Laura Jo Gunter appointed NAIT’s 7th president and CEO

Gunter brings executive experience from post-secondary, private sectors 

Laura Jo Gunter has been appointed NAIT’s seventh president and CEO, effective Aug. 24, 2020.

Gunter, a nationally respected leader in the post-secondary and private sectors, comes to NAIT after three years as president and CEO of Bow Valley College in Calgary. She’s also held senior executive roles at George Brown College and Seneca College in Toronto and leadership positions at the Vancouver Film School and Simon Fraser University.

“NAIT is very well respected in the post-secondary environment, especially among polytechnics,” says Gunter. “To be able to join an organization like NAIT and work on some of the challenges and opportunities that are facing the post-secondary sector and polytechnics and reinforce NAIT’s leadership position is really exciting.”

“NAIT is very well respected in the post-secondary environment, especially among polytechnics.”

Gunter’s appointment follows an international selection process after the retirement of former president and CEO, Dr. Glenn Feltham, in December 2019.

Ray Pisani (Management ’84), NAIT’s board chair, says he’s been impressed with Gunter’s leadership skills and is confident she’s the right person to lead NAIT toward its vision to be one of the world’s leading polytechnics.

“Laura Jo Gunter is an exceptional leader who places emphasis on strong industry and community connections, enriching educational experience and being agile and responsive,” he says.

Experienced post-secondary leadership

Laura Jo GunterBorn in Oshawa and raised in Thunder Bay and later southern Ontario, Gunter led Bow Valley College through its most recent strategic plan and through innovations in teaching and learning.

In her role as senior vice-president academic at George Brown College, she led the academic portfolio, as well as student services, domestic and international enrolment, and applied research. She also served as vice-president of programming, special projects and industry partnerships at the Vancouver Film School.

“I’m always excited about finding a new challenge, opportunity or being innovative in some way.”

Gunter brings senior leadership experience at the faculty and program levels, serving back-to-back terms as dean of Seneca College’s faculties of Information Arts & Technology and Communication Art & Design, and as a program director of Simon Fraser’s Applied Sciences Continuing Education program.

As a leader, Gunter says she tries to “unleash people” to do their best work, regardless of role, to support the higher goal of providing a student-centric education.

“I’m always excited about finding a new challenge, opportunity or being innovative in some way.”

The polytechnic advantage

The prospect of returning to a polytechnic after her years at George Brown College and Seneca College was one of the attractions of the job, Gunter says. The diversity of activity – from the types of credentials offered to experiential learning to applied research – makes it “an exciting place to be.”

“There’s always something innovative and creative going on at a polytechnic,” she says. “We’re preparing our students and graduates with skills they need to succeed in rewarding careers, as well as supporting innovation to fulfill the needs of our community and industry.”

“Alberta’s economy is going to be going through a whole revitalization. Helping with that recovery will be really important.”

Given the current challenges to Alberta’s economy, from the downturn in oil and gas to the pandemic, the role of post-secondaries have never been more important, she says.

“Alberta’s economy is going to be going through a whole revitalization. Helping with that recovery will be really important.”

For any students feeling anxious about this new normal, her message is simple: “We are going to find ways to ensure that students and graduates get the skills and knowledge they need to pursue the careers they want.”

Entrepreneur experience

Gunter has a master’s degree in business administration from Queen’s University and a bachelor’s in journalism from Carleton University. She made the switch to business after realizing that “I’d rather own the company,” than work as a writer or editor.

“Sometimes you have to go out on a limb and try something different and expand your horizons and learn,” she says.

Her experience includes working in the startup space as an entrepreneur – lessons that have shaped her views as a leader and strengthened her relationships with industry.

As CEO and co-founder of the digital entertainment-gaming company Condition30 Inc., she sought out partnerships with post-secondaries to develop product prototypes.

“It gave me a view from the other side of how industry interacts with post-secondaries,” she said, “and to recognize how we can help remove potential barriers to make it easier for industry to work with post-secondaries.”

Gunter’s leadership in the community includes serving on Advanced Education’s Skills for Jobs Task Force and as a board member at TELUS Spark in Calgary. She also served on boards for North York General Hospital, Interactive Ontario, and New Media B.C.

Dr. Ray Block (Accounting ’74) will remain NAIT’s interim president and CEO until Gunter’s appointment takes effect.

Another essential moment in NAIT's history

The appointment of Laura Jo Gunter as president and CEO is an opportunity to look toward NAIT's future, but it's also a chance to reflect on the many essential moments in the polytechnic's history. Check out our interactive timeline of key milestones over the past 58 years.

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