Board of Governors

Carla Madra

Acting Chair and Vice Chair

1st term: November 20, 2013 - November 19, 2016
2nd term: February 15, 2017 - February 14, 2020

Carla is a Partner with the Edmonton office of Ernst & Young LLP (“EY”). Carla is the Edmonton office leader of the Financial Accounting Advisory Services practice within the Assurance practice. In addition, Carla is the EY Edmonton People Leader and Chairs the office’s Professional Women’s Network.

Prior to joining EY in 2013, Carla spent 12 years with another big 4 accounting firm and led the finance and human resources teams as the Director of Finance at an Edmonton based private company that provided workplace drug and alcohol testing services across Canada. Carla is a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA, CA) and obtained her Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Alberta.

Carla is passionate about giving back to the community and has volunteer with many local organizations. In addition to her involvement with NorQuest, Carla is a member of the Board of Directors of STARS. In addition, Carla has fulfilled two three-year terms, with the Mental Health Foundation as the Treasurer of the Board of Trustees and she also chaired the Foundation’s Audit & Investment Committee.  

Carla resides in Edmonton with her husband Don and their young daughter Alex.  Together the Madra family enjoys skiing, golf and travel.

Dr. Jodi L. Abbott

President and CEO

Dr. Jodi L. Abbott is the President and CEO of NorQuest College. Since joining the college in 2010, Dr. Abbott has more than doubled NorQuest’s student population through expanded credit and non-credit programming; unveiled innovative partnerships including the Alberta Indigenous Construction Career Centre, the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation Hospitality Institute, the NorQuest College ATB Agency, and the Colbourne Institute for Inclusive Leadership; and enhanced NorQuest’s brand recognition. Under Dr. Abbott’s leadership, NorQuest College opened a stunning new campus addition, the Singhmar Centre for Learning, for fall term classes in 2017.

Dr. Abbott is a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization and currently chairs the Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board. She was recently the Chair of Edmonton’s Health City and served as a trustee of the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation. In addition, she has a longstanding involvement with figure skating, including as an Olympic judge in 2010 and 2014. In 2011, Dr. Abbott was included in the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women in Sport and Physical Activity’s list of Canada's top-20 most influential women in sport. In 2013, she received the University of Alberta Alumni Honour Award in recognition of her international work with figure skating and for championing improved health-care services. In 2015, she was named as one of the Top 100 Most Powerful Women by the Women’s Executive Network (WXN), receiving the Trailblazers and Trendsetters Award for women who are either the first in their field or have made a major impact on it. Recently, she was named a Global Woman of Vision and for a second time, as one of Women’s Executive Network's 2018 Most Powerful Women.

Brian Hjlesvold

Acting Vice Chair and Public Member

1st term: January 30, 2015 – April 28, 2018
2nd term: May 1, 2018 – April 30, 2021

Brian Hjlesvold is a retired RBC banker with over 30 years experience as a Senior Account Manager in commercial markets, serving late in his career as Manager of Aboriginal Markets for Alberta, NWT, and Yukon.

Brian has a strong desire to see Indigenous people succeed, to share in the country’s resources in a responsible and respectful way, and to live in healthy communities. He received his Professional Economic Developer designation from the Council of Advancement of Native Development Officers in 2010 and is a member of the Institute of Corporate Directors. Brian is Chair of the Board of Directors for Loon River Development Corporation, a successful enterprise owned by Loon River First Nation in Alberta. He sits as a Director on the Goodfish Lake Business Corp – a successful First Nation-owned enterprise of the Whitefish Lake Band, and is a Director of the Aboriginal Financial Officers Association - Alberta Region. He is also Past Chair of the Métis Entrepreneurial Fund, Past Chair of Child and Family Services Region 6, Past Chair of Apeetogosan (Métis) Development Inc, and past Director of Embark Engineering Limited Partnership, a partnerships between the Lax Kw-alaams Nation and KWL Holdings Ltd., both of British Columbia.

Brian is of Ojibway and Scottish descent and lives in Bon Accord. He and his wife have four children and six grandchildren. He is an avid reader and golfer.

Gayle Burnett

Public Member

1st term: February 12, 2019 – February 11, 2022

Ms. Gayle Burnett is the Chief Strategy Officer with the Alberta Medical Association. She has previously served as Vice-President and Chief Financial Officer with Bow Valley College, as well as Chief Operating Officer with Canada Diagnostics Centres.

Ms. Burnett holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Physiology from McGill University and a Master's of Public Health degree in Health Policy and Management from the University of Alberta. She is a Certified Health Executive from the Canadian College of Health Executives. Ms. Burnett is also a member of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Institute of Alberta. She resides in Edmonton.

Terry Anderson

Public Member

1st term: May 1, 2018 – April 30, 2021

Terry Anderson, PhD is a professor emeritus and former Canada Research Chair in the Centre for Distance Education at Athabasca University. Terry has published widely in the area of distance education and educational technology and has co-authored or edited 10 books and numerous papers. Much of Terry’s research work revolves around studying interaction among and between students, teachers and content. Terry’s books and research articles have, since 2004, been published under open access licenses to maximize their availability to all distance education practitioners, students, and researchers.

Terry was active in provincial, national, and international distance education associations and is a regular keynote presenter at professional and academic conferences.

He has served as president of Riverdale Community League, on the boards of the Edmonton Social Planning Council and Westwood Unitarian Congregation, and was the first Director of the North Country Fair. He is a woodworker, bicyclist, hiker, and musician.

Jim Gurnett

Public Member

1st term: May 1, 2018 – April 30, 2021

Jim Gurnett is a consultant working with community organizationa and a Pastoral Associate with Inner City Pastoral Ministry. He has previously been a school teacher in both Alberta and Afghanistan, director of social-profit organizations such as the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers and the Bissell Centre, and founding executive director of the University of Alberta research centre The Hope Foundation. In addition to being an adult educator, journalist, and community activist, Jim served as MLA for Alberta representing Spirit River-Fairview.

Jim is the board chair of Canadians for a Civil Society and sits of the boards of Edmonton Coalition on Housing and Homelessness and Boyle-McCauley News. He is a past chair the Alberta Association of Immigrant Serving Agencies.

His focus is often with social justice issues and the importance of building community. His life is enriched by nine grandchildren.

Troy Chalifoux

Public Member

1st term: March 21, 2017 – March 20, 2020

Troy Chalifoux, a Cree-Métis, was born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta. Upon graduating law from the Faculty of Law at the University of Alberta, Troy accepted an articling position with the Department of Justice Canada and was admitted to the Bar in 1995. Troy stayed on with Justice and dedicated his practice to Aboriginal issues, primarily those relating to lands, commercial transactions, and outstanding land claims.

In 2000, Troy joined what is now Indian and Northern Affairs Canada as a Senior Negotiator and continues his work on land claims and various types of partnership negotiations affecting First nations in Alberta.

Troy was awarded the Deputy Minister’s Circle of Excellence Award in 2002, for his work on the Claims Settlements Implementation Act (Bill C-37). Troy is a sessional instructor in Aboriginal Role in Crown / First Nations / Industry Negotiations with the Faculty of Law at the University of Alberta and is Faculty Leader a the Banff Centre’s Indigenous Leadership Program in Negotiation Skills, and has developed and instructed negotiation workshops throughout Canada.

In addition to his professional work, Troy has been passionately involved with numerous charitable and non-profit organizations such as Kids Kottage, where he has served as a Director since 2008.

Kanwal Lali

Public Member

1st term: March 21, 2017 – March 20, 2020

Kanwal Lali is a respected senior business professional, accomplished board and community member, and learning strategist with successes in building cohesive learning environments and strategic alliances that sustain collaborative partnerships with stakeholders including students, community leaders, board members, government officials, executives, and business owners.

Kanwal Lali grew up in England, where she received her BSc. in Biochemistry from the University of London, and emigrated to Canada in 1981. She worked as a researcher for 18 years at the Alberta Research Council where she managed scientific projects for international clients. Kanwal earned her Chartered Professional Accountant certification in Canada in 2002 and has worked in many executive management and strategic leadership roles at Deloitte, Government of Alberta, and the City of Edmonton. Kanwal has over 30 years private sector, municipal, and provincial government experience in strategic planning, change management, program administration, project management, and customer service. She is president of Knowledge Management Strategies, her consulting company that specializes in providing services to learn, acquire, and manage knowledge for personal and business success.

Kanwal has served as a board member for Action for Healthy Communities; board member and treasurer at Changing Together - Centre for Immigrant Women; victims advocate with Edmonton Police Victim Services; tutor with the Project Adult Society; host with Catholic Social Services; and accountant with Learning Disabilities of Alberta. She currently serves as a board member on the City of Edmonton's Community Services Advisory board.

Kanwal is a Board Member for the City of Edmonton, Edmonton Region Immigrant Employment Council (ERIEC), Cultural Connections Institute – The Learning Exchange (CCI -LEX), and the Family and Community Support Services (FCSS). She is an instructor at the Cultural Connections Institute and the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers. Her active community engagements allow her to use her professional background and passion for education, cultural growth, and integration. She also acted as a Victims Advocate for the Edmonton Police Services, assisting Learning Disabilities of Alberta as a Treasurer and supported Catholic Social Services in working with new immigrants and refugees to Canada.

Kanwal believes in providing people the knowledge and tools to successfully navigate life, which in turn benefits the community as a whole. She sees serving on the NorQuest board as an exellent opportunity to give back to the community by helping to shape Edmonton’s future.

Bilan Ahmed

Public Board Member

1st term: Oct 11, 2017 – Oct 10, 2020

Bilan Ahmed was born in Saudia Arabia and raised in Somalia before migrating to Canada 26 years ago. Bilan grew up and studied in Ottawa where she obtained a Diploma in Business Information Systems. Shortly afterwards, she relocated to Toronto where she obtained a Diploma in Early Childhood Education and a Bachelors degree in Children Studies with honours from York University.

Bilan has worked in the non-profit and Early Learning Education sectors for over 10 years and brings with her a wealth of knowledge and experience. She currently works as a Settlement Practitioner with Edmonton Immigrant Services Association. Bilan loves working with people and communities from diverse backgrounds and experiences. She especially enjoys working with new Canadians and helping them resettle in Canada.

Bilan strongly believes in all Albertans having access to post-secondary education. She is an avid traveller and loves meeting new people.

Dalyce McElhinney

Public Member

1st term: May 1, 2018 - April 30, 2021

Dalyce obtained her Bachelor of Education from the University of Alberta and has taught in Sweden, rural Alberta, and currently with Edmonton Public School Board. She is passionate about working with people from diverse backgrounds and experiences. In 2012, Dalyce worked at the University of Alberta International supporting international students upon arrival and in academics and social programming throughout the year. In her current position as ESL Lead teacher, she has collaborated closely with settlement practitioners, intercultural consultants, and community agencies to build a transition program and respond to the holistic needs of newcomer students and their families. She has been invited to speak at a variety of teacher conferences about empowering the voices of newcomer students in the classroom.

Dalyce has served two terms on the board of Change for Children and has been involved in international development projects in Nicaragua and Guatemala since 2012. For this work, she was named among the “Top 30 under 30” by the Alberta Council for Global Cooperation in 2013. During summer 2017 and 2018, she facilitated overseas professional development opportunities for Alberta teachers to collaborate with local teachers and support the education of youth in remote indigenous communities.

Dalyce is passionate about developing community and a sense of belonging through empowering individuals to engage and support others with their knowledge and skills. She sees serving on the NorQuest board as an excellent opportunity to open doors for Edmonton’s diverse community and strengthen our province as a whole.

Tracy Topolnitsky

Academic staff member

1st term: July 14, 2017 – July 13, 2019
2nd term: July 14, 2019 – July 13, 2021

Tracy is the Chair of Academic Upgrading in the Faculty of Skills and Foundational Learning at NorQuest College. She manages a diverse portfolio of programming for foundational learners including Transitions to Employment, Apprenticeship Prep, Youth in Transition, and Academic Upgrading.

Tracy began at NorQuest in 2005 and shortly after discovered a passion for online and blended education. Her experience with adult learners has enabled her to work with thousands of students in both Edmonton and around the world. In 2014, this work led to her to being honoured with NorQuest’s Jaye Fredrickson Award for Teaching Excellence.

Tracy has a Master of Education Degree and lives in Edmonton with her family.

Albert Nsapu


1st Term: July 4, 2019 to July 3, 2020

Albert Nsapu has lived in Canada since May 2015, is originally from Central Africa DR Congo and was born and raised in Lusaka Zambia. Albert attended high school in Zambia, has been a youth leader and event planner at Bethel Pentecostal Ministries as well as a co-founder of “Generation Against Poverty” Team that empowered young people in Zambia. Albert is currently enrolled in the English as a Second Language intensive program and is hoping to be admitted into the Social Work program.


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