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Sixty Years of Innovation: Celebrating Professor Pat Rowe’s groundbreaking leadership in psychology

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Pat RoweWhen Pat Rowe, Professor Emerita of psychology, first arrived with her husband, Philip Bryden, at the University of Waterloo in 1963, it was just “one or two new buildings in a muddy field,” she says, “but the place conveyed a sense of excitement, energy and challenge not found in more traditional institutions.”

The University was founded on the idea of co-operative education, with close ties to business and industry, a groundbreaking concept criticized by traditional institutions. The school was open to trying new things, Rowe learned, including establishing Canada’s first Industrial/Organizational (IO) Psychology program.

At a time when the Toronto and Montreal Personnel Associations (human resources associations) did not accept women, and the Canadian military had only one woman psychologist, finding a job in academia gave Rowe the opportunity to pursue her interests. When she first joined Waterloo, she was one of only a few women in the department, and most of her graduate students were older than herself and male (she didn’t supervise a female PhD student until 1991).

At first, her teaching and research had a broad focus, a necessity in a new department — she taught introductory psychology, social psychology and others — but she soon began to focus her research on the effects and benefits of co-operative education and the job interview, among other topics. Her work on co-operative education garnered many awards, including the Canadian Association for Co-operative Education Research Award, the Don MacLaren Award, James W. Wilson Award and the Tyler Award.

Pat Rowe holding award between colleaguesProfessor Emerita Pat Rowe received the Award for Distinguished Contributions to Education and Training in Psychology from the Canadian Psychological Association on June 8, 2017. 

Rowe went on to become the first female dean at the university and was Dean of Graduate Studies for eight years beginning in 1991. She worked as a professor for 39 years, but her career in the profession spans 55 years and counting. She supervised more MASc and PhD students than anyone else in the field. Most of her students went on to successful careers in industry and academia. After retiring from teaching in 2002, she continued working at the university as director and adviser of the department’s Human Resources Management program, and was an associate with the Waterloo Centre for the Advancement of Co-operative Education.

In 2000, Rowe was honoured with the Canadian Psychological Association’s Award for Distinguished Contributions to Industrial/Organizational Psychology. On June 8 of this year, the association presented her with the Award for Distinguished Contributions to Education and Training in Psychology for her role in the development of the I/O program at Waterloo and for playing a part in making the Department of Psychology one of the highest-ranked psychology departments in the country.

“The award recognizes her outstanding contributions,” says Karen Cohen, chief executive officer of the Canadian Psychological Association. “Dr. Rowe established and ran one of Canada’s preeminent graduate programs in industrial organizational psychology marked by a commitment to cooperative education. Generations of students have had the benefit of her work and accomplishments.”

Even into her 80s, Rowe continues to publish research, consult for industry and help her former students whenever she can. “Pat’s commitment and dedication to her students and to UW are as strong as ever,” says Dean of Arts Doug Peers. “She is truly an inspiration to colleagues as well as her students.”

Pat Rowe will be honoured at UWaterloo’s 60th anniversary Reunion Weekend, on September 30th. In her honour, former students, faculty and friends are raising funds to establish a new graduate scholarship.  The Pat Rowe I/O Psychology Scholarship will attract the best students who will continue the tradition of helping Canadian companies to succeed in the global market.

For more information on how you can make a donation to the Pat Rowe I/O Psychology Scholarship, please contact Nancy Mattes, Associate Director of Arts Advancement, at or call 519-888-4567 ext. 38213.

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