On June 10, thousands of students at the University of Calgary will mark the end of one journey and the beginning of another. To help them celebrate, this year's honorary degree recipients are addressing convocation as part of the the virtual ceremonies. 

The honorary degree, Doctor of Laws, is the University of Calgary’s highest academic honour, conferred on individuals whose notable achievements and community service merit recognition. 

Honorary Degree Recipients - November 2021

Dr. Ajay Agrawal

Dr. Ajay Agrawal, PhD, Hon. LLD’21

Educator, entrepreneur and tech innovator

A visionary leader and educator, Dr. Ajay Agrawal has transformed the Canadian entrepreneurial ecosystem, empowering students and aspiring business owners to pursue their dreams.

In founding the Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) and its CDL-Rockies branch at UCalgary, he revolutionized the way public and private sectors interact. The CDL enables investors, mentors and researchers to collaborate and build scalable companies, helping students to action their ideas.  

Dr. Agrawal received his BSc, MEng, MBA, and PhD from the University of British Columbia. He is now the Geoffrey Taber Chair in Entrepreneurship and Innovation and professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Toronto; a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, Mass.; a faculty affiliate at the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Toronto; and a director of the Block Center for Technology and Society at Carnegie Mellon University.

He has published more than 60 peer-reviewed articles on the economics of innovation and his research on the economics of AI has made him a global leader in his field. His co-authored book, Prediction Machines: The Simple Economics of Artificial Intelligence, was published by the Harvard Business School Press and translated into multiple languages. He also co-edited The Economics of Artificial Intelligence: An Agenda, which has become a standard text for PhD students working on this topic.

As the co-founder of NEXT Canada, a program for young entrepreneurs, Dr. Agrawal has demonstrated his commitment to educating the next generation of innovators and his relentless pursuit of learning and desire to uplift others is an inspiration to all.

Elyse Allan

Elyse Allan, Hon. LLD’21

Industry leader, diversity advocate, innovator

Business leader and advocate, Elyse Allan is an accomplished member of the Canadian business community, with a record of taking an innovative approach to tackling difficult and emerging issues.

During her tenure as the former president and CEO of GE Canada, she fostered a partnership with Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance which resulted in the development of new technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and water usage in the oil sands.

Allan is a committed supporter of Actua – a national charity providing foundational STEM skills to youth – and is a vocal advocate for increasing STEM literacy among girls. She actively mentors young women working in business and energy.

Her advocacy work and passion for advancing the country’s innovation and technology base lead to her induction into the Order of Canada, in addition to being awarded numerous other business and leadership accolades. In her current role on the board for MaRS Discovery District she is supporting building Canada’s innovation ecosystem.

Allan currently serves on the board of directors for Brookfield Asset Management and the Ontario Health Agency, and recently concluded her term as board chair of the Amos Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth – where she earned her MBA. She has also served as a director of the C.D. Howe Institute, the Conference Board of Canada, the Canadian Business Roundtable, and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

Her inclusive and innovative leadership style and interest in fostering growth and learning in the next generation, make Allan an exemplary role model for future business students and leaders.

Order of the University of Calgary Recipients - November 2021

Dr. Keith Dobson

Dr. Keith Dobson, PhD

Expert, educator, and mental health advocate

During his 32 years at the University of Calgary, Dr. Keith Dobson, PhD, has made significant contributions to the university as a committed professor and mentor, an accomplished scholar, an innovative researcher, and a generous campus contributor.

From leading the development of Alberta’s first doctoral training program in clinical psychology, to championing the university’s Mental Health Strategy, Dr. Dobson’s work has transformed the fabric of our institution. His influence will be felt for generations as his leadership and advocacy have elevated conversations around mental health.

Dr. Dobson gained an international reputation as an expert in alleviating mental health stigma and as one of the world’s leading experts on cognitive behavioural therapy – a well-established form of psychotherapy. Working with the Mental Health Commission of Canada, he helped develop several programs to promote mental resilience including The Working Mind (TWM) and TWM First Responders, which have been delivered to more than 250,000 people worldwide.

His incredible body of scholarly work on depression, psychological treatments and professional psychology includes more than 300 peer-reviewed articles, 17 books, and 80 book chapters, with his work being cited more than 20,000 times. He has mentored and supervised more than 50 graduate trainees.

Dr. Dobson has held countless roles at UCalgary including serving as Psychology Department Head; chair of the strategic planning committee that lead to the university’s bold and empowering Eye’s High strategy; serving terms on the General Faculties Council, Senate, and Board of Governors; and sitting on numerous advisory councils and selection committees.

Professor Marina L. Gavrilova

Professor Marina L. Gavrilova, PhD’99

Leader, educator, diversity advocate

Dr. Marina Gavrilova, PhD’99, demonstrates academic distinction, exemplary leadership, and a commitment to advancing equity, diversity and inclusion. As a University of Calgary computer science professor, she fosters growth and excellence in her students and mentees, creating an open environment in the classroom, and empowering graduates of her lab to build successful careers in academia and industry.

Dr. Gavrilova’s early interests in mathematics were fully supported by her parents. She graduated top of her class from Lomonosov Moscow State University and completed her PhD at UCalgary, earning Killam Memorial and NSERC doctoral scholarships. Today, Dr. Gavrilova is one of the world’s leading experts on machine learning and biometrics, who has raised the university’s profile internationally – introducing new models of information fusion, and instigating the area of social behavioural biometrics.

Dr. Gavrilova has launched conferences and co-founded a scientific journal as Editor-in-Chief. She has represented Canada as a keynote speaker at major international events and received prestigious awards. Her publishing record comprises 300 refereed articles and books, including a World Scientific bestseller. She served on UCalgary Senate, General Faculty Council, and is Associate Head Research and Planning in the Department of Computer Science.

Passionate about inspiring women in STEM, she organized the WISE Faculty Promotion Workshop for Western Canada. She also shared her academic journey in the Diversity Dialogue Series at UCalgary and in the book, Women Negotiating Life in the Academy: A Canadian Perspective. Her never wavering dedication to equity, diversity and inclusion is inspiring new generations of Canadian women.  

Dr. Gavrilova shares her passion for research through the Beakerhead Arts and Science Festival; on the Discovery Channel with Jay Ingram; on CBC radio’s Quirks and Quarks and through other media outlets. She was featured in a National Film Board documentary and in the National Museum of Civilization exhibit Power of Biometrics - From Science Fiction to Reality, which linked the discoveries of Newton, Einstein and Darwin to her cutting-edge biometric research.

In her spare time, Dr. Gavrilova writes poetry, finding inspiration in nature with her husband, Dmitri, and sons, Andrei and Artemy.