Joint Summit Recap

Bill Flanagan - 01 April 2021

For the past year, the University of Alberta community has been engaged in strategic transformation to set a new direction for the university--and dealing with the impact of a global pandemic. It has been a challenging year, with a tremendous amount of change in a short amount of time. At times of such significant change, it is difficult to take the time to look up and think about the long-term possibilities of such profound change while we’re going through. Yet, it is critically important. At the U of A, we are in the process of fundamental organizational change for a purpose. We are doing this work today to ensure that we can continue to be an extraordinary university in the future. 

On Friday, March 27, members of the Board of Governors, General Faculties Council, and Senate came together for a Joint Summit. An annual event, this summit was an opportunity for the university’s three key governance bodies to learn from and engage with one another. Chancellor Garritty invited us to put aside the immediate pressures of our day-to-day lives and work together to develop a vision of the U of A in 2030. Together we considered two key questions:

  • What would success in 2030 look like for the university? 
  • How does the university achieve this vision?

We used ThoughtExchange to kickstart our discussion and then moved into small breakout groups for more in-depth discussion. Summit participants expressed an ambitious commitment to strengthen the U of A’s place as a competitive, top-ranking, and leading research university. There was an appetite for increased interdisciplinarity, collaboration, and community engagement to show Albertans, and the world, the public value of our work. Participants spoke about cultivating and sustaining a culture of collaboration, support, and collegiality among students, faculty, and staff. Many expressed the need for education to remain affordable and accessible. Equity and inclusion were discussed at length, as was the need to see diverse people, programs, and research across our campuses. We spoke about the role the university must continue to play in educating a skilled workforce that can contribute to the diversification of Alberta's economy.

Here are a few of the ideas shared in the breakout sessions:

Advocate for the university 

  • In all that we do, make the case for the value of post-secondary institutions: advancing teaching, research and community engagement in the service of all the people of Alberta and beyond

Financial Sustainability and Autonomy

  • Explore all options to enhance financial sustainability, including increased enrolment and revenue growth
  • Advance institutional autonomy by increasing independent sources of revenue 

People are at the core

  • Ensure faculty and staff feel mutually supported by the community (internal and external)
  • Future students see the possibilities through role models and having accessible and meaningful interactions with the university
  • Create a welcoming and supportive environment for current students

Collaboration, support, and collegiality

  • Develop collaborative, strong leadership
  • Use collegial decision-making as a guiding principle
  • Build a sense of community and wellbeing on campus
  • Engage all members of the university community in building the university’s future

Equity, Diversity, Inclusion & Indigenous Initiatives

  • Support equity, diversity, inclusivity, and Indigeneity in everything we do
  • Think broadly about accessibility, including diversity, affordability, and adequate capacity
  • Strategically communicate everything the university does in ways that will resonate with diverse communities

Interdisciplinary, integrated, and engaged

  • Advance an excellent teaching, research, and learning environment, including interdisciplinary and experiential opportunities for all students backed by a welcoming and collegial environment 
  • Develop a culture of engagement and connectedness, internally and externally
  • Connect and engage with the community 
  • Offer transformative experiences for students (both curricular and research), including practical and impractical knowledge, and diversity of experience

Leading, excellent, competitive, and ambitious

  • Value excellence, creativity, and innovation in all disciplines; be recognized as an excellent institution; be a trusted source of knowledge; be a source of pride for the city and the province.
  • Position ourselves as a globally-ranked research-focused institution that also serves the local community and everyday Albertans

Social and economic innovation and diversification

  • Nurture innovative researchers and students to develop a sustainable and livable province
  • Provide opportunities and time to innovate 
  • Train an educated workforce who can be flexible and contribute to diversification

The conversations that took place during the summit were an encouraging and stimulating starting point. As we look ahead, there are many more discussions to come with the entire university community. I would appreciate hearing your thoughts on the two questions we considered at the summit. Please share your responses using ThoughtExchange:

I look forward to continuing this discussion with all of you as we continue to advance U of A for Tomorrow.

Bill Flanagan
President and Vice-Chancellor