General Faculties Council — June 1, 2015

Samarasekera says farewell to GFC

University of Alberta President and Vice-Chancellor Indira Samarasekera chaired her 399th and final General Faculties Council meeting, closing her term with reflections and advice for the governing body.

“GFC is a crucially important body for this institution,” Samarasekera said. “We’ve debated some incredibly important issues. People have raised important concerns, challenges and points of view. Two years ago I raised the question of whether we are getting the right topics to GFC … I think there’s huge opportunities to ensuring that these agendas are really important and have a plan for the year.”

U of A President-elect David Turpin will chair his first GFC meeting later this summer, as he takes office July 1, 2015.

The Senate

Chancellor Ralph Young presented the role of the University of Alberta Senate to the General Faculties Council.

The University of Alberta Senate acts as a bridge between the University and the public, and is a channel that can transmits opinions through the university to the community. The senate also serves as a discussion forum for issues regarding post-secondary education.

The Senate’s official mission is “To inquire into matter that might benefit the University and enhance its position in the community,” as per the Alberta Post-Secondary Learning Act 2003. The Senate’s mandate is to inquire (explore issues of post-secondary education of interest to members of the Senate as dual roles as community representatives and U of A ambassador), promote (advance public reputation of the U of A) and connect (enhance the U of A’s local, provincial, national and international connections).

The Senate also chairs all convocation ceremonies and oversees U School, which brings elementary and junior high students from inner city communities for hands-on learning.

Ambassadors, advocates, bridge builders, catalysts and celebrants are elected and comprise the 62 members of the senate.

One question from the audience asked if there are ways for the university to focus on rural areas where the social infrastructure is “getting worse and worse and worse,” as the role of the senate is to engage with the greater community.

Young said the senate “tries to do what we can,” and engage Northern Alberta as resources to the senate are limited.

Visiting Committee Update

U of A President Indira Samarasekera updated GFC on the progress of the President’s Visiting Committee reviews of programs at the university. The committee is a unit review task force who assess and recommend long-term plans for faculties on campus.

The committee process analyzes how faculties were perceived by their peers, what their challenges are and if there are any resource issues for a faculty’s department.

President’s Visiting Committee focus on the research, graduate student, advancement and performance review, while leaving the undergraduate reviews and accreditation programs with the standard unit review assessments. The committee is intended to function as an external advisory group that maintains an ongoing relationship with the faculties.

Samarasekera said it’s been a challenge for the U of A’s Board of Governors is getting a sense of the strategic direction in terms of resources and kinds of investments.

The committee then updates the faculty with recommendations, which can be rejected or accepted. The Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation and the Alberta School of Business volunteered as pilots for the project. Dean Kerry Mummery of the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation and Dean Joseph Doucet of the Alberta School of Business are currently working with the Office of the Provost and Vice-President (Academic) on which recommendations can and will be implemented.

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