Making others feel welcome to be chief job of acting provost
Carl Amrhein has decided to stand for a third term as the university’s provost and vice-president (academic). Prior to the end of his second term, Amrhein will take a year-long administrative leave starting July 1, 2012.
Taking over the role as provost and vice-president (academic) for the university is Martin Ferguson-Pell, who is in his first term as dean of the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine.
Ferguson-Pell came to the University of Alberta in 2007 from University College London. His background is in biomedical engineering and he is a registered clinical scientist. He has extensive experience working in clinical-academic settings developing engineering solutions to overcome barriers experienced by people with physical disabilities.
Although he says his time has been splintered with his duties as dean, Ferguson-Pell says he has never enjoyed research more.
“I think that the U of A is by far the most collegial university I have been associated with and I’ve found that while working at the U of A I have been more productive than anywhere else I’ve worked,” he says. Along with his research team, Ferguson-Pell recently began equipping the Rehabilitation Robotics Lab at the Edmonton Clinic Health Academy. “I believe the collegiality, the positive focus the university has and the faculty and administrative structure, which are relatively streamlined compared to many other universities, are the main reasons why I am so passionate about my research here. These are some of the attributes at the U of A that we don’t celebrate enough.”
As for his upcoming role as provost and vice-president (academic), Ferguson-Pell says his mission is to stay the course, and he is excited about some of the prospects of the new job, including assimilating a host of new deans set to join the U of A in 2012.
“It is important that they feel welcomed to the university, that they’re up to speed and that they are fully supported in their roles, and that central administration is ready to back them as they develop plans for and with their respective faculties,” said Ferguson-Pell. “I feel if I can help the new deans really get acquainted with the university and make sure the things they want to do are starting to move forward by the time Carl comes back, I’ll have made an impact.”
Ferguson-Pell says he will be taking the helm at the provost’s office just after a newly struck Provost and Vice-President (Academic) Portfolio Review Committee reports recommendations concerning the function and role of the provost’s portfolio.
“The focus of the review of the provost’s office would look more closely at how the administrative functions of the provost’s office best serve the university and will also look at the balance between the immediate operational issues of the office and the strategic issues we are trying to take forward for the university as a whole,” he said. “The committee will provide advice on how to balance roles within central administration, and identify things we can change to ensure that we are best positioned to deliver the University’s Academic Plan, on target and on time.
“Carl, President Indira Samarasekera and myself will look at the committee’s recommendations and identify some of the things that would be appropriate me to take forward during the year Carl is away. I feel, at least, what I’ll be expected to do is to help start get the recommendations into place.”
Dissecting the job of provost
President Indira Samarasekera will be striking a Provost and Vice-President (Academic) Portfolio Review Committee to review how the provost’s portfolio advances initiatives and strategies. Each of the vice-presidential portfolios undergoes a periodic independent review. The committee will be chaired by the president and vice-chancellor of the University of Saskatchewan, Peter McKinnon. Additional committee members include Dame Alison Richard, former vice-chancellor of Cambridge University; Martha Crago, vice-president (research) at Dalhousie University; and Adel Sedra, dean of engineering at the University of Waterloo. The committee will meet in Edmonton on March 26–27, 2012. University administration will be seeking input from the community for this review in the near future.