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Meet the President


Dr. Alan Davis, President and Vice-Chancellor


Alan Ross Davis was born in Reading, England. His father taught high school mathematics and his mother worked in various factory jobs. He attended Ranelagh School where he was active in sports, theatre and Boy Scouts. In 1968, he attended University College London to study chemistry, and was awarded his BSc with honours in 1972. During his time at UCL, he was involved with the Dramatic Society and played the lead in a rare production of Mrozek’s Tango.

In 1972 he was accepted into graduate school at Simon Fraser University where he received MSc and PhD degrees, and worked under the supervision of Professor Frederick Einstein on determining the structure of inorganic coordinate compounds using X-ray crystallography. Dr. Davis also furthered his interests in theatre and played roles in many productions, including Marat/Sade, A Man is a Man, The Merchant of Venice, Sergeant Musgrave’s Dance and St. Joan.

In the late 1970’s he began 12 years as a chemistry faculty member at the (then) Fraser Valley College. He also became active in community theatre, writing and directing plays with the college and the Chilliwack Players Guild. He was elected to the Chilliwack School Board, serving as Chair for seven of his 13 years as a Trustee.

While at FVC, Dr. Davis assumed various administrative roles; chairing the Natural Science Department, leading the institutional self-study and being seconded as the provincial Institutional Evaluation Officer for one year. He also developed programs in science for school teachers and children.

In 1989 he joined the Open Learning Agency as a Director of University Programs, and developed many of the collaborative degrees that would eventually form the core of offerings among the (now) teaching intensive universities and institutes. He also helped develop a number of television courses with the Knowledge Network.

In 1996 he was appointed Vice President Academic at Athabasca University, Canada’s Open University, where he remained for seven years, expanding enrolments, extending partnerships across the country (including several with First Nations communities), and substantially expanding the range of offerings available online, including new graduate programs. Dr. Davis also helped develop considerable new research capacity at Athabasca University, and served for six years on the Alberta Private College Accreditation Board.

In 2003 he was appointed by Niagara College as Vice President for Academic and Learner Services, developing programs at all undergraduate levels from Access to Apprenticeship to Photonics.

He served for three years at Vancouver Community College as Vice President for Education, which included the development of the Coastal Corridor Consortium: an Aboriginal Service Plan, and acted as a volunteer ESL tutor in the Home Front programme.

In 2008 he was appointed President of Empire State College at the State University of New York. With his colleagues at SUNY Empire State College, he expanded the range of graduate and undergraduate offerings, worked towards more effective shared governance, improved retention and quality, and substantially raised the profile of the institution as an alternative and unique institution. His final contribution was a bold new proposal for “Open SUNY” in which all the SUNY colleges and universities could collaborate to form the largest public open and online system in the US.

Dr. Davis is a member of the Board of the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, and has served on various committees and commissions with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and the American Council for Education. He is past President of the Canadian Society for the Study of Higher Education and is on the Board of the Collaboration for Online Higher Education Research. He is also a member of the Chemical Institute of Canada and the Playwrights Guild of Canada.

In addition to his papers in inorganic chemistry, Dr. Davis is widely published in key areas of higher education. In September 2011, he was a keynote speaker at the 14th International Cambridge Conference on Open and Distance Education, and co-wrote a chapter in the collection Game Changers published this year by Educause.

Aside from his extraordinary academic contributions through publications and presentations, Dr. Davis is also a published playwright. His plays for young people have been performed across Canada.

Dr. Davis is married, and is a father to three daughters and a son.