Frosh 2017: University Big Shots

By Jesse Stilwell —

One of the only interesting things that has taken place at the University of Calgary in the last few years is the drama surrounding its administration. From the legal dispute surrounding the ownership of MacHall to president Elizabeth Cannon’s alleged conflict of interest with the Enbridge energy company, any student might have some trouble understanding how this administration functions. You’ll probably never meet any members of administration, but knowing who they are will help you keep up with all the on-campus happenings. Here is a run-down of the important people and offices that govern the University of Calgary.

Elizabeth Cannon is the current president of the U of C. She is well-known for building a $150,000 glass staircase instead of dealing with millions of dollars worth of deferred maintenance on campus, letting oil companies come too close for comfort to academic integrity and leading the U of C to the 6th position in Canadian research institution rankings – though the goal was to be at least 5th. She serves as the public face of the university to the community. Though the SU would argue otherwise, she is the leader of advocacy for the university. Her current contract runs through 2020.

Vice-presidents and provosts
Next in the chain of command are the vice-presidents and provosts. These people keep the university running but don’t interact with the student population very much. These people sit on the board of governors, make decisions that can majorly impact your life, set the university’s budget and run the show on campus.

Board of governors
Universities have two branches in their governance structure. The one that holds real power is the board of governors, or BOG. The president, vice-presidents and provosts make up most of this board, but the SU president, SU BOG Rep, Graduate Students’ Association president, as well as other university bureaucrats and executives make up this 18-member board. It’s like the parliament of a university, but way less powerful and cool.

The second branch of university governance is the senate, which used to manage the academic concerns of the university, but after a few political scandals at the University of Alberta, the government removed most of their power. Now the senate represents the university in the community and promotes its interests at the local, provincial and national scale. Members of the senate include SU vice-presidents external and student life, two SU elected reps, prominent university community members and the university chancellor.

The coolest and most interesting person at the U of C is Dr. Robert Thirsk — mostly because he’s an astronaut and spent part of his life orbiting the international space station. He also holds the Canadian record for the longest time spent in space. As chancellor, he is the ceremonial leader of the university. So if BOG is parliament and president Cannon is the prime minister, Dr. Thirsk is the king. He shakes a lot of hands.

Every faculty has a dean that represents their faculty to university administration. These people earned their positions by being at the top of their field. If you get top marks, you will be put on their fancy list and be recognized for it on your transcript. That’s the best way to interact with a dean. You can also have the dean in your life through “Dean’s Vacation” — or, academic probation. You get there by failing too many classes or committing academic misconduct. Don’t do that.


That covers the governance at the U of C. If you read this far, you know more about these people than most students.

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