Dr. Sylvie Albert’s life is a testament to the power of early memories and a deep passion for education and community development. As a professor of strategy and leadership at the University of Winnipeg (U of W), Albert has not only made significant contributions to academia but has also played a pivotal role in shaping sustainable urban environments.
Her earliest childhood memory is of a heartwarming moment with her father playing Santa Claus.
“I would’ve been five years old, and somebody made him laugh, so I recognized that it was him. He had a very singular laugh,” she says.
This early experience of her father’s playfulness and warmth set the stage for her lifelong dedication to education and community betterment.
Over the years, Albert has ventured into various roles, including municipal and provincial government positions and management consulting.
Her career trajectory closely mirrored her father’s, who worked with the Canadian International Development Agency, overseeing education in West Africa – a field she would later explore.
“My father was a teacher, and it never dawned on me that I would ever follow in his footsteps. It’s very weird, because it was much later in life that I realized that I had done almost exactly what he had done,” Albert says.
Albert fervently advocates for sustainable urban development. Her extensive body of work includes multiple books that address innovation, urban greening, sustainability measurement and city transformation.
After serving as dean of the Faculty of Business and Economics at the U of W and associate dean of the Faculty of Management at Laurentian University, she felt a longing for research. “When I started down this path, nobody was doing research in this area, but, because of the passage of time, now this is one of the biggest topics,” she says.
Returning to research as a full-time professor, she authored her fifth book and joined an international committee focused on reshaping city governance.
Albert emphasizes the limitations of traditional top-down systems in tackling issues like homelessness, stressing the need for community involvement.
“We need more people taking action from the bottom up to rebuild trust in institutions and foster stronger communities,” she says.
Beyond her academic pursuits, Albert engages in various hobbies, from pickleball and tai chi to yoga, all while cherishing moments with her teenage son.
“I became a mother very old, so I try to do as much as possible, like going for a bike ride or playing tennis. We try to keep ourselves active.”
What was your worst grade in university?
“I got a B in strategy. Being a typical A-plus student, I was devastated, because it was my favorite class and my favorite professor. But I ended up being a strategy professor. I was not going toget beaten.”
If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
“I think because of my personality, it’s probably the ability to make people happy.”
What do you like most about Winnipeg?
“I am so impressed by all the arts and culture, restaurants and even people. I love all the greening, especially the number of trees and parks.”
What is something you’ve learned from your students?
“I’m constantly learning from my students, particularly in my leadership and strategy classes where we discuss various perspectives on evolving topics. Our multicultural environment adds to the richness of these discussions, as students from around the world share their insights/ideas.”
Published in Volume 78, Number 04 of The Uniter (September 28, 2023)