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U for Unique

For new provost Vivek Goel, shaping an up-to-date vision for U of T will be a priority

Vivek Goel might demur if you call him a visionary, but shaping an up-to-date vision for the University of Toronto is a big part of the new vice-president and provost’s job.

Goel, who served as interim provost after Shirley Neuman stepped down last February, was appointed for a five-year term in June. Previously, he served as chair of the former department of health administration, and as deputy provost and vice-provost, faculty. He hadn’t originally planned to become an administrator, he says, but “I guess I had a knack for doing it and people picked me.”

In his new role, Goel is helping U of T’s faculties and colleges translate “Stepping Up” – the new framework for academic planning – into an operational plan that allows the university to achieve its vision. “There’s a set of consistent themes that have emerged about how to make U of T a unique place,” says Goel, who is also a physician and professor in the department of health policy, management and evaluation. “We have many strengths and unique features, and we don’t always do as good a job as we could in selling them to prospective students, to the public and to government.”

In addition to his planning responsibilities, Goel also oversees the university’s budget. He likens it to the role of a chief operating officer in a corporate setting. The deans, principals and chief librarian report directly to him, and he evaluates the budget.

During the coming year, Goel will also be involved with preparing U of T’s submissions to the Rae commission (headed by former premier Bob Rae, BA 1969 UC, LLB 1977), which will review funding for higher education in Ontario. “It’s our opportunity to argue for increased funding for universities in general and recognition of the need for a funding model that allows for differentiation among universities in the province,” he says.

Other items on Goel’s agenda include communicating the unique student experience available at U of T, continuing to improve equity and diversity university-wide, enhancing the university’s outreach to the local, national and international communities and promoting interdisciplinary collaboration. “Increasingly, both scholarship and research are interdisciplinary, cutting across boundaries, not just sitting in one department,” he says. “We can bring together teams of scholars who are at the leading edge of their own disciplines internationally to tackle significant issues.”

Goel believes academics have a responsibility to become involved in university administration. “People have an obligation to step forward,” he says. “With the value we place on academic freedom and academic integrity ahead of other considerations, we need senior academics at our boardroom table.”

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