From the President's Desk: Joining the U of A Community

Bill Flanagan joins the U of A community as its 14th president and vice-chancellor.

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Today marks the beginning of my term as president of the University of Alberta. I am deeply honoured by this opportunity. The U of A is a world-class institution with a vital role in the province and country. I am thrilled to join such an exceptional community of faculty, staff, and students.

Over the last several weeks, I have had numerous opportunities to meet with many members of the U of A community, learning more about this remarkable university and the many initiatives now in motion across our five campuses.

One of the most striking features I have seen has been the extraordinary collective effort of our faculty and staff to ready the university for the Fall 2020 semester. To everyone working hard to transition courses online, sustain research, keep the university and its campuses running despite disruptions, and help both current and incoming students to navigate the tremendous uncertainties they face: you have my deepest gratitude and appreciation, and my admiration for all you continue to accomplish.

Likewise, I have been impressed by the student engagement in university governance that I have seen in this short period - a hallmark of the high calibre of our students. I look forward to welcoming our student body back to the university come September.

We know that the Fall 2020 semester will involve predominantly online course delivery, in conjunction with some in-person instruction where possible. Our new Campus Life hub houses important information on Fall 2020, and we will continue to expand the hub with further details over the weeks ahead. The Fall 2020 Planning Group continues its efforts to make sure that U of A students, faculty and staff are in the best possible position come September. I will also continue to share updates with you as they become available.

At the same time, the U of A for Tomorrow (UAT) proposal has rapidly taken shape. Under normal circumstances, I would plan to use the beginning of my term to connect with as many members of this community as possible - to hear from you, get your perspectives, and have a conversation about the future of this great institution. These consultations are now even more pressing given the major challenges that lie ahead of us and the short timeframe in which we need to address them. In my post last week, I outlined the two initiatives which make up U of A for Tomorrow: our Academic Restructuring initiative and our administrative restructuring initiative, known as Service Excellence Transformation (SET).

I invite you to join Provost Steven Dew, Vice-President (Finance and Administration) Gitta Kulczycki and me at two different Town Halls in the coming weeks to seek your feedback on U of A for Tomorrow:

Town Hall on Academic RestructuringTown Hall on Academic Restructuring: Wednesday, July 8 at 11 am-noon

Town Hall on Administrative Restructuring (SET)Town Hall on Administrative Restructuring (SET): Wednesday, July 15 at 11 am-noon

Each town hall will be broadcast via the homepage and, for those unable to participate at that time, we will post a recording of the townhall on the UAT website. We will also be using a new platform called Thoughtexchange to create more opportunities for more inclusive real-time, online engagement during the town halls. Employing AI and machine learning, this online platform is very easy to use and permits everyone to contribute their ideas and learn from one another. We will share more details on how to access and use the platform before the first town hall. Please join us - your input is vital to the success of our restructuring initiatives and the future of the U of A.

The challenges facing the U of A today are significant, but I could not be joining this community at a more exciting moment. I look forward to working together with all of you as we launch our strategic transformation process and solidify the U of A as one of the world's leading universities.

Bill Flanagan
President and Vice-chancellor