In conversation with UTM’s new principal

Ulrich Krull was confirmed for a three-year term after stay as interim principal

In conversation with UTM’s new principal

Professor Ulrich Krull has been appointed as the new Vice-President and Principal (VP-Principal) of UTM, effective July 1, 2017, for a three-year term.

U of T President Meric Gertler had created an advisory committee that established both the mandate and the desired qualities for the new VP-Principal, after which a call for nominations and a position profile was put forward.

Formerly serving in the role of Interim Vice-President and Principal, Krull, a chemistry professor, has assumed numerous administrative positions at UTM, including Vice-Principal Special Initiatives and Associate Dean of Sciences. The Varsity sat down with Krull to discuss his appointment and plans in his new position.

The Varsity: How did you react to getting appointed? Were you confident that you would get this position after the work you had done this year and in the past? Or was it still a surprise?

Ulrich Krull: So there’s little bit of history to this one. The message that I had given publicly over and over again last fall was [that] I was not interested in taking this position on permanently. I have had a year to actually experience the position and in a sense, it has unfolded as I had hoped: the community has really rallied around, there’s a very good sense of morale, a sense of a can-do spirit here.

TV: As a celebrated teacher and distinguished scientist, did you find any qualities of these professions to be helpful in an administrative capacity when you were interim-Vice President and Principal? Will any of these help in this role as well?

UK: I think the answer is yes. One can answer this in a number of different ways. There are those that become so heavily embedded or vetted to research with that singular focus that it’s sometimes difficult to see how the administrative role can easily, in a sense, build from that. But my life, my career, has been shared between administration and serving as a professor, so I have found a happy balance. In my particular area, as a faculty member in the sciences, we are responsible for finding the money we are going to use for the research team. I have, and I’ll call it an advantage perhaps [as] I don’t know how to better explain it, had many years of experience also working with industry and with government from the standpoint of funding, running research projects, running contracts, dealing with intellectual property.

TV: As a VP-Principal, what are your main roles and duties?

UK: My role, in a sense, is… to create strategy for this particular campus and then to integrate that strategy, building on the strengths we have from the academic platform of teaching and research and working with the outside community, to actually implement that.

TV: So, are there any particular first courses of action you are looking at with this new position?

UK: I think the answer is probably best said that, as I was in an interim position, we are going to keep that work going. When I took the interim position, I had spoken with the president of the university and indicated that I would take this role if it were understood that it was not simply trying to manage the portfolio until a new person was selected, that I would have some license in terms of driving forward initiatives. The initiatives I had in mind were to support the visioning exercise which would lead to the strategic plan, implementation of a direction for this particular campus that now extends from the history of the campus. Remember, we’re in the 50th year. It’s time to reflect on where we are and where we are going… Those are the directions we are going in, continuing with the visioning exercise, and we will now develop an academic strategy. The material is posted online for everybody to take shots at and try to tune it.

TV: Lastly, do you have any new plans, hopes and dreams for the position? What are the long-term goals you are looking at?

UK: I will put to you some important goals that are perhaps less quantitative than, say, building a building. What I am looking for is a change in culture at a couple of different levels. One, how we participate in research overall, within the University, making it possible for individuals that are appointed at UTM to actually find value on this campus to do research here. So, we are prepared to put in resources to build out clusters that do not exist elsewhere in the university and provide an interesting home and unique distinctive flavor to this particular campus… I’m also very interested to see what we can do to improve the student experience… I think we have some real value there that we can offer students and we need to explore that value in several different ways. One way is for more students to get involved with research but, in a sense, what we are talking about would be called ‘experiential education’ – the whole concept of providing more and improved avenues here at UTM, particularly [for] undergrads, to have experiences beyond the classroom that will help them develop leadership skills, confidence, and skill sets to be able to move out as individuals in their own right, leaders in their own right.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Meet Ulrich Krull, newly-appointed UTM interim Vice-President and Principal

Krull talks teamwork, challenges, goals

Meet Ulrich Krull, newly-appointed UTM interim Vice-President and Principal

Ulrich Krull has been appointed as interim Vice-President and Principal of UTM. Krull’s term will be effective September 1, 2016 to August 31, 2017, or until a permanent Vice-President and Principal is found.

Krull will be replacing Deep Saini, who will be serving as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Canberra in Australia. Krull was previously appointed as acting Vice-President and Principal in July 2015, while Saini was on a six-month sabbatical.  

Krull has had an extensive history at the university, having completed his BSc, MSc, and PhD at U of T. He then went on to become a professor of Analytical Chemistry, with a specific interest in molecular diagnostics technology.  

Krull has held numerous administrative positions at UTM over the years, including: Associate Dean of Sciences; Vice-Dean, Graduate; Vice-Principal, Research; and Vice-Principal, Special Initiatives. In addition, Professor Krull has held various positions in Mississauga, assisted with four different start-up companies, and won numerous awards throughout his professional career.  

UTM's new vice-president. YASSINE ELBARADIE/THE VARSITY

UTM’s new vice-president. YASSINE ELBARADIE/THE VARSITY

Role and approach

When asked about his role at UTM, Krull stressed the importance of working with the UTM team rather than simply leading it.

“They’ve selected me in this particular case to be the spokesperson. I need to take the time and effort to make sure I represent the ‘we’ not the ‘I’. And that’s the style that you’re going to see from me, as much as I can manifest that. Keep the ego suppressed and keep the goals of what the community is after — that comes first and foremost,” Krull said.  

He described his position within UTM as both exciting and challenging: “I think you get a sense of both trepidation, in which a lot of things need to be done, and exhilaration. And yeah, it’s an exciting time to be here.”

Although he does not often speak of it, Krull is also a local Judo instructor. He believes teamwork, focus, and tackling large tasks are some skills that he has grasped from the sport, which has also contributed to his approach to the new position.   

Resolving obstacles

Krull described multiple challenges he hopes to tackle throughout his term, including the growth of the Mississauga campus.

“We’ve grown very quickly over the past 10 years, 12 years — and to the point that we need to balance our faculty to student ratio. We can’t hire fast enough to be able to maintain the kind of ratio we want; we can’t build fast enough to be able to satisfy the demands for space,” Krull said.  

During this transitional period, Krull wants to ensure that growth occurs for the betterment of the UTM community, as opposed to “just growing for the sake of growing.”

He continued, “I keep telling people that ‘Yes, that’s all fine and well, but it’s not the buildings — it’s the people in the buildings!’”

Krull also wants to maintain and grow UTM’s close relationship with the City of Mississauga and the Regional Municipality of Peel. He commented, “The City of Mississauga wants to be recognized as a place that is both livable, but also where innovation takes place.”

UTM’s many sector-specific programs are an illustration of Mississauga and the university’s close partnership. Krull explained that the city “put in $10 million over 10 years to actually build the physical infrastructure and make sure this runs. And what we’re doing is we’re creating programming that actually makes sense for the city.”    

Future goals

Krull outlined many long-term and short-term goals, from “ensuring inclusivity of aspirations for all disciplines in UTM’s family” to “addressing barriers to space in the laboratory sciences.”

Krul’s primary aspiration is to ensure UTM’s competitiveness in the Greater Toronto Area, despite the challenge of being situated near other institutions. “Out here in the west end, you have to realize that we are competing also with York because York reaches well into Brampton, which is one of our areas of view,” he said. “But you have to recognize that we also have Guelph, and Waterloo, and McMaster.”  

“I may have started at the St. George campus, but I really came out here in my early years and I grew up on this campus as a faculty member for about 30 years… so I really consider this to be my home,” Krull said.