Telling Our Story

Those of us who spend our time at UTSC and in the Scarborough community know it.  We know this is a growing, dynamic campus offering a first-rate experience to students and we're generating ground-breaking research that is having impact here in the GTA and around the world.  We're also proud to be part of a community in Scarborough where diversity breeds vitality in a way that's increasingly being recognized - not just in Canada but internationally as well.  

Still, as I've written in this space before, misconceptions and old ideas persist.  We need to replace those with a new narrative - one that shines a light on the UTSC and Scarborough communities we know.  To be most successful, that narrative has to also integrate the story of this campus with a broader story that covers all three campuses of the university.  

To that end, last year, working closely with our colleagues at University of Toronto Communications, I commissioned a review.  With the help of the Tantalus Group, a global firm of management and communications experts, we asked some very basic questions:  what do we want to achieve with our efforts, what are we achieving today, and what do we need to do to close any gap between the two?  

In order to get to those answers, Tantalus interviewed senior staff, faculty and student leaders and conducted a review of our efforts to tell the UTSC story.  Today, I released the results of the review, sharing it with academic and administrative leaders across the campus as well as with staff in our Communications & Public Affairs department, which is going to be key to achieving future communications success.  

You can read the full report here. I want to provide you with some of the items I see as key recommendations:

  1. The development of a reputation management plan with clear measures.  This plan will articulate the UTSC story and allow us to determine on a regular basis, whether we've moving the understanding of UTSC in the right direction.
     
  2. To inform the above plan, we need UTSC-specific public opinion research.  In order to change perceptions, we need to know what people in our community but outside of UTSC think today.  This research will provide a benchmark that we will be able to measure against in the future.
     
  3. The development of a tri-campus narrative, based on the idea that the U of T is one university with three campuses.  The development of that narrative needs to begin with senior leadership at all levels and all locations of the university.
     
  4. Recognizing UTSC's role as an anchor institution in our community, begin to reach out to our neighbours and stakeholders to identify and address issues and opportunities that can help us not only inform and educate but to actively improve our community.

The report also recommends a number of changes to improve how our communications team works with the rest of the UTSC community and our colleagues across the university.  That includes the adoption of a so-called agency model that ensures our communications team understands the needs of campus colleagues and is able to share the right kind of expertise, counsel and support. 

Finally, in an effort to ensure the best possible service to this campus at the same time as we are achieving integration with communicators across the university, the report recommends that the UTSC Director of Communications & Public Affairs report directly to the principal, with a formal 'dotted-line' reporting relationship to the university's Vice-President of Communications. 

The reporting relationship described above has already been implemented at the university's Mississauga campus.  Recently, we adopted the same reporting structure here at UTSC.  

As I said, the above are just some highlights.  The report has much more to say about communications at UTSC and across the university and how to improve it.  

I am happy to tell you that we have already begun to take steps to improve our communications efforts.  Over the next few months, we'll be creating opportunities to get input from across the university. 

In the meantime, if you have comments or questions, we want to hear them.  You can forward them to Michael Kurts, who has joined us as the Interim Director of Communications and Public Affairs.

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