I am so pleased to connect with our alumni community in my first column in the Waterloo Magazine as President and Vice-chancellor of the University of Waterloo.
This issue explores connections; connections to the past, connections with community, connections to our future. Since stepping into the role of president, I have been learning about the history and thinking about the future of the University of Waterloo. I know that as we look ahead to where the University is going, we must also look at where we have been.
I have been inspired learning about our institution’s early history. Our founders set out to create a world-class university that defied the academic conventions of its the time. Our institution’s ground-breaking co-operative education model was not only novel at the time, it was also bold. It was criticized then as “interrupted learning,” but look at its success today; Waterloo is a global leader in work-integrated learning.
Waterloo will play important role in recovery
The same creativity and boldness that led to our co-op model went into our approach to research and building connections with external partners both locally and globally.
Waterloo’s formative years were in the post-war era of the 1950s and 60s. After a period of unprecedented global upheaval, Waterloo and its core DNA were forged in the optimism and growth that followed. As we emerge from the pandemic, we will be at a similar crossroads. After so much disruption, institutions like ours will play an important role in helping with the recovery and ensuring society is more resilient.
There are many more lessons we can take from the pandemic. For example, it has accelerated the digital transition that was already underway in society. Our experience has made clear that there are many ways in which we can be innovative and flexible in our teaching and learning. But we also know that there is no substitute for what happens in a lab or a classroom where hands-on learning is enriched through peers and professors.
The digital transformation gives us a chance to think about humanity’s future, and the opportunity to define the world that we want to live in, rather than letting technology shape our future. Unfortunately, in recent decades the latter has started to become the norm.
The learners we are educating today will play an important role in shaping our global recovery and the future of work for generations.
The global pandemic has also accelerated the transformation of many industries and changed the future of work. Canada and the world will need creative people who can navigate this landscape and create sustainable, prosperous communities. The learners we are educating today will play an important role in shaping our global recovery and the future of work for generations. Waterloo is already a global leader in work–integrated learning. We are now also working towards being a premier provider of learning–integrated work to support people who need to reskill and reimagine their careers.
Committed to confronting colonialism
The pandemic also heightened and increased attention to many pre-existing challenges in our society such as social inequities and the global climate crisis. Universities such as ours play an important role in educating our students and the public about these challenges. We also have a responsibility to address these issues on our own campuses and in our communities.
I am committed to confronting the history of colonialism that has and continues to challenge so many people today. We must advance Waterloo’s efforts to combat racism and implement recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation commission. To truly honour the rich diversity of our community, we must continue to proactively find, prevent and remove barriers, so everyone feels a sense of belonging at Waterloo, and can achieve their full potential.
As a comprehensive, research–intensive university with strong international connections, Waterloo has an opportunity to help solve these issues on a global scale. And we must not only work to solve today’s most pressing challenges, but anticipate those to come, and work to create a better future for humanity.
With our work in areas such as health innovation, advanced manufacturing, quantum technologies and climate sustainability we will address the world’s biggest challenges. We will also bring our research strengths to bear on addressing the human dimensions of global challenges, understanding and enhancing human experiences, and examining ways to translate knowledge for governance and policy.
Like the opportunity that our founders saw in the middle of the last century, now is our time to reimagine postsecondary education ...
Like the opportunity that our founders saw in the middle of the last century, now is our time to reimagine postsecondary education and research for the future to cement a foundation upon which each segment of our society and economy can build for generations to come.
Each and every one of you in our alumni community has contributed to our institution’s rich history and helped make Waterloo what it is today. As an important part of our University community, your continued connection enriches our institution’s work now, and as we move into bold new futures.