The Open Door: Building The Vibrant Academy
Carl Amrhein, provost and vice-president (academic)
& Lorne Babiuk, vice-president (research)
With the end of Dare to Deliver’s mandate fast approaching (July 1, 2011), the academic vice-presidents have again combined to co-chair an initiative to create the new academic plan for the next five years which will respond to the university’s renewed Dare to Discover vision. An academic plan writing team—consisting of a student and several academic staff members—has drafted The Vibrant Academy: Academic Plan 2011–2015. They were assisted in their work by input from deans; various campus groups representing students, alumni and employees, some of which were involved in the drafting of the resource documents that informed the writing team.
We are now in the consultative phase of the plan’s development, the time where we are sharing the draft extensively across the institution as we seek input and direction before the plan moves to completion and approval. The Vibrant Academy’s current draft is available online [www.provost.ualberta.ca/academicplan.aspx or www.research.ualberta.ca/OfficeoftheVPR/ResearchGoals.aspx], and we encourage the university community to review it and to provide your thoughts and suggestions. The deans have been invited to solicit feedback from within their Faculties, and submissions are also encouraged from staff and student associations. All members of the university community are welcome to provide additional feedback on the draft academic plan. We have asked for feedback by Nov. 1, and it can be submitted through a department or faculty, or emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Generating an academic plan that will fundamentally shape the U of A’s next five years is a challenging task, but it will, first and foremost, recall faithfully the words of our founding president, Henry Marshall Tory:
“The modern state university has sprung from a demand on the part of the people themselves for intellectual recognition, a recognition which only a century ago was denied them. The result is that such institutions must be conducted in such a way as to relate them as closely as possible to the life of the people. The people demand that knowledge shall not be the concern of scholars alone. The uplifting of the whole people shall be its final goal.”
These words of Henry Marshall Tory are inspiring and they challenge us to continuously renew the academic environment of our institution. The academic plan is designed to directly contribute to that renewal.
As you review the draft plan you will see that it is aligned with the four cornerstones of Dare to Discover, which are the foundations on which the university’s vision is based.
The first cornerstone, “talented people,” highlights the importance of attracting and retaining talented faculty, staff and students by focusing on reinvigorating what brings all these members together: the curriculum and its implementation at this research-intensive university.
The “learning, discovery and citizenship” cornerstone entails a philosophy that engages and defines every member of the academy as a participant in the learning process. This is achieved by providing an education where the university is responsible for meaningful and motivating curricular and co-curricular learning opportunities at every stage of the academic journey, one in which students are responsible for being fully engaged in their own learning. This cornerstone also emphasizes the value of pursuing research as a key aspect of scholarship, including the building of research “constellations” in areas of strength.
The third cornerstone is about “connecting communities.” The U of A is anchored in Edmonton and Camrose but its reach extends globally. To build upon our position as a leading, research-intensive university, this local, provincial, national and international influence must continue and be enhanced.
The final cornerstone aims at providing the university community with “transformative organization and support.” Recognizing strength in the diversity of our university community is important. The university strives to provide effective supports for all members to achieve their very best in a welcoming, affirming and accommodating environment. The U of A is known for its culture of collegiality and aspires to nurture a compassionate community.
As you review The Vibrant Academy, please keep in mind that its drafting comes at a time when the university community is operating in a very different, and much more complicated financial environment than was the case in 2004 when the previous plan was implemented. While the precise funding and budget details of the coming years are unclear, the strength of the cornerstones of a vibrant academy will be instrumental in grounding us—the talent of our academy will inspire us, and the pursuit of Tory’s vision will continue to demand of us that together we achieve more than we ever thought possible.