Provost Cheryl Regehr named one of Canada’s 100 Most Powerful Women
Regehr discusses leadership at the university and her priorities as provost
Undergraduate student Krisha Ravikantharaja interviews Professor Cheryl Regehr (all photos by Johnny Guatto)
The Women’s Executive Network (WXN) has named Provost Cheryl Regehr one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women for her work in the public sector.
Regehr was presented with the award at the Top 100 Toronto Gala on Nov. 26.
“It’s not about being a leader alone,” Regehr says. “I think the characteristic that is important to me in terms of leadership is a willingness to share leadership. It’s about seeing the incredible strength of people around you and looking for shared solutions to difficult problems, challenges and opportunities.”
Regehr says it is an honour to have a leadership role at the University of Toronto where so many others have also made WXN’s list in past years. Previous honourees have included students such as Jasmeet Sidhu and faculty such as Mary Jo Haddad, former president and CEO of SickKids, as well as Rose Patten, former chair of Governing Council and Judy Goldring, current chair of Governing Council. Goldring was also named to WXN's Hall of Fame this year.
“Winning this award really speaks to the incredible breadth and scope and respect U of T has,” Regehr says. “U of T is this huge leader in Canada and it’s a leader in terms of its education, its research, its contributions to policy and practice.”
Leadership Renewal is one of seven priorities Regehr has announced for the current academic year. For Regehr, that involves reviewing the existing leadership training, implementing that training as early as possible, as well as ensuring diversity.
“If we bring in leaders who have had different life experiences, different cultural experiences and different world experiences, all of that really contributes to better decision making and being able to use different lenses on challenges and opportunities we face.”
The provost’s six other priorities are: service delivery to divisions, undergraduate education, graduate education, student experience, faculty engagement, and the budget.
The undergraduate education priority includes re-examining the role of technology in the classroom, increasing research, and experiential learning opportunities for students, Regehr says.
“You could say, ‘well, it’s obvious that students in psychology might do service learning courses in a community agency, and it makes sense.’ But we have other great examples where we have undergraduate math students who are doing service learning courses in high-needs high schools and they are tutoring students in math.”
Regehr is also interested in how people who never imagined themselves at university are now able to enroll thanks to changes to accessibility.
“If you create accessibility you will create a more equitable environment because you make it possible for people who for various reasons didn’t have the same kind of choices as others.”
She points to bridging programs at Woodsworth College which targets students who are ineligible for regular admission to university, as well as the Transitional Year Program, and programs with Seneca College that help students transition into university.
“To have a very diverse student body, we need to address things that might have been systemic barriers in the past and continue to be systemic barriers,” Regehr says. “And we need to help students in the community overcome those systemic barriers.”
Regehr says the mental health aspect of student experience is a priority for her in part because of her own scholarly background, but also because of the rise in mental health issues among youth. She says it’s important to emphasize prevention and to connect students with services provided by both the university and the larger community, such as the Counseline program offered through the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work which provides face-to-face and online counseling to undergraduates.
“We really need to think about preventative mental health strategies so that we can help people manage stress, deal with the kind of reactions that they have, and build resilience,” Regehr says, adding that building resilience is particularly important for students.
“When they go out into society − where they might not have the same kinds of accommodations − they’ll be able to succeed, become leaders, change the world.”