Diversity has “mostly likely been” a leading factor in the selection of the University of Alberta’s six new Board of Governors members.
On March 7, the Province of Alberta named Dominique Grégoire, Dr. Lynne Paradis, Lynn Parish, Zahra Somani, Sheri Sommerville, and Owen Tobert to the U of A’s board, the institution’s highest governing body. These six individuals will work to ensure the university’s finances are in order until their terms expire on March 6, 2020. They’ll also set tuition rates, residence rates, meal plans, and other operating fees.
Board Chair Michael Phair said he’s “quite pleased” that the board will be full. The province has been working to fill these seats for the past few months, he said. About 120 applications were submitted.
“With six new members, it’ll be quite a new board, and a chance for renewal and new opportunities,” Phair said.
Grégoire earned her BCom from McGill University and a CA/CPA from the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants. Since 2015, she served as Chief Financial Officer of Alberta Blue Cross Benefits Corporation. She has also held executive positions with MSH International, Western Life Assurance Company, Marsh Canada, and Optimum Reassurance Inc. She is currently a board member of the Westside Recreation Centre in Calgary.
Paradis received her Doctor of Education from the University of Alberta and a Master of Education in from the University of British Columbia. She is currently the Superintendent of Schools for Suzuki Public Charter School after a 34-year career as an administrator for Red Deer Catholic Schools. She’s served on a number of boards, including those of the Central Alberta Regional Professional Development Consortium, the Council of Alberta Teaching Standards, the Alberta Assessment Consortium, and the Red Deer College Alumni Association.
An Edmonton lawyer, Parish holds an LL.B from the London School of Economics and a LL.M from the U of A. Lynn’s later returned to the U of A’s Faculty of Law as an instructor. Now, Parish works as a hearing chair for the Alberta Appeals Commission for Worker’s Compensation and was previously a chartered mediator. In the community, her involvement includes a presidency with the Rossdale Community League, a secretaryship with the Centre for Public Education (CPLEA), and work with the Alberta Family Medication Society and the Edmonton Victim Offender Mediation Society.
Somani, a partner and owner of Pirani Group, is a U of A alumna of the Faculty of Education. After receiving an MBA from the Edinburgh School of Business, she’s gone on to gain 20 years of experience in the retail and hospitality industry. In the community, she’s served on boards for the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation, the Sorrentino’s Compassion House, and Norquest College; in addition, she’s presided over Edmonton’s His Highness the Aga Khan Ismaili Council and is a member of the Mayor’s poverty task force.
A 30-year local and international performing artist, arts administrator, and entrepreneur, Somerville is now the Executive Director of Edmonton ballet company Citie Ballet. She received a musical diploma from Grant MacEwan College, completed the Banff Center Voice Opera Program, and studied at the University of Toronto Canadian Opera School. Previously, Somerville was CEO and owner of the Somerville Wine Room, president of the Varscona Theatre, and director for the Teatro La Quindicina.
Tobert holds a BSc in Civil Engineering from the U of A, and an MBA from the University of Calgary. He joined the City of Calgary’s corporate executive team in 2001 as the General Manager of Utilities and Environmental Protection. In 2004, he was appointed City Manager, which he held until his retirement in 2014. Owen’s board experience includes membership on the CKUA Foundation, the Calgary Saddledome Foundation, the Calgary Zoological Society, and the Canadian Association of Municipal Administrators.
Phair said the diversity in the new members’ work backgrounds will help move board discussions forward, especially given that the U of A has many different pursuits. In addition, five of the six appointees are female — and of the 120 applicants, there were more than 60 female applicants.
“In the province, particularly the Premier, it’s been made clear that there should be more women in senior positions throughout the government and industry,” he said. “I think that was very much a part in (the selection of the board appointees).”
Phair said the board’s objective is to help the university look forward to the next couple of years, and to what will make a difference. He added that these members will likely be entering a “period of less growth” for the university as they’ll likely be dealing with less funding from the government.
Moving forward, Phair said he hopes the board will look into ways to increase the number of professors at the university — particularly those aged between 35 and 40 years old.