On October 28, U of T President Meric Gertler began his term as vice-chair of Universities Canada, a membership organization of university presidents that aims to provide higher education institutions with a “unified voice” through advocacy at the federal level, and facilitates collaboration between universities, the government, and the private sector. Gertler will serve for one year as vice-chair before moving on to a two-year term as chair. 

In an email to The Varsity, a university spokesperson wrote that Gertler’s new position provides U of T with a strong voice in conversations that will affect it. The spokesperson added, “It also provides [the university] with an opportunity to ensure [it is] aligned with other institutions on important issues such as supporting international students and pandemic planning.”

Gertler wrote to The Varsity: “I am delighted to have this opportunity to collaborate with Professor D’Amours and all of our colleagues across the country in pursuit of our shared goals.” Sophie D’Amours is the current chair of the organization, whom Gertler will be working alongside to prepare for the position. 

According to the spokesperson, his goals as a vice-chair include developing connections that will provide opportunities for U of T researchers and students to circulate ideas that “shape our understanding of the world.” 

As chair, Gertler will “play an integral and central role in leading Universities Canada into the future,” Philip Landon, Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer of Universities Canada, wrote in an email to The Varsity. He added that Gertler will have a major impact responding to emerging issues on behalf of the organization.

A former professor of geography, Gertler’s time at U of T has been characterized by a heightened focus on city building, global connectivity, and sustainability initiatives. He has also advocated for expanding experiential learning opportunities and increasing the university’s research collaborations with Canadian businesses. 

Gertler recently finished his term as the chair of the U15 group of Canadian research universities and serves on the Council of Ontario Universities’ Executive Committee. The former works to shape long-term and sustainable research policy to the benefit of Canadian universities while the latter has a similar mission to Universities Canada, but on a provincial level.

As vice-chair of Universities Canada, Gertler will serve on its board of directors. The board is composed of 13 members, including 12 university presidents and the president of Universities Canada, Paul Davidson. The board meets four times a year to determine the association’s strategic direction and priorities and is also responsible for making decisions for the organization. 

Gertler will also become a member of the executive and finance committees, and chair the Nominating Committee, which recommends candidates for future board positions.