Welcome to your future, Dr. Paula Burns

The entire Lethbridge College community is proud to welcome you to Lethbridge and to one of the best places to work in Alberta.

Your experience, achievements and ambitious vision will fit well with the bold plans already in place as the college approaches its sixth decade. We can’t wait to get started working with you on Feb. 4 – and we all look forward to having you as our leader.


With best wishes from the staff, faculty, students, alumni and supporters of Lethbridge College.


Lethbridge College appoints 8th President and CEO

Nov. 16, 2012 - Lethbridge College’s Board of Governors announced today that Dr. Paula Burns has been appointed President and CEO of the college. Dr. Burns will assume the role effective Feb. 4, 2013.

Currently serving as Provost and Vice President Academic at NAIT in Edmonton, Alberta, Dr. Burns has spent more than ten years in post-secondary leadership roles. Her earlier work included positions in teaching and curriculum development. With a wealth of experience developing government relationships and building strong community partnerships, she will be an excellent advocate for the college. (See attached biography for more information.)

“We are delighted to welcome Dr. Paula Burns to the role of President and CEO of Lethbridge College,” says Board of Directors Chair Randy Jespersen. “The board firmly believes Dr. Burns is an outstanding candidate to boldly lead Lethbridge College to the next level of aspiration and achievement. We look forward to working with her to lead Lethbridge College into its sixth decade.”

The announcement culminates a seven-month international search undertaken by a search committee comprised of current and past board members and the executive search firm Odgers Berndtson. Dr. Burns will succeed Dr. Tracy L. Edwards, who announced her resignation in April 2012, and Peter Leclaire, who has been serving as Interim President and CEO since Edwards’ departure June 30.

“I am honoured to be given the opportunity to join Lethbridge College at this exciting time,” says Dr. Burns. “With its differentiated mix of programs, opportunities for applied research and innovation, and strong commitment to serve the needs of the learner, the economy and society, Lethbridge College is positioned to take bold steps in preparing learners as future leaders.”

Dr. Burns is scheduled to attend the Nov. 26 Board of Governors meeting at Lethbridge College.


Dr. Paula Burns will be the eighth president of Lethbridge College. The first seven presidents led as the college grew from its first class of 38 students to the thriving campuses of more than 4,000 today.

Past presidents include:

W. James Cousins, Dean, 1957-1963

Carl B. Johnson, Principal, 1963-1967

Dr. Charles D. Stewart, 1967-1975

Donald W. Anderson, 1976-1979

G. Les Talbot, 1979-1990

Dr. Donna J. Allan, 1990-2005

Dr. Tracy L. Edwards, 2005-2012



Dr. Paula Burns


Dr. Paula Burns started on her educational path as a college student at Fanshawe College in London, ON, where she earned her Respiratory Therapy diploma in 1987. From there she went on to the University of Waterloo, where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in 1996; Central Michigan University, where she earned a Master of Arts in Education in 1999; the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education/University of Toronto, where she earned her PhD in 2005; and Royal Roads University, where she earned her MBA in 2010.


Burns’ previous work experience will serve her well at Lethbridge College. She has experience working with and in a variety of departments across post-secondary institutions, from teaching to curriculum development to leadership positions. She understands and has experienced many of the challenges and countless unique joys of working in a post-secondary institutional setting.

Burns came to NAIT in 2008, first as associate vice president of Academic Affairs and most recently as Provost and Vice President Academic. In that position, she was a member of NAIT’s executive team and provided leadership and direction to many groups and departments, including the deans of all academic schools; the department of continuing education and part-time studies; the department of teaching and academic development; student services including the registrar’s office, student life and recruitment,  athletics and recreation, institutional research and learning resources; and novaNAIT, which is responsible for applied research, entrepreneurship and technology transfer.

In her position as associate vice president of academic affairs, she worked with many of the same departments as well as provided oversight for all academic program development, comprehensive program assessment, program accreditation processes and faculty career development processes and initiatives.

Burns is a faculty member  in the Collaborative Change Leadership program offered through the Centre for Interprofessional Education at the University of Toronto and previously was a  facilitator at The Chair Academy’s Worldwide Leadership Training program in Arizona.

Burns’ earlier work experience will also serve her well in her new position as President of Lethbridge College.  From 1994 to 2008, Burns held several positions at the Michener Institute for Applied Health Sciences in Toronto. Starting as a respiratory therapist faculty member, she went on to work as chair of the department and coordinator of the program. She continued to teach until 2003, even while coordinating the institute’s distance education program.

Staying within the Michener family, she moved to work as a curriculum consultant and director, and eventually was named vice provost of the institute. In that last position, which she held for more than two years before moving to NAIT, Burns implemented academic innovation strategy, engaged in applied research, negotiated a faculty agreement, worked on international partnerships and directed collaborative research projects.

These experiences align well with the successful programs and well-developed plans Lethbridge College already has in place, allowing her to start her work with a well-established understanding of how successful programs, departments and post-secondary institutions operate.


Burns has published peer-reviewed research on asthma and asthma education as well as competency and safe practices in anesthesia assistants, and her work has appeared in various chapters, program syllabi and books over the years. In addition, she has given peer-reviewed presentations on leadership, organizational change, curriculum, and intercultural sensitivity, and has been an invited speaker at dozens of conferences across North America.


Burns has been recognized with a number of awards and distinctions in the last half dozen years. These include: the Founders Award in June 2010 given by Royal Roads University for having exemplified the qualities of leadership, sustainability and personal development among graduates of the MBA in Executive Management program; the Leadership and Distinction Award in June 2009 given by the MBA program at Royal Roads University; the International Exemplary Leadership Award in April 2008 and the International Exemplary Team Leadership Award in April 2006, both given by the Chair Academy in Mesa, Arizona; and the President’s Award of Excellence in September 2007 given by the Michener Institute in Toronto.