Laura Jo Gunter is nationally respected as a leader in the post-secondary and private sectors, and as an entrepreneur. Originally from Ontario, she comes to NAIT after serving three years as president and CEO of Bow Valley College in Calgary and holding senior executive roles at George Brown College and Seneca College in Toronto, and leadership positions at the Vancouver Film School and Simon Fraser University.
Ray Pisani, NAIT’s board chair, said he’s pleased to welcome Gunter as the institute’s next leader.
“Laura Jo Gunter is an exceptional leader who places emphasis on strong industry and community connections, enriching educational experience and being agile and responsive. She knows the importance post-secondary education plays in our province and country, especially now as we begin to recover from COVID-19. I am confident she will continue to lead NAIT toward its vision to be one of the world’s leading polytechnics.”
Gunter’s appointment follows an international selection process after the retirement of former president and CEO, Dr. Glenn Feltham, in December 2019, and the interim leadership of Dr. Ray Block.
Gunter said she’s excited to be joining such a highly respected leader in polytechnic education.
“NAIT has an incredible reputation,” she said. “NAIT – and polytechnics – are an exciting place to be. We’re always preparing our students and graduates with skills they need to succeed in rewarding careers, but also in innovation and fulfilling the needs of community and industry.”
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, another polytechnic, she led the entire academic portfolio, which included 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.
Gunter also 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 director of SFU’s Applied Sciences Continuing Education program.
She’s also been an active leader across the wider post-secondary sector, including as a member of the Post-Secondary Presidents of Alberta and Campus Calgary Council of Presidents, and as co-chair of the Vice-Presidents Academic Committee for Colleges Ontario.
Gunter has a master’s degree in business administration from Queen’s University and a bachelor’s in journalism from Carleton University. Her experience in business, and as an entrepreneur in the startup space in particular – where she worked with a post-secondary to develop a product prototype – gives her perspective in understanding the skills and training needs of industry.
“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.”
Alberta Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides welcomed Gunter as a “proven leader who has spent much of her career creating and fostering collaborative and transformative learning experiences for students and faculty.”
“I look forward to continuing to work with Ms. Gunter as we take on innovative ways to transform Alberta’s post-secondary system to drive success. As a champion for strong community connections, she will undoubtedly usher in new and exciting opportunities for NAIT students to contribute to Alberta’s collective success.”
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.