2021 Alumni Story Series

Celebrating leadership in an unprecedented year of challenge

by Patty Mah 

Image of Steve FortinAs the year 2021 begins, many of us continue to reflect on the past year which was unlike any other in recent history. The global pandemic became a driving force for businesses and organizations to pivot, often with very little prep time, how and in some cases, what they do. It’s easy to focus on the negative side of the pandemic, but within the previous lackluster year, there have been numerous examples of positive change and evolution.

Throughout 2021, the School of Accounting and Finance (SAF) will be celebrating and recognizing the positivity and the accomplishments that have and will impact the future of work and society. Each week, a new alumni story will showcase examples of leadership. Stories will demonstrate expertly managed teams and organizations to maintaining engagement and productivity to pivoting business models to adhere to health and safety regulations and supporting our communities and front-line workers in staying safe and protected through and beyond the global pandemic.

To kickstart the series, it is only fitting to tell the story of the University of Waterloo and the School of Accounting and Finance.


Having attained his PhD in Accounting Studies at Waterloo, Steve Fortin (PhD ’00, CPA CA, ICD.D), returned to the University to take the helm as SAF Director in 2018. A noted leader and senior administrator, Fortin returned to the SAF, having created a legacy of strategic and academic excellence through his leadership and holistic approach in curriculum and program changes at McGill University. Upon taking on SAF’s leadership, Fortin dived into the oversight of implementing SAF’s Strategic Plan and within a short 1-1/2 years, Fortin found himself appointed as Co-Chair of the President’s Think Tank Taskforce. The appointment was very well suited, as SAF is one of the only program area within the Faculty of Arts that delivers a full course load in the Spring term.


Change is fluid and pivoting a large institution like the University of Waterloo takes time and the efforts of many. Fortin, with the leadership of SAF program directors Blake Phillips, Donna Psutka, James Thompson, Greg Berberich, Deb Kraft, Joyce Tian and all faculty and adjuncts, nimbly pivoted the SAF onto a fully online and remote learning environment within weeks.

As the University heads into its third study term fully online and remote, Fortin and SAF faculty and staff will be looking ahead to envision how post-secondary education will be delivered after the global pandemic. SAF’s deep connections with the professions, governing bodies, and industries places it in a unique position to benefit from its network’s experience.  We can bank on the what and how businesses and industries are implementing and the success of their strategies to pivot, manage, and grow through and beyond COVID-19. SAF will be leveraging many of the positive and negative lessons learned within the last three study terms to help guide the future of post-secondary education for aspiring accounting and finance professionals. Whether the new world of academia will mean back to normal with all courses delivered in-person or a hybrid of online-remote and in-person course delivery, one thing that will remain constant for SAF and the University – leveraging lessons learned to continue to educate and support future professionals, thought leadership, and innovation.  

Read more Alumni Stories...

Steve Fortin Alumni Story Series Introduction Transcript