From the President's Desk: September 23, 2021

President Flanagan covers public health measures, U of A for Tomorrow, and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in his update to the U of A community.


I want to open my message to you today by thanking all of you for your understanding, flexibility and patience as the U of A continues to adapt to pandemic conditions and quickly changing public health restrictions. 

Our goal this fall is twofold: to ensure the health and safety of our community and to do all that we can to maintain our return to in-person classes and campus life to the benefit of our students’ overall university experience. While we had to take quick action and adapt the schedule last Thursday and Friday, thanks to the policies already in place and the willingness of students, faculty and staff to adhere to those policies, we were able resume on-campus activities on Monday. Thank you for continuing to follow all updates and responding quickly.

Preparing for mandatory vaccination

Our best approach now is to achieve the highest rate of vaccination possible across our university community and we’ve done that by working with eight other Alberta post-secondaries to bring in mandatory vaccinations requirements. At the U of A, these will come into effect on November 1, 2021. This will give sufficient time for those who are not yet fully vaccinated to do so. 

I know that many of you have questions about the implementation of this requirement and we will be sharing more information soon. As of October 1, students, faculty and staff will be invited to use an updated version of the MyUAlberta app to upload your proof of vaccination. More details on vaccination verification will be shared next week when the app is updated and the new desktop version is available, including requirements for campus services and members of the public.

UAT: Progress and Transitions

In addition to adapting to these new vaccination policies, we are also in the middle of significant change and transition through the implementation of the university’s new operating model. A central part of U of A for Tomorrow, the new operating model will help ensure that we meet our financial targets and reduce administrative costs by $127M. I am pleased to report that we are making good progress and are on track to meet our goals. 

The centralization of key administrative streams--IT, HR, and Finance--are now in the final stages of establishing partner networks. Shared Services, including the Staff Service Centre, launched on July 26 with payroll, pension, benefits, time and labour processing, and the Canadian Summer Jobs program. Later this year, other services will transition from faculties and units into Shared Services. The Student Service Centre also successfully opened on August 16. The external engagement and research administration streams both have new organizational structures in place and have started to establish their partner networks and develop the centers of expertise within the two External Relations and Research and Innovation portfolios. 

While we move through this challenging period involving changing roles and responsibilities for many people, I want to thank everyone for being willing to pitch in to help where needed to help bridge temporary gaps in service. Through collective effort, I remain confident that we will have the operating model needed to deliver high quality services in support of the core mission of the university for years to come.  

The colleges have a key role to play in ensuring our success, as integrators and accelerators and by creating economies of scale that reduce the administrative burden currently borne by faculties and departments. Since the launch of the colleges on July 1, the college deans have been working with the Council of Deans in each college, developing the framework and putting in place the people needed to provide common administrative, professional, and academic services for the faculties within the colleges. The Academic Leaders Task Group is also preparing to release its recommendations for restructuring academic administrative roles in the next few weeks.

In the first week of October, college deans will be hosting town halls via Zoom to provide more detail on the roles and responsibilities of the colleges, share progress to date and introduce new college staff. Please see the event listing relevant to your college for details and to register:

Observing National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Next week, the university will be observing the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation by closing regular operations on Thursday, September 30 to allow staff, faculty, and students time to reflect upon the history and legacy of residential schools in Canada. Observing this day is part of our commitment to reconciliation. As we continue to deepen that commitment, two institution-wide initiatives have been launched this week to help break down financial barriers to post-secondary education that exist for First Nation, Métis, and Inuit peoples. From September 30 to October 6, we will waive the application fee for all First Nation, Métis, and Inuit learners who apply to undergraduate direct-entry programs at the U of A. And, we have also launched a fundraising campaign in support of the University of Alberta - First Nations, Métis, Inuit Student Emergency Award

Because the university will be closed on September 30,  we will be marking Orange Shirt Day as a community on September 29. I invite everyone to join me in wearing an orange shirt to acknowledge the loss and suffering of all those who were affected by the residential schools and watch for activities being planned across our campuses.

Bill Flanagan
President and Vice-Chancellor