Deep Saini has returned to his position as vice president and principal of UTM following a six-month long sabbatical.
Saini, who took a leave of absence in July 2015, was installed as vice president and principal in August 2010. Prior to that, he was the director general of the Plant Biology Research Institute at the Université de Montréal and the dean of the University of Waterloo’s Faculty of Environment.
Saini spoke with The Varsity and outlined his accomplishments during his time off, as well as his plans for the campus going forward.
“What I took away was that I missed UTM very much when I was away,” said Saini.
Saini said that he spent most of his time returning to his research endeavors as a biologist.
“Because I have been now working as an administrator for the past 10 years non stop… research had to take a back seat,” he explained.
Saini, who is a plant biologist, used his leave to conduct research on the evolution of blood in changing urban environments, in addition to examining it as a model for evolution in a broader sense. Saini said he found the time to work on some of his unfinished manuscripts.
“I was able to get one of them significantly advanced,” said Saini. “We’re submitting it in the spring sometime. We’ve made progress on a couple of others.”
Saini also used his time away to develop a vision for the future of UTM. One of the challenges that he identified is acquiring funding for new buildings, staff, and faculty.
“We’re growing very rapidly,” said Saini. “[Right] now our enrolment — including our onsite graduate students here — it exceeds 14,000.”
Saini said that accommodating the growing number of students is proving to be a challenge. He iterated that he wanted to lower student-to-faculty ratio, which is higher at UTM than it is at other U of T campuses.
“That means we need to hire more faculty. When you hire more faculty, you [acquire] more support staff.”
In addition to more faculty and staff, Saini told The Varsity that he also wants to see more space on campus.
“In the last five years, including now, we have invested approximately $350 million on buildings on this campus, either completed or in progress,” he explained. These include the construction of Deerfield Hall, which was completed in September 2014, as well as the second phase of the new North Building, which is expected to be completed in early summer 2018.
Despite this, Saini said that there are still more developments needed. “Some of them are in the plans,” he said. “Some of them are stuff that we can see with the funding over the horizon. But others, we’d need to figure out where the funding would come from.”
Correction (Wednesday, January 27, 2016): An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Saini is a blood biologist. In fact, Saini is a plant biologist.