The role of great universities is to stand up and solve the challenges of society. To accomplish that, we must build bridges between the institution and the communities we serve — not only in Alberta but across Canada and as far away as Ghana, India, Germany, China and Syria. We must engage with the problems people are facing every day, learn what people need, bring the world closer to solutions for the biggest questions. It is our responsibility to address issues such as human rights, equality, energy and the environment, health and the innovation gap. It is our mission to change lives and, in some cases, save lives.
A few weeks back, as we were all being reminded of the enormity of the Syrian refugee tragedy, I asked my team how we could create a local response to such a pressing global issue. In just a matter of days, we had crafted a new set of president’s awards for refugees and displaced people.
These awards will cover tuition and living costs for up to 10 Syrian students displaced by the ongoing conflict in their home country. We could welcome them as early as January. Every individual who is offered a brighter future becomes part of a changing story. That’s what universities do best: we create possibilities for individuals and, by extension, for communities.
As my wife, Suromitra Sanatani, and I meet more members of the University of Alberta community — such as the people you will encounter on the pages of this magazine — I see limitless potential across our campuses. This university is in a position to take a leading role in enriching the social, cultural and economic development of our country. And as I meet members of our philanthropic community, I’m confident that we have the right partners as we take on these grand challenges.
Our mission is to build up our community. Our responsibility is to create a better world.
David H. Turpin, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Alberta