Update on the Academic Leaders Task Group

Steven Dew - 08 July 2021

When President Flanagan announced the University of Alberta’s new operating model on June 10, detailing the authorities, responsibilities, and structure of our new college model, he reminded members of the community that one key objective of institutional restructuring efforts is to refocus academic faculty members towards the core activities of teaching and research. The new model helps us to achieve this in two ways: first, by reducing the time that faculty members in academic leadership roles spend on administering services, and second, by reducing the number of academic administrators. At a town hall a few days later, President Flanagan and I also announced the formation of a committee to review academic leadership roles and provide recommendations by the end of September 2021. 

The purpose of the Academic Leaders Task Group (ALTG) is to undertake a review of the roles of academic leaders in the context of our new academic structure and make recommendations on how to best deploy this most critical resource - our professors. This includes the number, location and responsibilities of these academic leaders at the department, faculty, college and institutional levels. The objective of this exercise is to ensure strong, strategic and effective leadership with a minimal number of professors and a harmonization of the roles, service levels and functions provided (recognizing that there are unique aspects in every discipline that must be considered). The task group will focus on research, graduate and undergraduate education, and student advising and coordination across programs, with consideration also given to international initiatives, EDI, and Indigenous initiatives. 

Objectives and Principles

  1. Guide decisions using data and ensure they support our commitment to excellence and competitiveness in our core areas of academic programming, research and service.
  2. Establish a consistent approach to academic leadership roles across colleges, faculties and departments. 
  3. Ensure that administrative aspects of leadership roles are supported by non-academic staff, within the approved operating model.
  4. Streamline leadership needs so that the total number of academic leaders is reduced by 25%.
  5. Define responsibilities of each leadership role, ensuring that each responsibility is one that must have a professor to execute. 
  6. Align roles at each level with primary responsibilities based on the authority matrix.
  7. Wherever possible, elevate the level of the role to achieve economies of scale and greater coordination across the institution.
  8. Allocate the number of leaders based on relevant drivers for particular responsibilities.
  9. Align the location of administrative staff (under SET) with the location of academic leaders performing a complementary function.


  • Provost (Chair) - Steve Dew
  • VP (Research & Innovation) - Aminah Robinson 
  • 1 College Dean - Greta Cummings
  • 2 Faculty Deans - Steve Patten, Simaan AbouRizk
  • Vice Provost and Dean (FGSR) - Brooke Milne
  • 1 Chair - Narmin Kassam (Department of Medicine) 
  • 1 Associate Dean (Research) - David Bressler (ALES)
  • 2 Associate Deans (Graduate) - Doug Gleddie (Education), Dianne Tapp (Nursing)*
  • 1 Associate Chair (Undergraduate) - Jaymie Heilman (History and Classics)
  • 1 Associate Chair (Graduate) - Michael Serpe (Chemistry)
  • 1 College General Manager - Julie Naylor (Natural and Applied Sciences) 
  • 1 Faculty General Manager - Yvonne Norton (Education) 
  • Students’ Union President - Rowan Ley 
  • Graduate Students’ Association President - Anas Fassih

*1 representative from each of a departmentalized and non-departmentalized faculty


In order to assist the members of the ALTG with their task, I welcome input from the university community on the following questions. Input can be sent directly to provost@ualberta.ca

  1. What desired outcomes should the ALTG keep in mind when considering academic leadership roles in the areas of research, graduate administration, and teaching administration? 
  2. What roles and tasks are most important to be performed by academic leaders (i.e. leaders who also hold professorial positions)?
  3. Recognizing that there are many unique models for academic administration and academic leadership across the institution, are there specific examples of models that are producing desirable outcomes that the ALTG should consider? 

I look forward to hearing from you. 

Steven Dew
Provost and Vice-President (Academic)



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