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'Let us believe in what we can accomplish together': Wisdom Tettey is installed as principal of U of T Scarborough

Professor Wisdom Tettey, the vice-president and principal of U of T Scarborough, said he has witnessed first-hand the transformative value of education (photo by Alexa Battler)

Professor Wisdom Tettey outlined his ambitious plans for the University of Toronto Scarborough during his installation Monday as vice-president and principal.

“Thank you for the opportunity and privilege to serve, for your confidence in UTSC’s potential, and for your support for inspiring inclusive excellence that benefits us all,” said Tettey in his installation address. He is U of T Scarborough’s 11th principal.

Before administering the oath of office in front of a packed room at the new Highland Hall event centre, U of T President Meric Gertler spoke about Tettey’s leadership skills.

“Professor Tettey demonstrates a marvellous combination of confidence and openness, clarity and subtlety, energy, commitment, and a great sense of humour,” said President Gertler.

“He wasted no time embarking on a strategic planning process for UTSC, and consulting with all members of the community in an extensive and thorough process. He is profoundly committed to ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to contribute and be heard, as part of his commitment to inclusive excellence.”

Wisdom Tettey shares a laugh with U of T Chancellor Rose Patten during Monday's installation (photo by Alexa Battler)

Tettey, who is a leading scholar on African media, politics and diaspora, outlined how his vision of inclusive excellence will be supported through four priorities:

  • Advancing a culture of empathetic and inclusive leadership
  • Promoting an inclusive, healthy learning and working environment
  • Growing local and global networks
  • Boosting U of T Scarborough's global standing through scholarly prominence and exceptional learning

He began his installation speech by reflecting on his childhood and formative years in Ghana.

“I grew up in a low-income, pluricultural neighbourhood of the national capital [Accra], where diversity, marginalization and community converged,” he said.

“I saw excellence in the midst of deprivation. I saw good emerge when communities are motivated by common purpose, mutual commitment to that purpose, and belief in one another to accomplish it.”  

Tettey said he witnessed first-hand the transformative value of education, particularly the role of public school teachers and mentors, in creating access to opportunities. He also credited the influence of his mother as “the anchor of my values” in providing the inspiration for his approach to inclusive excellence and servant leadership.

Read Wisdom Tettey's installation speech

Before coming to Canada to complete his master’s degree (University of British Columbia) and PhD (Queen’s University), Tettey was an undergraduate at the University of Ghana. He spent his third year in Moscow during the height of Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika and glasnost programs. 

Prior to joining U of T Scarborough, he was the dean of the Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences at UBC’s Okanagan campus, where he led the development of a five-year strategic plan. He also served four years as dean of the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies at UBC Okanagan.

Tettey was joined at Monday's ceremony by his spouse Natasha and two of his three children, Norvisi and Selasi.

Tettey, Patten and U of T President Meric Gertler at Monday's installation (photo by Alexa Battler)

Attending Monday's installation were Vice-President and Provost Cheryl Regehr, Associate Professor Andrea Sass-Kortsak, chair of the Academic Board, Governing Council, U of T Chancellor Rose Patten; and faculty, staff and students from across the university. Former U of T Scarborough Vice-President and Principal Bruce Kidd was also in attendance, as was David Onley, Ontario's 28th lieutenant governor of Ontario.

Chancellor Patten spoke about Tettey’s energy, warmth and optimism as qualities perfectly fitting the campus’s culture of academic leadership and community engagement. 

“You are already making a tremendous contribution to this positive culture. I’m sure it will be a vital and impactful factor in U of T’s continuing strength as a tri-campus institution.”

Tettey concluded his speech with the Kiswahili word Imani, meaning “faith” or “belief,” and the Zulu proverb Umuntu, ngumuntu, ngabantu, which translates roughly to “it takes a village.”  

“Let us believe in what we can accomplish together, and make it happen. Let us be there for one another as a community that knows no bounds, and we shall succeed through our collective strength,” he said.

“Let us pool together our diverse talents, abilities, ideas, experiences, and perspectives for common purpose, in the spirit of inclusion, and our success and prominence will know no bounds.”