By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
On Dec. 31, 2017, University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) president and vice-chancellor Tim McTiernan bid farewell, ending a six-and-a-half year tenure in the top spot of the school.
McTiernan came to UOIT on July 1, 2011, and over his time there witnessed significant growth at the school.
“Our profile is getting recognized more widely across the GTA, across Ontario, and across the country,” says McTiernan. “I think part of that is the older we get the more established we become, even though we are only 15 years old.”
For McTiernan, the first decade of UOIT’s existence was focused on building a base of successful programs on both the graduate and undergraduate level.
“There was a lot of attention inside the building. With an established base, it’s become possible for the university to look beyond itself and build external partnerships, both in the community, with other universities and with business and industry,” McTiernan says. “We’ve gone from being a start-up university to coming into our own, but we still have the start-up energy.”
To maintain this steady momentum, McTiernan says there are several things UOIT needs to accomplish.
With the number of students graduating from high school expected to decline over the next several years, he notes the university must have “solid operational plans to deal with a no-growth situation.”
Secondly, the needs of students must continue to be a top priority.
“We must pay attention to the personal needs of our students as well as the academic needs,” McTiernan says. “Mental health issues, it’s no secret, are significant issues on all our campuses and to that extent, we can provide a support system for our students that will help them academically and personally.”
With technology playing a more significant role in post-secondary education than ever, this needs to remain a focus and looking back over the past five years, McTiernan says one of the accomplishments he is most proud of was the transformation of UOIT from a laptop-based campus to one where students were free to use their own devices.
“We started as a laptop university, and it was state-of-the-art back in the early 2000s. Who owns a laptop anymore? People are using devices like smartphones and tablets,” he notes. “We had a situation six or seven years ago, where we still had a standard laptop loaded up with everyone’s coursework…one size fits all. Particularly students in areas like business and social sciences felt they weren’t getting value and would have preferred to bring in their own laptops.”
The process of embracing more relevant devices was not easy, and in McTiernan’s view, had to be done “in a way that was flawless and seamless”.
“We are still in that process, but the fact we are able to stay current with technology is an incredible accomplishment.”
McTiernan also spoke highly of a $300,000 innovation fund, which was created in partnership with Durham College.
“Some really great projects have come out of that and it creates a good platform to create ways to look at how we can work together, instead of working alongside each other.”
The development of the UOIT-Baagwating Indigenous Student Centre and the recent success of UOIT’s women’s soccer team, which captured the Ontario University Athletics championship in 2016, are also of great personal importance to McTiernan.
“That’s an example of how our varsity sports have developed. We are very rapidly becoming very competitive in all the sports we do offer.”
Serving as president has given him the opportunity to grow and learn as a person.
“I’ve learned that impatience is not a virtue. To do things well often takes time, because you need to spend the time working and talking with people, and understanding a variety of different perspectives and needs so that as a group people move forward together,” McTiernan reflected.
As he departs, McTiernan says the message everyone he has worked with over the years, from students, professors, fellow administrators and those in the community, is simple.
“This is an amazing place to work. I’ve worked in a number of different institutions, both in government and outside, and this has its own magic,” McTiernan says. “It’s been a privilege to work with colleagues, students and the community at large. I’d like people to know I appreciate it and I’d like to thank them very much for the generosity and spirit that I’ve been lucky enough to experience in my six years here.”
As for his immediate future, McTiernan says he would like to do some teaching and looks forward to getting involved with projects that are “intellectually stimulating and satisfying.”
“In broad terms, I have a golden opportunity to sit back and think what I’d like to do instead of what I should do.”
McTiernan’s successor, Steven Murphy will take over as president and vice-chancellor on March 1.