Waterloo at 100

The University of Waterloo defied tradition by integrating academic and research excellence with work-integrated learning when it was founded in 1957. In our rapidly changing world, we can honour this legacy of courage and innovation by imagining bold new futures.

Waterloo at 100 is an exercise to move us beyond five-year planning cycles toward a longer-term vision that will answer: What do we as an institution aspire to become by our 100th anniversary in 2057?  

In order for Waterloo at 100 to be successful, we need your input. We are seeking contributions from our community of students, faculty staff, alumni, supporters and wide-ranging partners. During this transformative time, we look to the whole community to help shape a future for the University that is vibrant and inclusive for all.

As you engage in the Waterloo at 100 discussion, we encourage you to reflect deeply about the institution you want Waterloo to become.

I cannot perceive a time when the universities will not be challenged by new requirements from our society.  Equally, I cannot foresee a time when the University of Waterloo will be so hidebound by tradition that it cannot adjust itself to providing education to meet these needs.

GERALD HAGEY, co-founder and first president of the University of Waterloo

Building on strength

Frustrated by the pace of change in Canada in the post-war years, Gerald Hagey and Ira Needles took their experience in industry and founded a university with strong bonds to the community, industry and government. Waterloo at 100 will build on this institution’s first 65 years, on our proud history of trailblazing and real-world impact.

Our 2022 Global Impact Report provides a glimpse into the impact we are making today through the work of students, faculty and alumni from the nation’s most innovative university. This visioning exercise seeks to identify opportunities for further successes. This visioning exercise also builds on Waterloo’s current strategic plan, developed through an extensive consultative process. The plan identifies the University’s academic and research strengths and our institutional differentiators.

Our differentiators

Experiential education

including the world’s largest co-op education network

Experiential Learning

Entrepreneurship

fueled by a distinctive innovation ecosystem

Entrepreneurship

Research

making a transformational impact on our world

Research

Waterloo’s fundamental and applied research is amplified by insights and experiences from students, faculty and external partners working together, particularly augmented through our distinctive cooperative education program. Our research impact is furthered each day as a result of entrepreneurial drive and a relentless spirit for innovation in all endeavours.

A key distinction for the University is the strength of our relationship with our region. We were founded by local leaders who wanted to make a difference. As we chart our future, engagement with our local community is critical. In recent decades, many new partners have developed and evolved with whom we can continue to build and strengthen relationships. Together, we can make a meaningful difference for our social infrastructure and economy so we can continue to be one of the best places to live, learn and grow.   

Our evolving world

As well as building on our strengths, the vision for Waterloo at 100 must reflect the many changes happening in our region, country and world. In his installation speech, President Goel identified the forces shaping our University, the broader post-secondary education sector and societies everywhere:

  • The pandemic accelerated the digital transformation already underway, changing how we learn, teach and work. Life-long learning will become more important as workers reskill and reimagine their careers as they navigate an ever-changing work environment.
  • The pandemic heightened awareness of and in some cases exacerbated inequities in society, particularly the legacy of centuries of colonization. On our campuses and beyond, we must meet calls for decolonization as we advance Indigenous relations and truth and reconciliation, and embed equity, diversity, inclusion and anti-racism throughout our institution and beyond to build a more equitable society.
  • The climate crisis poses an existential threat to the health of our planet. We must multiply efforts to find innovative and sustainable solutions to achieve carbon neutrality.
  • All around our world polarization is increasing and populism is rising, often fueled by mis- and disinformation. Many parts of the world are facing armed conflict causing death and destruction. Global multilateral institutions, which enabled a long period of peace and prosperity, are losing ground. Post-secondary institutions play a vital role in preserving democracy by offering a safe place for free inquiry and preparing our students to be global citizens.
  • Recognizing that these and other forces affect our individual and collective sense of humanity, we must prioritize mental health, wellness and thriving for everyone in our community.

We are again – as were our founders – at a crossroads. We can help find solutions to these major global challenges and renew a sense of hope with bold ambitions for our future.

How and where can Waterloo make impacts on our biggest and shared challenges?

Futures Framework

To help position and grow our strengths and differentiators, we are proposing a Futures Framework. This framework will help align and coordinate our efforts and investments in education, research and innovation as we strive to address global challenges. The framework is intentional about first asking how we envision the future of humanity. From there, we can shape multiple Futures required to support a better world for generations to come.

How will Waterloo evolve as an institution?

In this rapidly changing and complex world, deep and diverse collaborations are critical for success. Interdisciplinarity and collaborations across multiple Faculties are critical to both education and research, if we are to position ourselves optimally to contribute to addressing the future’s most complex challenges. We need to foster greater agility and creativity, working together in more coordinated ways across the institution. The post-pandemic transition provides us an opportunity to think about how and where we work in order to deliver the best possible experiences for our students and conduct outstanding scholarship and research.  

New technologies and tools offer many opportunities to innovate how we deliver and augment programs yielding better experiences, more global accessibility and efficiency. Waterloo at 100 is our opportunity to examine these and other evolutions to become the institution our future needs. As with our founding, being unconventional, taking risks and innovating can propel us to achieve our greatest aspirations.

I cannot foresee a time when the University of Waterloo will be so hidebound by tradition that it cannot adjust itself…

GERALD HAGEY, co-founder and first president of the University of Waterloo

Hagey’s quote remains true today. We are ready. Building on an extraordinary history and unique strengths, Waterloo is preparing for bold new futures.

Have your say, keep informed

We want to hear from you. Provide feedback through the button below. Over the course of this year we are holding a series of Waterloo at 100 consultations and conversations. Please stay tuned for updates about what we are hearing from students, faculty, staff, alumni and industry, community and government partners. A Waterloo at 100 draft paper will be shared for consultation and input in the Fall of this year.