College Deans speak to the opportunities ahead

18 February 2021

With U of A for Tomorrow, the university community is now in the process of transforming administrative and academic structures to meet our financial challenges, build on our strengths in teaching, research, and community engagement, and position the U of A for continued growth and reinvestment in our core mission. This is a fundamental change not only to our structures and operations but to our culture. It involves all faculties and units of the university working together to put in place more integrated and streamlined administrative systems, processes, and practices that will work in concert with and support the university’s core academic mission. 

The establishment of three new colleges—the College of Health Sciences, College of Natural and Applied Sciences, and College of Social Sciences and Humanities—opens up significant opportunities for increased university-wide collaboration and engagement in teaching, learning and research not only within the colleges but also across the colleges and autonomous faculties (Campus Saint-Jean, Faculty of Native Studies, and Augustana). 

Since the announcement of their appointment, the college deans have begun consulting with faculty deans as well as with faculty, students, and staff, and are in the process of planning for broad consultation and engagement on the mission, vision, and shared services for each of the colleges. This week, we invited them to give us a brief introduction to the colleges and an overview of the opportunities they see ahead. 

Message from Greta Cummings, College of Health Sciences

Greta Cummings, College of Health Sciences

Strengths of our health sciences community have always been our intensive scholarship and collaborative, interdisciplinary approaches. The College of Health Sciences will be a natural extension of this existing collaborative foundation within and between the Faculties of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation, Medicine & Dentistry, Nursing, Pharmacy, Public Health, and Rehabilitation Medicine. It is a chance to do more of what we already do so well: lead by working together for the common and vital purpose of advancing teaching and research spanning the whole range of health and wellness.

This continues to be a time of great change, and we don’t underestimate the challenges that lie ahead. We cannot sustain our work with the systems and processes that currently exist. But, these challenges also afford the opportunity to think differently and strategically, building on our world-class faculty and disciplinary strengths. Together, we can improve efficiency and effectiveness of administrative services and enhance interdisciplinarity in academic programming and research. 

Our current complement of faculty leadership is rich in talent and vision. Though we are very early in the process of consultations, our teams have already begun conversations on how we can grow our new College into a collaborative powerhouse, building on both our collective goals and our disciplinary expertise. Together, our research revenues total greater than $100 million across the spectrum of health, wellness, and lifespan. Even more important, we have 750 faculty members and 7,000 undergraduate and graduate students who comprise some of the most brilliant minds across the globe. With these combined resources, we are well positioned to tackle the public health challenges of our age arising at the intersections of health, disease, poverty, inequities, culture, indigeneity, race, and social determinants of health.

Our health sciences work is already changing the world, and I am excited and invigorated by the prospect of closer collaborations and mutual growth while continuing to maintain the respective identities that make each of our faculties unique. Together, we’ll build on our strengths, leverage our expertise, and continue to move beyond the current bounds of what’s possible in health science leadership. I urge you to join in the consultations in the months ahead that will inform this work, and I look forward to all that we will build together.

Message from Joe Doucet, College of Social Sciences and Humanities

Joe Doucet, College of Social Sciences and Humanities

United as the College of Social Sciences and Humanities, the faculties of Arts, Business, Education and Law have an opportunity to further build upon our individual successes with a renewed and shared commitment to teaching, learning and research. To begin, we must be realistic about the challenges facing us as an institution. The status quo is no longer workable. Collectively, we will have to do things differently, and even stop doing some things within our faculties and units that have long been considered the norm. However, this new framework also allows us to consider opportunities and improvements in areas like student recruitment, program innovation, teaching and learning support, interdisciplinary research and community impact and engagement. I know that our college can rise to the challenge, creating a learning environment that meets the expectations of our students, faculty, alumni and external stakeholders.

There are many exciting developments on the horizon for the College, in particular, the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences occurring virtually this May. Over 8,000 people will be in attendance, giving our scholars a wonderful opportunity to share their work with fellow academics, policy-makers and practitioners from across Canada. 

As we begin this next stage of our development, I want to thank our students, staff, and faculty, all of whom have been involved with U of A For Tomorrow, and all of whom have shown great resilience over the past year. I want you to know that your dedication and hard work have not gone unnoticed during this difficult time. I want you to know that your feedback is valued, even if circumstances have not always allowed us to make the changes you desire. As we continue to develop our vision as a College, I encourage you to continue working with your colleagues in the same spirit of inclusivity, collegiality and collaboration that you have shown over the past 12 months. 

Message from Matina Kalcounis-Rueppell, College of Natural and Applied Sciences

Matina Kalcounis-Rueppell, College of Natural and Applied Sciences

The College of Natural and Applied Sciences (NAS) is a logical alignment based on science disciplines at the U of A, from discovery to translation. We will have the combined strengths of three remarkable faculties: Agriculture, Life and Environmental Sciences (ALES), Engineering, and Science—each of which is at the edge of discovery and innovation with world-leading programs. 

At our core, we are problem solvers and we have a track record of working together in research, education, and community engagement. We will build on our many existing interdisciplinary projects and powerful partnerships both within the College of NAS and across the U of A. Each of our three faculties have been supported by and built on deep and generous historical investments in programs, infrastructure, and exceptional people. This college will leverage these investments across faculty boundaries to effectively deliver services, maximize our research and engagement impact, and most importantly enhance the educational experience for our undergraduate and graduate students. 

At town halls in each of the College of NAS faculties, we have been joined by students, faculty members, and staff, who have asked us questions and provided valuable feedback. This consultation will continue. Leaders in each faculty are working on white papers describing how strategic and business functions will be balanced between the college and faculties. These white papers will serve as the foundation for consultation as we build the College of NAS over the coming months. Consultation will facilitate the development of the mission, vision, and a framework for shared services of the college. 

While we are only at the beginning of this process, the College of NAS council of deans are working closely together to ensure successful implementation that is beneficial for all. This much is clear: the college will be lean, have minimal impact on faculty budgets, and will serve to facilitate and coordinate streamlined and effective services. We will reduce red tape and offload administrative work from our professoriate to allow them to pursue their research and engagement and facilitate student success through innovative learning experiences. We also all agree that we will maintain strong faculty identities in ALES, Engineering, and Science. As members of our community, you will have many ideas about how we can collaborate and work efficiently and effectively together. I want to thank everyone for your contributions and I encourage your continued engagement as we move into discussions and consultations in the coming weeks and months.