Irena Creed, an internationally renowned ecosystem scientist, has been appointed the University of Toronto Scarborough’s new vice-principal, research and innovation (VPRI).
A U of T alumna, Creed’s role not only provides her with a new avenue to grow and advance research initiatives on campus, but a chance to reconnect with the U of T community after earning a PhD, master’s degree and bachelor’s degree at the university.
“It’s such a joy to be joining the UTSC community,” says Creed, whose five-year term began on July 1. “I’m really excited about this new position.
“To come back and see how much the university has changed but how it has stayed similar at the same time is very powerful. It makes me feel a connection that I don't think others may feel, because it is like coming home.”
An award-winning ecosystem scientist, Creed’s research – which has taken her around the globe – focuses on climate change, watershed sciences, hydrology, biogeochemistry, ecology and planetary health. Notably, Creed’s research employs an interdisciplinary approach and explores how various issues in the environmental sciences affect communities at risk.
Since 2017, Creed has led major strategic initiatives to support key research areas at the University of Saskatchewan, where she served as executive director (dean), associate vice-president research and special adviser to the president on sustainability. In addition to her multiple leadership roles, Creed was also a professor at the university’s School of Environment and Sustainability.
Prior to the University of Saskatchewan, Creed spent almost 20 years in various teaching and leadership roles at Western University, including director of the Africa Institute. She is a former Canada Research Chair, whose various awards and honours include a fellowship at the Royal Society of Canada. Creed is also an adjunct professor at the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health.
As U of T Scarborough’s vice-principal, research and innovation, Creed’s role is dedicated to establishing goals that enrich and advance research initiatives and opportunities that run parallel with Inspiring Inclusive Excellence, the campus’s five-year strategic plan.
Much of her focus will be dedicated to the development of three new research institutes on campus: the Institute for Globalization, Transnationalism and the Advancement of Resilient, Inclusive Suburbs & Economies; the Institute for Environmental, Conservation, & Sustainability Research and the Institute for Inclusive Health Research.
The new research institutes are more than exciting spaces for innovative research. They will act as a bridge to tri-campus initiatives that explore how the environment and health impact social justice and equity.
“The centre of gravity is intended to be at UTSC,” Creed says. “These are hoped to be tri-campus institutes that will build national and international networks to help support the research that is being done at the University of Toronto.”
One of Creed’s priorities for the next five years is to create and expand experiential learning opportunities throughout students’ undergraduate and graduate careers. She says she also wants to support researchers with an interdisciplinary approach and find opportunities to converge the arts, humanities, social sciences and natural sciences and engineering in future initiatives.
“One of the priorities for me would be to create and support structures to facilitate purposeful interactions that will lead to teams being able to work together, get funded on major projects together and have greater impact,” Creed says.
“Key to this is enabling the exceptional team at the office of the VPRI to support faculty to advance inclusive excellence in research.”
Above all, Creed looks forward to meeting students, faculty and staff to advance academic initiatives and learn about the personal stories and journeys behind the research that happens on campus.
“When you’re in a community where you share values, amazing things are possible,” Creed says.
“This community is very interested in growing while achieving inclusive excellence, and I’m someone who loves challenges and loves to help places grow. The timing of my appointment represents an amazing opportunity to help manifest that growth at UTSC.”