Arriving at the University of Alberta after thirteen years spent in the role of President and Vice Chancellor at the University of Victoria, David Turpin assumed his new role as President on July 1. Since then, he has kept a full schedule. So full, in fact, that his only opportunity to speak to The Gateway was before his commencement speech for the year, in the Hawrelak Park parking lot.
Though the setting may have been unorthodox, the President was looking forward to discussing his first months in office, and plans he has for the rest of the year.
Q: As tonight marks the beginning of your first full academic year as president, what are you looking forward to in your first year?
A: Well, I’m really looking forward to getting to know more of the U of A community. The Students, the Faculty, and the staff. It’s an exciting time for me personally coming from the outside and arriving in this incredible community. Just the opportunity to meet people and find out what they’re all about, what their goals and aspirations are.
Q: What are some goals you’re looking to achieve?
A: In terms of my goals for the coming year, one of the big things will be engaging in the next iteration of strategic institutional planning, basically answering the question of “where are we going from here?” We’ve had a remarkable run in development at this university over the last several decades, and the opportunity to build on that and move this forward, reach out, support students, and help build a better community and better country. These are really aspirations that I thingk we all share, and I’m really looking forward to engaging in that.
Q: Dr. Samarasekera held the position before you for nearly a decade, what are some areas in which you think your predecessor succeeded, and where do you think you can improve?
A: I’ve been a friend of Indira’s for about 15 years now, we knew each other when we were both at UBC. Before her, I knew Rod Fraser as well, who was President for ten years before that, and I’ve watched as the U of A has continually stepped up and I have been very impressed with what those outstanding leaders have done to propel the university forward. My goal is to build on what they have already accomplished, to really link with our students, and look to provide the most outstanding learning environment possible. To build our research capacity in a way that really benefits every Albertan and every Canadian, and to engage with communities across this province and across the country, to allow them to reach their goals and aspirations
Q: How have your Vice Presidents helped you acclimatize in the transition period into the new position?
A: Well we’ve got a wonderful mix of some new leaders and some seasoned ones, and each of them has played a key role in helping me start to understand the University of Alberta.
The senior leadership team with great people like Phyllis Clark and Don Hickey, who have been here for over a decade and really understand the history. Debra Pozega-Osbourne is an absolutely outstanding leader in the area of University Relations. Lorne Babiuk, the VP Research is an absolutely remarkable researcher and scholar, yet he has this incredible capacity to lead a major research institution, and to champion the research at the U of A.
Two new people around the table, Steve Dew is the new Provost and VP Academic is a remarkable individual who really understands the U of A for nearly 20 years was in the role of Associate Dean of Engineering, and talking on the incredible developments there, he was basically the Provost of that Faculty, and he worked tirelessly behind the scenes to build that faculty. He’s now joined us as Provost, and in another couple of weeks, Heather McCaw will join us as the VP Advancement. She is starting in a few weeks’ time, and is already engaged in the community. She has been involved in an important search for an associate Vice President and participated in the Strategic Leadership Retreat last week. All of them are playing a role in helping me get my feet on the ground and starting to move the U of A forward.
Q: Now that you’ve been at the University for a couple months, where’s your favorite spot to get coffee at the U of A?
A: Oh wow, that’s actually a tough one because most of it’s just down the hall in my office, but I would have to say the Daily Grind in SUB.
Working with the President to keep the university running are his Leadership Team. Composed of six vice presidents, as well as the head of the University’s legal team, each of the members are responsible for a specific portfolio. With the President leading the university externally, and the Provost internally, the Team is responsible for leading the university on an institutional level.
Board of Governors Chair: Vacant
The Chair is the official spokesperson of the Board of Governors, and serves as a medium between the Board, the President, the provincial government and the community. The Chair is appointed by the Alberta Lieutenant Governor in Council after a selection committee screens all eligible applicants who fit the position description. Doug Goss, who served as the BoG Chair from February 2012 to August 2015, stepped down this summer. BoG Vice-Chair Dick Clark will serve as Chair until the selection process is completed.
Provost and VP Academic: Steven Dew
Sometimes referred to as the “Chief Operating Officer” of the University, the Vice President and Provost is second-in-command to the President, is responsible for leading the Vice-Presidential team and is mostly involved in the internal workings of the university. This portfolio is responsible for academic and institutional planning, and provides leadership primarily within the university. Liaising with students and faculty directly, the Provost and VP Academic is maintains the direction set out in the University’s academic plan. Lastly, the Deans of the University’s 18 faculties report directly to the Provost.
VP Research: Lorne Babiuk
“Establishing, advancing, and supporting an environment at the U of A that fosters research and creativity of the highest caliber,” is the role of the Office of the Vice President of Research. Attracting funding, increasing awareness of current research, and creating opportunities for all at the university to start and participate in research of their own are some of the main responsibilities of this cabinet position.
VP Finance and Administration: Phyllis Clark
The Office of the Vice President Finance provides a link between university administration and the BOG regarding all matters pertaining to finance and human resources. Responsible for everything from altering policies on harassment and discrimination to records management and pay cheques, this office is, as they say, “the money.”
VP Facilities and Operations: Don Hickey
Responsible for maintaining the day-to-day operations of the University’s 1.5 million square metres of floor space, the VP Facilities and Operations is responsible for the maintenance, renovation, and construction of all the campuses of the University. Also overseeing Parking Services, Residence Services, and ONEcard, the Office of the VP Facilities and Operations ensures each student has the best learning environment possible.
VP University Relations: Debra Pozega Osburn
Essentially the head of PR for the University of Alberta, The VP University Relations in responsible for enhancing relationships with the extra-university organizations, maintaining the reputation of the institution outside our walls, and ensuring that adequate funding is allotted for research and operations use. In charge of releasing the research stories found on the UAlberta.ca home page, as well as the Calgary Centre initiative and digital learning initiatives.
VP Advancement: Heather McCaw
This position is responsible for fundraising operations and alumni relations. As one of the main faces in the arena of attracting private dollars and alumni funds, the VP advancement is a key role in maintaining the learning environment of the university, as well as a high level of research.