Provost to provide global perspective to Conference Board

(Edmonton) The Conference Board of Canada has tapped University of Alberta provost and vice-president (academic) Carl Amrhein to serve as a visiting executive for a 14-month appointment beginning March 1—a move that President Indira Samarasekera says will benefit the Canadian post-secondary sector at large, and the University of Alberta in particular.

“Our post-secondary systems are changing quickly—not only because of the economy, but because of the changing expectations of communities and societies related to research-intensive universities,” Samarasekera said. “Carl’s involvement in these critical discussions will benefit both the U of A and the entire post-secondary sector at an important time in Canada’s history.”

Amrhein was already midway through a year-long professional leave when he was approached for the position. Samarasekera and the university’s board of governors approved extending Amrhein’s current administrative leave, originally scheduled to conclude June 30. Current acting provost Martin Ferguson-Pell has agreed to remain in the acting provost’s position through the remainder of Amrhein’s leave until he returns full-time to the U of A on July 1, 2014.

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to have Dr. Amrhein join us and contribute to and help advise our efforts in the areas of post-secondary education, skills development and innovation,” said Daniel Muzyka, president and CEO of the Conference Board of Canada. “These are three areas that are critical to Canada's competitiveness that all require attention. Dr. Amrhein is uniquely qualified to add value in all three.”

During his professional leave, Amrhein has been focusing on global issues and the impact that they will have on Canadian post-secondary institutions in the coming decades.

“My goal is to gain an understanding of these issues—economic, political, policy-related—and develop strategies for the U of A and other Canadian universities as we become more global in scope and impact,” Amrhein said.

This work caught the attention of the Conference Board of Canada, where Amrhein will collaborate with executives and researchers to help create the board’s Centre on the Future of Post-Secondary Education.

“The fact that the Conference Board has tapped our provost to serve in this role reflects well not only on his achievements and standing within the Canadian post-secondary sector, but also on the University of Alberta as a thought-leader and innovator in the sector,” Samarasekera said. “This is a fantastic opportunity for both Dr. Amrhein and for the U of A.”

Amrhein’s activities as visiting executive will include:

  • conducting research and publishing findings on the future of universities
  • exploring topics including the structures and role of research-intensive universities, the contribution of universities to innovation and commercialization, and the relationships of universities with employers and industry
  • convening and working with groups of university leaders and experts to examine university issues and explore options for change

“The overarching theme of my work throughout my current leave and term with the Conference Board is the role of modern universities in contemporary society, and ways that a productive, high-quality educational experience prepares students—both undergraduate and graduate—to contribute to contemporary society in meaningful ways,” he said.

“The Conference Board of Canada is a highly respected, non-partisan research organization and is in a position to lead discussions on public policy and economic issues that directly affect our university and our peers across Canada. I look forward to contributing to these important discussions.”