Campus Life

U of L leadership group bolstered by addition of Dr. Michelle Helstein as interim vice-provost

The University of Lethbridge has solidified a key position in its senior leadership group by appointing Dr. Michelle Helstein to the role of Interim Vice-Provost for a term of three years.

Dr. Michelle Helstein played a prominent role in the University’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic situation.

Helstein, a professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, has been steadily assuming more administrative responsibilities over her tenure at the U of L and is regarded as a strong leadership voice for the institution moving forward.

“Dr. Helstein brings an excellent perspective to our group,” says Dr. Erasmus Okine, provost and vice-president (academic). “Her ability to see the broad picture and articulate the University’s vision for the future is exemplary. She is respected greatly by her students and fellow faculty members and has handled deftly any and all administrative responsibilities she has assumed over her years at the U of L, including the recent leadership role as a leader of the Emergency Operations Centre.”

A graduate of Augustana University College (BA Physical Education) and the University of Alberta (PhD Physical Education and Recreation), Helstein began her academic career at the U of L in 2003. She quickly established a reputation as a strong researcher, focusing on breaking down the notion of sport and popular culture as simply ‘innocent’, playful, and not worthy of study by highlighting the significant impact and use of popular sporting culture within larger social, political and economic processes.

She was awarded a University of Lethbridge Research Fund grant in her first year at the U of L for a pilot study on advertising and female athletes, and subsequently secured funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for a study examining the complex intersections of public and private sector funding within representations of female athletes in the Canadian sport delivery system. Her current research examines representations of athlete suicides at their intersection with labour politics and the concussion crisis in professional sport.

Helstein was also quick to explore administrative opportunities and lend her voice to the institutional narrative. She took on several significant administrative roles characterized by increasing levels of scope, complexity and responsibility. These include oversight of Academic Advising, the Indigenous Student Success Cohort, and Cooperative Education; serving as co-Chair in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education; and serving as both associate dean and acting dean of the Faculty of Arts & Science.

“I believe strongly that administrative work is about service. Through my many roles on this campus, I have built a set of experiences and skills that position me exceptionally well as interim vice-provost to support the work of my colleagues, our students and this institution in our collective efforts to create meaningful teaching, learning,and research environments,” says Helstein.

Helstein played a prominent role in the University’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic situation, acting as a co-director of the Emergency Operations Centre and helping guide the institution through a rapid pivot to online learning and the closure of its Lethbridge and Calgary campuses.

“While other administrative roles I have held allowed me to work with colleagues across Faculties, my work on EOC has truly highlighted how necessarily interconnected all the segments of our campus are and how it is only through collaboration and coordination across units that we can effectively move through such challenging circumstances,” she says. “This is a recognition and a demonstrated commitment I bring to the role of interim vice-provost, as our campus continues to navigate unprecedented times at the intersections of the Covid-19 pandemic, newly introduced metrics and a difficult provincial budget.”

The interim vice-provost appointment commences July 1, 2020 and is for a term of three years.