VP Academic & Dean Gough - Messaging to Students

Welcome to all new and returning students!

Although our circumstances have shifted once again this fall, I am excited that with a return to many on-campus elements, your university education, and your experience at UTSC, will continue to be a transformative time in your lives – one that is richly steeped in the inclusive community that makes us UTSC, and one that you will look back on with pride, and feel a deep sense of belonging.

Having come through the past 2.5 years of mainly remote and mixed delivery learning, and life events, each of you has likely experienced many uncertainties and challenges. For some, these challenges, came with some setbacks, but also significant victories. I suspect these victories are not yet clearly apparent, as you struggled with adapting your behaviour to the ever-changing circumstances. I have been deeply impressed how faculty, staff, and students, have risen to the occasion and performed well beyond reasonable expectation.

Walking just outside the Meeting Place the other day, near the Fred Urquhart Memorial Garden, I noticed a Monarch butterfly stopping to enjoy flowers in one of the planters on the S-Wing patio. I am reminded of the struggles the Monarch too has faced over the years with the near eradication of milkweed plants along its migration route, as millions of hectares of conservation wetlands are converted to other uses. Yet here is this Monarch enjoying the sunshine and flowers of the patio having successfully made the migration from its winter home in Mexico. It is a harbinger of hope.

This year will be different for all of us, students, faculty, and staff. Much like the Monarch butterfly surviving the trek back home, we have the great opportunity to emerge restored to engage with new opportunities, to meet in-person and immerse ourselves in all that our community has to offer.

Some of you, like our new Transitional Year Program cohort, will be experiencing the in-person UTSC community for the first time; but not just students, many faculty, librarians, and staff members are included in this group. For those of you, I highly recommend you take the time to explore and appreciate the natural beauty of the Highland Creek area; to work intentionally with your classmates on academic projects, and to develop a fuller and ultimately lasting sense of the unique identity we share as part of the UTSC community.

There will be moments that are challenging and I encourage you to take advantage of the on-campus services to assist you in meeting those challenges. The Monarch migration can be an inspiration to us to set lofty goals and to pursue them. I fully expect that you will continue to rise to the occasion and perform beyond expectation, looking back on this time with pride in the future. Have a great year.

VP Dean's Messages to Students

Dear UTSC Students:

When I welcomed you with a video message earlier this summer, I indicated that public health restrictions would likely remain in place for the winter and UTSC would offer only a limited number of in-person classes. My message also indicated that, should it become necessary, this limited group of in-person classes would be modified and some or all moved to an online format. 

Following consultation with my colleagues in the campus academic leadership, I have decided to proceed only with those in-person course elements that are deemed essential to the learning outcomes of the course, that is, those elements that cannot be replicated in an online/remote environment. These will be mainly laboratories. The others will be offered online.

In coming to this decision, the safety and well-being of our community remains our top priority. Neither students nor instructors will be required to participate in these remaining in-person elements. We also maintain our commitment to offer these elements in subsequent academic terms and to make appropriate accommodation for those intending to graduate in June. Of course, if health regulations necessitate, we will pivot appropriately in compliance with provincial directives and convert these elements also to an online format.

If you are currently enrolled in a winter course that includes an in-person element that will now be delivered online you will receive a message from the Registrar’s Office with the details. These changes will also be indicated on the course timetable.

I am deeply appreciative of your flexibility and resiliency, as circumstances have evolved. I wish you well as you head into the final weeks of the term and the exam period.

Warm regards,


William A. Gough

Vice-Principal Academic & Dean

University of Toronto Scarborough


November 12, 2020


Welcome to all new and returning students!

Although our circumstances are different this year, I am confident that university education and your experience at UTSC will be transformative for you. I will return to our unique times and UTSC’s response later in this message; but first, I want to focus on the transformative nature of the university experience.

Recently I connected with a social media group for my high school located in rural eastern Ontario. Thousands of participants have joined this group. We were asked to give advice to current high school students. This request evolved into a series of high school narratives, as well as stories of what happened after high school. Although my observations are impressionistic, I was struck by a number of responses that described how difficult it was to articulate a sense of distinct identity during high school. I suspect this is probably pervasive and not unique to my high school. Common were feelings of not belonging and trying to adapt behaviour in order to fit in. Some who felt this way found attending university or college transformative, appreciating the opportunity to develop a fuller and ultimately lasting sense of unique identity. This was not a huge number, as post-secondary education uptake is relatively low in rural Ontario. However, the specific accounts related were a powerful testament to the potential for transformation through the undergraduate experience, akin to what is waiting for you in the coming year. This was certainly true for me.

As a strong academic at the top of my class, in high school I felt I did not fit in, and I made efforts to hide my success. This changed dramatically when I went to university. Not that university was without its own set of challenges, and I know some of you are in the midst of facing such, but excelling was valued, striving to do better was fostered, and setting ambitious academic and personal goals was encouraged.

This year will be different for all of us, students, faculty and staff, but it does not mean it cannot be transformative. This transformation will happen in individual ways that are meaningful and progressive. We know that for some the additional uncertainties of this time, magnified in some cases by new modes of program delivery, may at times be quite stressful, and we encourage you to seek the many supports the university has for you.

The health and well-being of our campus community remains our top priority. This year we have made a remote access guarantee for the Fall term, and for all entry level courses for the whole year. We are mindful of those who are preparing to graduate next June and we guarantee a remote pathway to this milestone as well. This Fall we do have a limited number of in-person course elements that replicate on-line offerings. With an eye to public health considerations, we are hoping to expand our in-person offerings in the Winter term.

Together we will find new but meaningful ways to create the sense of community that is so central to the UTSC experience. I wish you a transformative year ahead.

William A. Gough

Vice-Principal Academic & Dean

University of Toronto Scarborough

September 9, 2020

Dear Graduating Class of 2020

Congratulations on completing your degree at the University of Toronto Scarborough.  As Dean most years I am on the platform of Convocation Hall sharing with you the formal ceremony.  Alas this in-person experience is one of the casualties of the battle we are waging against the global pandemic.  Nevertheless, your accomplishments are no less momentous and the UTSC community is very proud of you as you take this significant step in your life.

Some have spoken of our current circumstances with war imagery, because of similar emotions evoked by truly life-changing experiences and the loss of loved ones.  Of course, wartime brings with it horrors that are unimaginable to most of us, and it would be hard for me, in my comfortable house surrounded by my loved ones, to claim a true understanding of what being in a war zone is like.  However, as I read of my family experiences in wartime, I cannot help but see parallels to the types of personal strengths we are having to seek within ourselves.  My grandfather endured four years of trench warfare in the First World War. Toward the end of the war he received a commendation that read in part, “During an action he directed traffic over a newly made road. This road at this time was being heavily shelled, an ambulance was hit within forty yards of him.  He materially assisted in the getting forward of ammunition and engineer supplies.  He continued through the night under heavy bombing and machine-gun fire by enemy aeroplanes to direct the traffic. By his coolness and presence of mind he held the drivers to their work, kept the traffic moving, and so prevented a large loss of life.  During the whole of two days under constant heavy fire he continued to direct traffic and establish traffic control posts.”

I have reflected upon this commendation many times, particularly his “coolness and presence of mind” under such dire circumstances.  He was 21 or 22 at the time, a typical age for graduating students, like yourselves!  As you finished your final term, it may have seemed we were under the constant fire of uncertainty, with ephemeral directives and shifting expectations. I applaud you for your “coolness and presence of mind” over the last two months as you persevered to degree completion.

The COVID experience will be one that will be remembered for decades to come. You will be called upon to share your “war stories” by future generations, and yours will be the triumphant overcoming of adversity in an extraordinary time.  The COVID challenges persist; your example uplifts all of us.  It bodes well for your future success, and serves as an inspiration for your classmates who are continuing to work on completing their degrees.

William A. Gough

Vice-Principal Academic & Dean

University of Toronto Scarborough

May 25, 2020


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