The man tasked with guiding Grande Prairie Regional College through the near future brings a wealth of experience and an eagerness to learn.
Dr. Glenn Feltham began his new role as acting president and CEO on March 17 after Dr. Robert Murray left the position for personal reasons.
“It is always a cool time to come in, but I am a student here,” Feltham said. “I am learning, and it is pretty cool to be a student again.”
However, don’t misinterpret being a student as indicative of inexperience.
“Most recently, I was president and CEO of NAIT for nine years,” Feltham said of the Edmonton based polytechnic college. “But I have been at several institutions. Before (NAIT) I was the Dean of Business at the University of Manitoba, and before that, a department head of accounting, as well as a research chair, at the University of Saskatchewan.”
Feltham takes over as GPRC plans to return to in-class sessions in the fall.
“It is a fascinating time, not only post-secondary but in society,” Feltham said. “We have been living with COVID for over a year now and I am not sure if we have given much thought to how we come out of COVID as we have thought about managing COVID on the day-to-day.
“I know that the province and our ministers have expressed a strong desire to have classes start again in September. I think that it would be wonderful to be able to do more in-person classes in September.”
Feltham added he believes the reopening of in-class studies is dependent upon Albertans being able to access vaccinations.
“I think the government is very much looking at the science, and when is the right time to come back,” Feltham added. “We have such an exceptional team of individuals looking at how it is we return to — well closer to normalcy–it is going to be quite a while before things are totally normal. I am thrilled we are targeting the fall for being able to bring people back.”
Feltham said the major obstacle moving forward is uncertainty.
“I think if you were to ask me what the biggest challenge is, it is not knowing what we don’t know, yet,” GPRC’s newest president said. “A lot can happen between now and September.”
Feltham is encouraged with where GPRC stands.
“This institution is so prepared to deal with whatever transpires in the interim,” Feltham said. “I always believe that if you have the right people looking at the right things, you are going to get to where you need to be, and we have the right people looking at the right things within our institution. I have a high degree of confidence and comfort in our ability to reopen in a way that will make all proud.”
Feltham is familiarizing himself with the school, but he is also looking forward to getting to know the people of GPRC: students, staff and faculty.
“I think I have a fairly deep understanding of the nature of programs that we have here, but I love being around students, and I love being around our staff,” Feltham said. “For me, being able to bump into people and have discussions and talk to people about what they aspire to, both individually and their aspirations for the institutions.
“Yes, we can do more through (technology) but there is something inherently wonderful about getting together in person.”
Feltham said he felt it was important to step up when asked to take on the interim president’s role.
“Occasionally post-secondary institutions go through periods of transition where they need someone to come in and help for a bit,” Feltham added “So, given how highly I think of this amazing institution, I wanted to be able to assist in any way I could.When I was requested to do this, I absolutely believed it was important for me to do so.”
There are a couple of priorities, according to the acting president.
“One of the things I will be working with the board on is finding my replacement and making sure that we (can) bring in an outstanding leader to lead the institution into the future,” Feltham said.“I would hope that, given my background, I could provide a few additional insights into where the institution may want to go into the future.”
Feltham had praise for the college’s facilities.
“This city is so blessed to have this institution,” he said. “You know sometimes we take for granted what we have. The facilities we have here are not just facilities for this institution, but they are for the community, and that is a good thing.”
Before taking the position at GPRC, Feltham was in position for a different kind of experience.
“About fifteen months ago, I retired, and the thought was my wife and I would be travelling the world,” he said.
Instead, he will be travelling and traversing the hallways this spring and fall.