Sunday, November 14, 2004

A Canadian renaissance?

I don't normally get excited about the administration of universities, but this news fills me with an almost overwhelming sense of pride and hopefulness.

In July 2005, Dr. Indira Samarasekera will become the 12th President of my alma mater, the University of Alberta, and the first woman university president in Alberta.

Currently the VP Research at UBC, the Sri Lankan-born Samarasekera is a reknown metallurgical processes engineer, and her many honours include being an Officer of the Order of Canada and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

Among her priorities as the new president, Samarasekera plans to address inadequate university funding - especially in the social sciences, humanities and arts:

"Samarasekera said she hopes to see a 'creative climate where risk-taking and creative research are not only supported, but fostered' ...'My education, being an engineer, was sadly lacking in the humanities,' she said, noting that the importance of the arts, humanities and social sciences cannot be overstated. Well-rounded students are conversant in many disciplines, she said. The university will educate leaders of tomorrow and will be positioned as 'a global think tank'."

In today's (subscription only) Globe and Mail, Samarasekera is also quoted as saying:

"You cannot become complacent. You have to be thinking, 'How can we make this better? Are we exceeding standards, as opposed to meeting them?' ... The social sciences, the humanities and the arts will enjoy a renaissance in the 21st century... They have been underfunded for too long."

I hope she keeps her word, and I certainly look forward to witnessing her accomplishments over the next five years.

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