Ted Sargent's global vision for U of T

(Photo by Johnny Guatto)

Recruiting international students, providing even more international experiences for current students and developing focused international partnerships.

These are three priorities that University of Toronto Vice-President, International Ted Sargent heard repeatedly as he conferred with colleagues across the university.

Professor Sargent, who assumed the role of vice-president on July 1,  identified the priorities after extensive discussions with the university community.  He elaborated on them in an interview with U of T News.

How have your first three months been?
They’ve been very exciting.  One of the most rewarding parts of this role in the first couple of months has been to hear from so many truly outstanding scholars, staff, and leaders; people at U of T Mississauga, U of T Scarborough and St. George; and leaders of the academic divisions about why they’re so passionate about internationalization. 

Internationalization is an essential element of U of T’s continued striving for excellence, enabling us to thrive in all regions of the globe as a top university.

Out of your discussions, you’ve outlined three priorities. Can you elaborate?
First and foremost, it comes down to our students – giving them the chance to engage with the world through their experience with U of T and beyond U of T, to augment further their intercultural experiences.

This priority is about continuing to recruit the best international students from around the world. U of T is a globalized university and is recognized as a leader in research and teaching and service. We have the opportunity to raise awareness of how great an experience a student can have at U of T in their undergraduate, graduate, and professional studies.

We have a global group of tremendously accomplished alumni. They are continually asking us how they can give back. One way we can recruit more students is by engaging our alumni around the world in this compelling project.  

And the second priority?
We have the opportunity to provide even more international experiences for our students. Ideally, each student who wants to have an international experience – whether in the classroom, a term abroad, a summer job or a research internship – should be able to benefit from such an opportunity. 

Students desire pathways that allow them to stay on track, with high confidence, in their academic program. And as faculty members, we can communicate widely to our students the fact that their future employers are compelled by students who bring international experience. U of T continues to lead by integrating international experiences into research and teaching, helping students prepare to compete and contribute in an ever more globalized world.

We have additional work to do to make it financially feasible for more of our students to gain such experiences. Fortunately, this is already a priority in our Boundless campaign.

How do you get the word out to the students themselves?
Through the professors. U of T has the world’s best scholars in their fields, and our students admire and listen to them. We will engage our faculty members and our academic leaders in conversations about the value of global experiences.

The third priority relates to international partnerships. What kinds of partnerships?
Deep and sustained partnerships with other leading academic institutions and also partnerships with other kinds of organizations, such as corporations and not-for-profits. U of T has had a number of successful partnerships – for example, U of T and IBM have an existing partnership that greatly benefits researchers and graduate students at this university. 

Of course, we already have a wide array of international partnerships focusing on student mobility, research and collaboration as well as faculty and staff exchange. Many individual professors and departments have existing partnerships and our office will continue to foster and support these. 

Can you give an example of a partnership area?
This university has tremendous strength in urban issues. The president is one of the world’s foremost urban theorists and policy practitioners. You will see excellence at this university in every faculty and at all three campuses in areas related to urban issues. And U of T is at the heart of a great global city. 

It’s a great illustration of where we have tremendous strength, and where we can do even more to convey and harness that strength collectively. 

What initial steps are you taking to advance the three international priorities?
Delivering on these priorities will require a set of experienced and skilled academic leaders and champions. We are establishing and filling two roles: associate vice-president & vice-provost, international student experience; and associate vice-president, international partnerships. 

For the international student experience role, I believe we need a champion, somebody who comes from the scholarly ranks, who is an acknowledged leader in teaching and research, and who has engaged with students and involved them in remarkable international experiences. Someone who can communicate with academic leaders, faculty members and students about the benefits of introducing international dimensions into the many learning experiences at this university.

With regard to the international partnerships portfolio, we again need an academic leader who’s an accomplished researcher, scholar, teacher, and who has the talents and the appetite to bring together excellent researchers from across many disciplines in varied faculties and collaborate with them to pull together in areas of tremendous strength.

We have so much strength and academic leadership within our academic divisions already – we will not duplicate that. We place great value on engagements with diversity and multiculturalism at the U of T and abroad. At the great and large institution that is U of T, there is the opportunity to coordinate, to make sure we’re all pursuing the strategic objectives of a great, international, tri-campus university.

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