Telus Centre still taking calls

The University of Alberta has no plans to close its Telus Centre for Professional Development despite a nationally-circulated newspaper story proclaiming the centre’s demise.


Tuesday report in the National Post claimed the U of A was shutting down the Telus Centre for financial reasons. It said the Telus Centre generated just $400,000 in operating revenue and $800,000 in operating expenses this year.

The 48,000 square foot Telus Centre opened in June 2000 in an effort to provide a learning environment for U of A graduates and alumni. Along with e-learning and professional programs, the centre offers consulting services and conference facilities.

Dr. Anne Marie Decore, associate vice president of academic programs, said the financial figures were not out of line with her own calculations, though she stressed the Telus Centre’s doors remain open. In fact, she said the centre has signed three new contracts since Christmas, which she said will be complemented by a pair of upcoming contract announcements.

The story quoted Dr. Doug Owram, the U of A’s vice president of academic programs, though Owram was not quoted as saying the centre was closing. Owram left for vacation last Friday and was unavailable for comment at press time.

The mix-up appears to have been caused in part by a restructuring of the Telus Centre, announced by the U of A in late January, and a related article in The Gateway, the university’s student newspaper.

In a press release dated Jan. 21, 2002, the U of A said management of the centre had been moved to the Dean of the Faculty of Extension. It said the change would allow the U of A to consolidate IT staff supporting e-learning and professional development, decrease operational costs by eliminating areas of duplication, and position the Telus Centre as a part of the university’s internationalization strategy.

On Feb. 14, The Gateway published a story about the restructuring that claimed the centre was temporarily shutting down during the restructuring period. According to the Faculty of Extension, the centre’s doors have not closed and are not scheduled to do so, even temporarily.

Decore said she was unaware of the genesis of the Post story.

“”I have no idea how the news media concocts stories,”” she said. “”They do so in weird and wonderful ways.””

A Telus spokesperson also said the company was surprised by the Post story.

Decore said restructuring was necessary because the $12.9 million centre was “”too expensive the way it was running. And it wasn’t making use of other resources, most specifically, the resources and activities of the other faculties. If the centre is to fulfill its mandate, which is to deliver professional development through technology, it needs to involve those areas of the university that are already involved with professional development.””

She said the Faculty of Extension already works with the U of A’s other faculties, which will make it easier to facilitate a relationship between the centre and U of A faculties, including, but not limited to, professional faculties like law, business and medicine.

“”The faculties possess the expertise and they already have a network of contacts in those fields. We wanted to draw the Telus Centre closer to that,”” Decore said, adding that the faculties are already working involved in international studies as well.

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