The Open Door
Debra Pozega Osburn
Interim vice-president (external relations)
A couple of years ago, I had the privilege of sitting in on a discussion led by our Provost, Carl Amrhein, that outlined the importance of institutional partnerships.
The discussion was before a meeting of members of the Conference Board of Canada, and it included executive leadership from Capital Health (now a part of Alberta Health Services), as an example of just one of hundreds of jointly beneficial partnerships the University of Alberta has formulated over the past several decades.
During the discussion, a number of impressive facts were put forward about the University of Alberta and its partnerships. Among them:
• The University of Alberta has more than 750 public and private partners that in recent years have invested more than $480 million annually U of A research.
• We have forged industry partnerships by the hundreds in recent years; in 2006–07, for example, more than 550 industry partners in research accounted for some $40.6 million in investment. That included $35.6 million from Canadian companies, and $5 million from foreign sources.
• During that same time period, our government partnerships (with more than 26 Alberta government offices and programs) totaled $136,395,000.
Those dollar figures are important, but they don’t even begin to capture the full scope of our partnerships, whose outcomes range from such community events as the Festival of Ideas and the Little Big Run to high-impact initiatives such as the Edmonton Clinic.
I thought about this presentation last week, as I joined leadership from the City of Edmonton, the City of Leduc, and other nearby municipalities, as well as from advocacy organizations, on a “trade mission” to Houston, Texas, a city with similar areas of economic focus and challenge, to explore potential mutually beneficial partnerships on which to build new success stories in the future.
Houston, of course, benefits from the presence of several post-secondary institutions, and those institutions were included in the long set of meetings and discussions. At all times, the bottom line in my mind was: Is there a shared vision of excellence? Because that, I think, is the critical characteristic of partnerships at the modern university, especially one as diverse and rich as the University of Alberta in the 21st century.
We have seen evidence of new, clearly beneficial and exciting partnerships several times in recent months; for example, the new Helmholtz Initiative. Other such high-profile partnerships are currently in the making, and will likely be announced soon.
And of course, throughout the fabric of our diverse institution, we’re engaged at many points—through discussions with peer faculty around the world, various contacts with our deans and institute directors, administrative discussions and many others—which will result in the kinds of partnerships from which great things grow, great discoveries emerge, and great impact is felt.