Five things you should know about University of Alberta alumni

A recent alumni impact survey for the University of Alberta found that its alumni contribute $250 billion in revenue to world economy.

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A recent survey conducted by the University of Alberta found that its alumni contributed $250 billion to the world’s economy last year, but the U of A’s alumni have contributed a lot more than that since the school’s inception.

The U of A recently released the findings from its alumni impact survey. The study was conducted by surveying U of A alumni and asking a range of questions about their employment, volunteerism, charitable donations, and more. More than 202,000 alumni were invited to take part in the survey through email. Roughly 5,000 people responded. The results show a variety of notable impacts, but the accolades of the U of A’s alumni go beyond the results of the study. Here are five things to know about the U of A’s alumni.

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1. Number of graduates

Since its inception in 1908, the U of A has seen more than 300,000 students pass through its hallways. The early days of the university looked very different from its current state. At the time of its founding, the U of A’s campus was located on City of Strathcona land, which would later be incorporated into the City of Edmonton, although calling it a campus might be a stretch because the university didn’t have any buildings at the time.

2. Notable alumni

Over more than 100 years, the U of A has educated a wide variety of people who have gone on to do big things around the world and in Canada. A prime minister, a few premiers, actors, and 75 Rhodes Scholars, the U of A’s impact extends in many directions.

Joe Clark, who was the prime minister of Canada from 1979 to 1980, attended the U of A for his bachelor’s degree and master’s degree.

Violet King Henry earned her law degree in 1953 from the U of A, becoming the first ever Black female lawyer in Canada. King Henry went on to take on murder trials in Calgary before moving to Ottawa and working in the federal immigration and citizenship department. In 2021, the Federal Building plaza was renamed in her honour.

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Five out of Alberta’s 17 premiers graduated from the U of A. Former premiers Rachel Notley, P.E. James Prentice, Peter Lougheed, Dave Hancock and Ed Stelmach are all U of A alumni.

Popular and controversial public speaker Jordan Peterson earned his first two degrees at the U of A in political science and psychology.

Reclusive Edmonton-born billionaire Daryl Katz also attended the University of Alberta. The Edmonton Oiler owner and former Rexall owner graduated from the U of A in 1985 after earning both a bachelor of arts and law degree.

3. World impact

The U of A’s recently released alumni impact study catalogues the effect that former U of A students have had.

The survey indicated that U of A alumni have invested heavily in startups and established businesses with $3.3 billion in investments.

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A quick scan of the U of A alumni website shows the long list of businesses started by U of A graduates. Some of the top earners are in science, technical, and professional services. The survey indicated that U of A alumni-founded companies earn an annual revenue of roughly $250 billion in for-profit and not-for-profit businesses.

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President Bill Flanagan is proud of the alumni achievements, but not surprised.

“I always knew that the University of Alberta was the university of great impact. But it’s great to see the numbers and just the extent of the impact of our graduates in Alberta and Canada and around the world,” Flanagan said.

The $250 billion from U of A alumni-founded companies includes the employment of more than 920,000 people.

4. Alberta impact

Of the 922,000 jobs created by U of A graduates, Flanagan said that 600,000 of them are in Alberta.

“That constitutes 22 per cent of Alberta’s workforce. So 22 per cent of Albertans who are working are working in a company that was founded by a U of A graduate,” he said.

Like a parent being asked to pick a favourite child, Flanagan hesitated to pick a faculty that contributed the most in the impact survey. Instead, he highlighted a few sectors where the university’s grads are significant contributors, including health sciences, technology and innovation (especially in artificial intelligence), and the energy sector.

5. The U of A wants to add more students

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Asked about what he looks at as an indicator of the school’s success, Flanagan said that he often examines applications.

“That’s a great signal that students and prospective students really see a lot of value in what you’re doing,” he said.

With a flood of applications to the U of A driving up competition to get into the university, Flanagan said he believes the U of A could get up to 60,000 students in the next 10 years from its current student populace of just over 40,000, and still keep the school’s quality high.

“We’re in conversations with the Government of Alberta about the importance of funding spots for more Albertans to be able to come to the U of A,” he said, adding “we’re turning away far too many really talented applicants because we’re constrained in our ability to grow.”

In balancing the competition to get into the school and creating more spots, Flanagan said the U of A has the capacity to educate even more students.

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Twitter/X: @ZacharyDelaney

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