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Welcome to U of A Law: A Message from the Dean

Philip Bryden, Dean of Law

On behalf of the entire Faculty, I am delighted to welcome you to the 2013-14 academic year.  This year we are beginning our second century of legal education at the University of Alberta.  While we cannot promise the range of special events this year that we put on to celebrate our Centenary last year, we still have an exciting schedule of speakers and events planned.  The most noteworthy of these is our final Centenary event, the Future of Law School conference that will be taking place in the Telus Centre from September 26-28, 2013.

You can learn more about the Conference on our website at http://lawschool.ualberta.ca/centenary/conference.aspx.  We will be assembling speakers from across Canada as well as the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.  I think that if you take a look at the names on the program and the topics they will be covering you will agree with me that this will be a very exciting opportunity to talk about both the future of legal education and the future of the legal profession with some extraordinarily knowledgeable and interesting people.  There will be opportunities for students to attend and I encourage you to stay alert for more information as it becomes available.

I am pleased to be able to welcome some new faculty and staff members who joined us over the past few months.  Dr. D’Arcy Vermette joins us as an Assistant Professor from St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick, where he was Director of their Native Studies Program.  Dr. Vermette is a member of the Métis Nation who grew up in Saskatchewan and he holds degrees from the University of Saskatchewan (BA), the University of Toronto (LLB), Queen’s University (LLM) and the University of Ottawa (LLD).  This year he will be teaching Constitutional Law and Aboriginal Peoples and the Law.

Professor Ubaka Ogbogu has been with us for two years on a contract appointment as the Katz Group Research Fellow in Health Law, but this summer he took up a new tenure track appointment as Assistant Professor in the Faculties of Law and Pharmacy.  Dr. Ogbogu grew up in Nigeria and holds degrees from the University of Benin (LLB), the University of Abuja (BL) and the University of Alberta (LLM) and is nearing completion of his SJD degree from the University of Toronto.  This year he will be teaching Law and Medicine in the Faculty of Law and Pharmacy Law and Ethics in the Faculty of Pharmacy.

Finally, Shannon Gullberg has joined us as Director of Academic and Cultural Support.  Ms. Gullberg grew up in rural Alberta and received a BSc in Rehabilitation Medicine and an LLB from the University of Alberta.  After graduation from law school she moved into private practice in Yellowknife for several years before taking a position as Legal Counsel to the Government of the Northwest Territories.  She later opened up her own practice in Yellowknife, doing work that included acting as counsel to a number of government agencies, teaching law to business administration students and serving as a member of administrative tribunals.  We are particularly pleased that the appointments of Dr. Vermette and Ms. Gullberg help us to make progress toward fulfilling our commitment to strengthen our teaching and research in the field of aboriginal law and our support for aboriginal students as a result of the review of our Indigenous Academic Program.

It is especially encouraging to me that I am able to report these positive developments to you at a time when the University of Alberta is experiencing significant financial difficulties.  Natasha Edgar has interviewed me for Canons about the University’s budget cuts and their implications for the Law Faculty, and I do not propose to repeat here all that I said in the interview.  I do, however, want to take this opportunity to reinforce two observations about our budget situation.  The first is that the decisions we are making in order to cut our budget are not easy ones.  They have involved layoffs of valued and long-serving members of our support staff and other steps that we regret but believe are necessary in order to adjust to the new financial reality we are facing.  The second is that as we go through this difficult period we remain focused on providing our students with a legal education of the highest quality.  As a Faculty we have faced difficult times before and no doubt we will do so again.  With strong support from the legal community the Faculty has addressed these challenges in the past and I know we will be able to meet the challenges we are facing now. I cannot say that we will be able to do everything the way we have done it in previous years, but I can guarantee you that we have an extremely talented and dedicated group of faculty and staff and that we will offer you an outstanding educational experience.

I hope you are looking forward to the coming academic year. My faculty and staff colleagues join me in welcoming both new and returning students to what I am sure will be, despite the challenges we are facing, a very positive year.