles of University Secretary and General Counsel were merged, with General Counsel Brad Hamdon assuming the new role and title of General Counsel and University Secretary. In his new role, Brad will build on recent reviews of GFC and Board committees and sub-committees and continue to strengthen effective operation and administration of the university’s collegial, bicameral system of governance. Strong, effective and collegial governance at the U of A will be essential as we make decisions on academic and administrative restructuring in the months ahead.

With these changes, we will have reduced the number of direct reports to the president from nine to seven, which will now include five vice-presidents, one general counsel and university secretary, and one chief strategy officer. This represents a 22% overall reduction in size of the senior leadership team. In addition, with recent departures among the team, salary levels for new hires have lowered. As a result, when compared with the 2018 levels, total compensation costs for the president and senior administrative team will decrease by 25%, an annual reduction of almost $900,000. Since 2018, the President’s compensation has decreased by 32%.

The restructuring of University Relations, Advancement and Governance, coupled with ongoing budget reductions, will require important changes in how these units function. I want to thank the teams in each portfolio in advance for adapting and responding in what I know will be a thoughtful and creative manner. The restructuring of these units presents a significant opportunity to re-imagine and reinforce how we communicate, engage, consult, support, and work with people and communities who are vital to our university’s continued vibrancy and leadership in Alberta, Canada, and beyond.

Bill Flanagan
President and Vice-Chancellor