Published on May 14, 2021
Six questions with Laura Jo Gunter
With a long history as a leader in post-secondary education across Canada, Laura Jo Gunter became NAIT’s seventh president and CEO in August 2020. She’s a champion of polytechnic education and is grateful to see so much support from the community and donors. We asked her about herself and her vision for NAIT.
What drew you to NAIT?
The chance to lead NAIT was an incredible opportunity, especially at this moment when polytechnic education is so essential to Alberta’s future. It’s a great institution with a tradition of excellence in teaching, helping students advance to rewarding careers, and ensuring industry has access to talented, skilled employees. Our many dedicated donors – some through decades of support – have helped make this happen. And there are so many opportunities for NAIT to come.
What kind of opportunities?
NAIT is on the forefront of Alberta’s economic recovery, providing the talent and innovation that will help the province thrive. We will continue to listen to industry and our learners so that we can provide the workforce for the future, whether through our full-time program, apprenticeship or upskilling and reskilling the current workforce. Our focus on applied research in energy, sustainability and renewable resources will help industry as we move towards a more diversified economy.
What’s a leadership lesson you’ve learned that you now apply to NAIT?
Make friends in unusual places. Talk to people who are not like you. To innovate, you need to take successful ideas from different industries and see how they can be adapted to work for you and your organization.
Tell us something about you that might surprise people.
I fenced during my undergraduate at Carleton University. I really enjoyed learning to properly use a sword and the adrenaline rush during competitions.
This is your first time living in Edmonton. How has it been so far?
Given that I moved here during COVID, I’ve spent a lot of time walking around the river valley paths, which has been very rejuvenating. Everyone I have met in Edmonton has been extremely welcoming and friendly, and I look forward to attending in-person events to get to know them better. And my first winter was not bad!
What exciting developments are coming for NAIT in the near term?
We are creating a new strategic plan to guide the institute. It will focus on expanding the impact NAIT has on individuals and the economy, and how we can help both prosper. Innovation, both in terms of polytechnic education in the future and applied research, will also be a key aspect of this plan.