College Corner: Implementing Forward with Purpose, A Strategic Plan for Research and Innovation

The associate deans, research take a look at the opportunities for the colleges to contribute to the university’s plans for addressing important global challenges.

Side by side collage photo of Bressler, Harrington and Richer

Left to right: David Bressler, Associate Dean, STEM Research - College of Natural and Applied Sciences; Joanna Harrington, Associate Dean, Research - College of Social Sciences and Humanities; and Lawrence Richer, Associate Dean, Research - College of Health Sciences.

Building on the launch of Shape: A Strategic Plan of Impact, the University of Alberta recently launched Forward with Purpose, the first university-wide strategic plan for research and innovation. All of U of A's institutional plans are integrated and aligned with one another; Forward with Purpose builds on the planning and messaging in Shape, especially messaging around knowledge generation and translation, creative activities, inspiring solutions and research goals.

Among four strategic research and innovation goals, Forward with Purpose identifies six areas of global excellence and growth. The areas of growth are ones which are areas of leadership primed for further growth. In this edition of College Corner, the College Associate Deans Research outline how each College plans to address one of these areas of growth: Indigenous Research (Health Sciences), Agriculture and Food (Natural and Applied Sciences) and Social Transformations (Social Sciences and Humanities).

Agriculture and Food

The College of Natural and Applied Sciences (CNAS) is a national science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) powerhouse, and a leader in sustainability research.  Within our faculties of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences, Engineering and Science, we are recognized globally for our research in the areas of energy, artificial intelligence and machine learning, as well as contributions to individual and community health and wellbeing. Our research is part of a much wider spectrum of impactful and emerging research fields and industrially-applied innovations. This is especially true for agriculture and food sectors in which CNAS researchers lead initiatives around integrating new technologies and approaches for delivering a wide range of agricultural production systems and food systems technologies. Because of this, we are especially well positioned to advance the Agriculture and Food Area of Growth outlined in Forward with Purpose: A Strategic Plan for Research and Innovation.

Research within CNAS includes traditional animal and plant production systems, from benchtop to large animal production units. CNAS also boasts interdisciplinary collaborations involving basic agricultural sciences with industrial partners, as well as interdisciplinary collaborations accelerating applied data analytics, artificial intelligence, bioresource technologies and even satellite and space-related monitoring and data acquisition systems. 

Championing leadership integrating the principles of equity, diversity and inclusion leads to exciting developments advancing at the interfaces between CNAS researchers, communities and government partners. We are focused on advancing research in the areas of food, feed and novel food ingredients, as well as community-engaged health and wellbeing, human nutrition and sustainable food systems in small, remote and northern communities. Several national initiatives – like the Ărramăt project – are also paving future advances in the areas of nutritious food systems and supply, global Indigenous community research, leadership around sustainable communities, and Indigenous knowledge systems around sustainable ecological stewardship. I look forward to helping CNAS advance the goals and objectives outlined in Forward with Purpose, and continue to grow our strength in the increasingly-important area of Agriculture and Food.

David Bressler, Associate Dean, STEM Research - College of Natural and Applied Sciences

Social Transformations

Social betterment is a goal that permeates research and creative activity throughout the College of Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) and its faculties - Alberta School of Business, Arts, Education and Law. Research carried out in the arts, humanities, and social sciences aims to address a diversity of global challenges, from migration and gender equality to environmental justice and the impact of technological change. The College also provides a home for the Black-led Research Network Initiative (BRNI) to support scholars and research production in the Black community. Underpinning our efforts at the College is our focus on people, which we’re pleased to see is the first goal in Forward with Purpose.

We aim to support faculty research efforts, in all their variety, both small and large, local, national and global. We provide on-demand video guidance, professional editing services, and pre-submission internal peer review to support faculty grant application success. And we’ve implemented a more streamlined professor-first approach whereby the SSH research partners can allocate college-provided services. For faculty holding very large grants, the College’s Office of Research provides additional assistance, including post-award support with interim reporting obligations, as well as support for a diversity of research centres and institutes.

We also support early career professors, with the new monthly lunchtime series, CSSH Research Conversations, providing a mentoring and networking opportunity for new faculty hires from across all four faculties within the College.

Joanna Harrington, Associate Dean, Research - College of Social Sciences and Humanities

Indigenous Research

The College of Health Sciences brings together the strength of six health science faculties across multiple health professions and research disciplines with the shared aim of advancing health for all. At its core, the College is dedicated to fostering interdisciplinary collaboration and driving large-scale research initiatives across disciplines, including kinesiology, sport and recreation, rehabilitation medicine, nursing, pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences, public health, medicine, and dentistry. This collaborative approach aligns seamlessly with the university's mission to drive innovation and excellence in research and education for the next decade and beyond.

CHS experts are establishing the college as a world-class leader in Indigenous health and health equity through inter- and transdisciplinary approaches utilizing Indigenous methodologies. A deep commitment to equity, diversity and inclusivity is reflected through genuine community engagement and participation. Members of the college are taking a lead role in a new national initiative to ensure that First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities and individuals have equitable access to participate in and benefit from clinical trials. The faculties are also working collaboratively to develop mutually beneficial relationships with First Nations communities.

Within the College of Health Sciences, several areas of specific interest and expertise further bolster its capacity to contribute significantly to the university's goals. These include research domains such as climate change and health, pandemic preparedness, the application of artificial intelligence in healthcare, digital health, precision health, regenerative medicine, women's and children's health and Indigenous health. 

Through cutting-edge research and innovative solutions, the College of Health Sciences is poised to play a pivotal role in advancing the university's commitment to research and innovation, thus shaping a brighter future for healthcare and the well-being of all.

Lawrence Richer, Associate Dean, Research - College of Health Sciences