By Jensen, Randy on May 29, 2020.
The University of Lethbridge has appointed Matthew Letts as the new Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Science.
Letts, a professor in the Department of Geography and Environment, has served as interim dean for the faculty since July 2019. He has served in the role of associate dean since 2012. He held an interim role as associate vice-president (research) in 2014-15 and was academic program director of the Destination Project from 2016-19. This position played a prominent role in the operationalization of the university’s new Science Commons (Isttaniokaksini) as the primary liaison between the project management team and science faculty members throughout its construction. He also was instrumental in bringing Engineering Transfer back to the faculty, and in the initiation of the AGILITY program.
“As the Faculty of Arts & Science is our largest faculty on campus, this is an integral role in shaping the academic culture of the university,” says Erasmus Okine, Provost and Vice-President (Academic). “Dr. Letts’ vast experience as a faculty member and administrative voice within Arts & Science creates a seamless transition to the beginning of his tenure. At the same time, now that he has moved beyond an interim role, it will allow Dr. Letts the opportunity to usher in a new era for the faculty and to implement his own strategies for advancing teaching and research.”
Letts first came to the U of L in 2003, after serving as a lecturer and postdoctoral fellow at Trent University from 2001-03. He earned his undergraduate BA and BSc (honours) degrees at Queen’s University and a Master’s in Geography at McGill University. Letts then completed his PhD in Geography at King’s College London.
Letts’ ecological research program has been supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and Alberta Innovates. His work is focused on plant physiological acclimation to environmental stress, using photosynthesis measurement, as well as remote sensing and stable isotope analysis techniques. His work has taken him to a variety of ecosystems, from coulee grasslands to the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains, northern peatlands, tropical cloud forests of Colombia and Mediterranean environments of southern France.
“The Faculty of Arts & Science plays a central role in ensuring the University of Lethbridge remains the best student-focused, research-intensive, comprehensive university in Western Canada. Founded on the principle of liberal education, we provide students with an outstanding experiential education,” says Letts. “The COVID-19 pandemic has put some of our high-impact face-to-face educational practices on hold, but with exceptionally talented faculty, students and staff, we are positioned well to confront the complex financial and public health challenges currently facing our community.”
Letts sees the first order of business as the development of a Faculty of Arts & Science Strategic Plan, a project that will involve faculty members, students, staff and community partners.
“This will serve as a roadmap that sets our priorities and propels us toward a great future, as we emerge from the present circumstances,” he says. “How will we create an inclusive environment that promotes access to educational opportunity and successful outcomes for all of our students? What new programs and learning opportunities do our students need to succeed? How can we best support research and creative pursuits throughout such a diverse set of disciplines across the humanities, social sciences and sciences? How can we enhance community engagement? And how will our faculty meaningfully respond to the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission? These are just a few of the questions that will be guided by our Faculty’s strategic plan.”
Letts begins his role as dean on July 1 for a renewable term of five years.
“This is a dream job for me – and I am honoured by the opportunity to serve our students, faculty and staff at this critical moment in our university’s history.”