Collectivity. Community. Us. These are all words that UTSC Principal Wisdom Tettey used liberally during an interview with The Varsity.
Tettey was appointed this year, leaving his former job as the dean of the Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Science at the University of British Columbia (UBC) Okanagan. He received his master’s degree from UBC and PhD from Queen’s University, and said that his experience has enabled him “to adapt to different circumstances” and build a knowledge base that allows him to face new situations head-on.
Tettey acknowledged that society is becoming more diverse and that this is “a reality that we cannot run away from.” Instead, he believes that people need to turn it “into a strength as opposed to a basis for division.”
“My goal has always been to see where we build those bridges and strengthen those relationships where [diversity] becomes a plus as opposed to a negative.”
Tettey is aware of the challenges that he is facing, and says that he is familiar with the issues, as they are not unique in institutions of higher education.
He is in the process of implementing several strategic plans to tackle big issues, such as creating a more inclusive community, diversifying the faculty to reflect the diversity of the student body, making housing more accessible, introducing stronger research support, and, overall, enhancing the undergraduate experience.
In addition to these issues, another important goal for Tettey is defining UTSC to the world in a way that the UTSC community is “proud of.”
Tettey wants everyone to know that he and his team are committed to finding suitable answers.
Housing is one problem that Tettey specifically names as one of his top priorities. He is aware of the comfort that living on campus can bring to both parents and students, as well as the positive impact that student residences have on the overall campus community. However, several factors affect the approval process for residence buildings, and new residences won’t be coming to the Scarborough campus until 2021 or 2022, at the earliest.
In addition to new residences, Tettey is also hoping to erect other buildings. These buildings are intended to address the lack of informal learning spaces on campus, as well as take the pressure off classrooms. These buildings will also be more adaptable to what he sees as inevitable changes in the “nature of teaching and learning.”
An important aim of these initiatives is to create a space where community and inclusion are recognized and felt by the entire campus.
Although he faces many challenges, Tettey says that there are things that he loves about the campus he serves. Namely, the diversity of the campus, its connection to the broader community, and the “culture here of supporting the margins of our society.”
He also appreciates “the work that faculty do to support quality teaching” and their “dedication to ensuring that the undergraduate experience is solid.”
There have been many things that Tettey has found “refreshing” and that are in line with “[his] own sense of what [he wants] a campus to be.”
For Tettey, collectivity is vital for a strong foundation in communities. Five years from now, Tettey wants the community to look back and say, “Kudos to ourselves.”