President Meric Gertler visited UTM last month to solicit feedback from students and staff on his “three priorities” for meeting the challenges U of T is facing.
The “three priorities”, inspired by the goals in the Towards 2030 plan, are using the university’s location better, establishing stronger international relationships, and improving undergraduate education.
Gertler said during his visit on February 26 that he wanted to be more engaged as a “city-builder”.
“The better we make the Greater Toronto Area, the easier it is for us to make the University of Toronto better,” he said.
Gertler also said he wanted to allow both students and faculty to benefit from the research opportunities afforded by the university’s location.
UTM’s principal Deep Saini asked about difficulties arising at St. George when, he alleged, the city does not respond with the same “vigour”.
“How can we engage on a broader scale in that mutualistic way with our community and vice versa as we have done here in Mississauga?” he said.
Gertler replied that he has received positive feedback in Toronto since he started communicating in November 2013 that U of T is interested in engaging with partners in the community.
“Our new mayor in Toronto has been quite interested in reopening the conversation,” he said.
He said the Scarborough campus has managed to engage with its community.
“The most recent and most tangible example of that would be the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre, which is a joint venture with the city of Toronto,” he said, adding that the athletics centre benefits both the campus and the community.
On the priority of improving undergraduate education, Gertler said the university wants to make sure students can succeed in “whatever they choose to do”.
“That’s why I believe that we should not be rejecting the traditional liberal arts model, but in fact rejuvenating it and renewing it, and thinking about how we can make it work for our students more effectively,” he said.
One of the ways he hoped to do so is through improved online teaching formats.
One student asked Gertler to take a stance on the cost of postsecondary education. The student called for U of T to communicate to the government that “loans are detrimental to students and how it affects accessible education”.
Gertler’s solution was to remind taxpayers of the social benefits of public education.
“There are such important spillovers to society at large from having well-educated citizens,” he said.
Gertler said he wants to expand U of T’s international activities by encouraging more students to pursue international opportunities and removing obstacles to doing so.
The Towards 2030 plan was launched in 2007 to improve U of T’s position in undergraduate research, graduate education, and as a research-intensive university.
Feedback on Gertler’s three priorities can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, he said.