Oct. 2, 2023

Katrina Milaney named new associate vice-president (research)

Researcher’s unconventional path to academia will bring unique community experience to the role
Katrina Milaney
Katrina Milaney Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Dr. Katrina Milaney, PhD, has been named the newest member of the Vice-President (Research) leadership team, effective Oct. 2, 2023. She will hold the role of associate vice-president (research) (AVPR) for a two-year term (renewable).  

Milaney brings years of expertise in social sciences, humanities, and critical theory to the role, as well as over 15 years of leadership in non-profit research and strategy at the United Way of Calgary and Area and the Calgary Homeless Foundation. She is a professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences in the Cumming School of Medicine and will be cross-appointed to the Faculty of Arts. Milaney will take on the role of postdoctoral program director and be UCalgary’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) leader.

Milaney is a highly regarded scholar who has received many notable honours, including being named one of the city’s Most Compelling Calgarians by the Calgary Herald in 2020, and being selected to lead strategy development for Psychosocial and Behavioural Sciences in the CanCOVID Network.  

“We are thrilled to be welcoming Dr. Milaney to the Office of the Vice-President (Research),” says Dr. William Ghali, vice-president (research). “Her breadth and depth of experience from her foundational training in the social sciences and humanities to her track record of work in communities will be invaluable to the University of Calgary.”

Milaney is a longtime member of the UCalgary community, having received her BA, M.Ed and PhD from the Faculty of Arts in sociology and community rehabilitation and disability studies. She is excited to be taking on a leadership role as the university begins the implementation of the Ahead of Tomorrow strategic vision.

“I love that we are a young university. I love that we are innovative and willing to tackle tough challenges. I love that we have grand visions to be a top-five research institution in Canada and want our communities to be part of our work,” she says. “An important part of my job will be to think of ways to support our researchers as they find their place in the strategic plan and in the vision for the university.”

Milaney will start by meeting with researchers to better understand how she can support their ideas and goals. She brings experience in securing grants from SSHRC, as well as the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

“Our researchers have great ideas, but sometimes taking those ideas to the next level in terms of writing a grant or finding the right people to bring onto a project can be challenge,” she says. “Those are conversations that I can help with and facilitate making connections across departments and faculties. I want to work with our researchers to identify possible synergies and ideas to formalize projects and move their projects forward.”

Her experience with community partnerships, and unconventional path to university leadership via community agency leadership roles give Milaney a unique outlook on collaboration that she will bring to all aspects of her AVPR role.

“I came to the university quite late in my career,” says Milaney. “I had spent 15 years in public and not-for-profit organizations. The dynamics are different out in community, and the relationships are different and very, very important. I learned a lot about true partnership, and reciprocity and respect for diverse values, opinions and ideas.”

The biggest lesson Milaney learned was how to be a good partner, and to recognize both the limits and opportunities of being an academic partner.

“We have skills to bring to solution-focused, impact-focused work, but we don't know everything,” she says. “We absolutely need to listen to the ideas and experiences of people who are experts, whether it's climate change or homelessness or housing or health issues or poverty. There's a wealth of information out in the community that can help us accelerate our vision if we work in full collaboration and with reciprocity.”

Milaney will focus on how to strategically align researchers’ expertise with transdisciplinary scholarship and the Ahead of Tomorrow strategic plan in order to increase and refine our community-engaged scholarship, in all of its forms.

“As researchers who are very privileged in our positions to be doing research and to be doing it in partnership with others, I think we are professionally and morally obligated to focus on impact work,” she says. “We need to focus on change and mobilizing research into something in the community that makes life better for people.”

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