The Last Interval

This is my last blog post as Principal of UTSC.  I want to use this edition to look back at what’s been accomplished over the last few years.  But first, I want to look forward.

I am delighted that the university has chosen Professor Wisdom Tettey to be the new Vice-President and Principal of University of Toronto. I have had the opportunity to spend some time with Wisdom over the last few weeks and I know this campus is going to be in very good hands. I look forward to giving him my full support as he takes the reins in the coming months.

Wisdom is taking over a campus that is in very good shape due to the efforts of so many members of our broad UTSC community. Within the context of ‘one university – three campuses’, UTSC has clearly demonstrated its distinct ambitions and strengths as a proud and integral part of Canada’s best university.

This campus operates under the same values and policies as the other two campuses and contributes in a host of ways to the university as a whole. As a result of the strength of all three campuses, U of T has become the university for the entire GTA, not just Toronto. Very few universities in the world are as well-placed to study and teach about the complexities of urban, suburban and global relationships as the tri-campus U of T.

I want to spend a few paragraphs talking about how UTSC has changed in the four short years I have served as Vice President & Principal.  In so many ways, this campus has grown and matured tremendously since 2014:

- We have become an influential research powerhouse, attracting world-class faculty who are winning every category of major grants and awards. They are creating an international reputation in fields like astronomy, environmental science, geography, political science, critical development studies and neuroscience, and pushing the envelope in health studies and digital humanities.

- On the international file, we’ve increased international enrolment to 25% of the student body. That has been made possible by strengthened leading-edge pathway programs, such as Green Path which is helping us attract the very best students from mainland China. We have also begun to diversity recruitment and enrolment from other parts of Asia and the Middle East. We are attracting significant international donations and alumni support. Importantly, all of our activities align with the eight axes of the new U of T international strategy, which is informing activities on all three campuses.

- Indigeneity continues to be a high priority at UTSC. We are reinserting full recognition of the founding role of the Indigenous Peoples in the creation and development of Canada into our mission, in research, teaching, community engagement, ceremonies and events. And we’re reinforcing that recognition in the campus’s infrastructure and culture.

- We have strengthened the campus’ signature coop and other experiential learning programs, and we have mounted a number of new programs.  There are a lot to mention so here are just a few:

Master in accounting and finance;

- a new stream of Journalism Studies and a new major in Media, Journalism, and Digital Cultures;

minors in Health Humanities and Natural Science and Environmental Management;

- new minors in Entrepreneurship and Sport Management in the Department of Management (financed by a $1.7M gift);

- the first set of combined degree programs with OISE, linking programs in French, Mathematics, and Physical and Environmental Sciences with the Masters in Teaching at OISE;

- double degree programs that combines our highly sought-after BBA degree in Management and Finance with a BSc in Statistics, Quantitative Finance.

 

- Thanks to the generosity of alumni and friends, we have surpassed the goals of our Boundless campaign, the first time in campus history.

- We continue to expand the capacity and footprint of the campus.  During my term, we opened the LEED Gold Toronto Pan American Sports Centre, which is continuing to prove its value as a vital resource for this campus and the surrounding community.

- Our investments in campus infrastructure also included the Environmental Science and Chemistry Building and the new Highland Hall which is scheduled for occupancy in a few months and which will become a centre of excellence for the study of suburbs, migration and globalization linked to the University’s recently-announced School of Cities.

- A long overdue residence, which will almost double our capacity for students who wish to live on campus, is in the final stages of approval. The new residence will incorporate passive house design, a rigorous standard for energy efficiency.

- Plans are underway for another new academic building, an Indigenous House, an arts and culture centre; an expanded health sciences hub which will include U of T’s fifth medical academy, and an environmental technologies incubator (which we call EARTH) that will draw other institutions, companies and governments from across the eastern GTA.

- As a key player in the Eastern GTA, we have taken the lead in developing an anchor institution strategy for the area. We are partnering with Centennial College, the Scarborough-Rouge Hospital, Toronto Zoo and the Rouge National Park to provide economic stimulus through targeted spending, employment and leadership in community development, and facilities and programs for arts and culture and sports and wellness. I am convinced that this part of the region is poised for major positive change. I am so pleased that UTSC has been and will continue to be a part of that change.

UTSC has become synonymous with the best of accessible, public higher education, especially for the children of immigrants and refugees who have settled in Scarborough and the eastern GTA. It has a tremendous sense of community and giving back. Every generation of students has initiated its own improvement project and supported it with voluntary fees, the most recent example being the Toronto Pan American Sports Centre, arguably Canada’s best aquatics and fieldhouse complex, which never would have happened without the determined leadership of UTSC staff and the generosity of the student body.

These improvements are a testament to the leadership of Dean Bill Gough, CAO Andrew Arifuzzaman, Vice Principals of Research Marc Cadotte and Bernie Kraatz, Dean of Students Desmond Pouyat, Executive Director of Advancement and Alumni Affairs, Georgette Zinaty and the overall leadership and support of President Meric Gertler and U of T Provost Cheryl Regehr. Finally, none of this would be possible without the hard work and dedication of faculty and staff here at UTSC. 

To be sure there are challenges. But with the support of the talented group of people above, I am sure Principal-Designate Tettey will preside over continued growth and success at UTSC. Where the issues facing our campus derive from our place as part of the broader University of Toronto community, I am encouraged by the Provost’s announcement of a tri-campus review designed to look at the full range of challenges and opportunities present at this great university. 

If the preceding paragraphs feel a bit long, I apologize. But the accomplishments of this great campus have been many and significant. They are all part of the reason I have loved my tenure at UTSC and feel very honoured to be able to finish my time in university leadership at such an exciting and significant place.

I want to thank you for all your inspiration and support.

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