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UOIT board chair sees bright future for university

Doug Allingham has big ideas for UOIT in the coming years and is looking for new ways to enhance the learning experience for students. He took over as chair of the UOIT board on Sept. 1. (Photo courtesy of UOIT)

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

What started as a small campus of 950 students in 2003 has blossomed into one of the province’s fastest growing universities with a student population around 10,000 and Doug Allingham doesn’t see that momentum stopping soon.

Allingham, who began serving as chair of the board of governors at UOIT on Sept. 1, says he sees continued prosperity for the school.

“I’ve lived here for the past 30 years, and I’ve seen, over the past 15 years, the university become a real pillar in the community,” he says. “The future for this university, I see it being very bright.”

One high priority the board recently addressed was naming Steven Murphy as successor to Dr. Tim McTiernan as the school’s president and vice-chancellor. Murphy will take over the position beginning March 1, 2018.

The board’s focus will now shift to setting the school apart from other universities in the GTA.

“We have some very unique characteristics with UOIT. Number one, we occupy a joint campus with Durham College, which alone offers us some very unique opportunities and the students unique opportunities,” Allingham says.

Secondly, with the former Windfields Farm lands at its disposal, UOIT has substantially more room for development and expansion in comparison to other universities.

As UOIT was founded as a technology, science and engineering-driven institute, Allingham says those principles remain true and will continue to be built upon, yet the board is also looking at how to enhance the learning experience available to students.

“What we’ve created in a short amount of time is very impressive. We are looking at the validity of our academic portfolios and ensuring we are providing the relevant programs so that we are able to graduate students who have a high probability of getting a job.”

As in any situation, with success comes challenges.

The number of high school graduates across the province is predicted to decline in the coming years, which Allingham says will lead to serious competition in the postsecondary sector.

“There is a lower number of students coming out of school and going to university and we’ll all be scrambling to attract international students,” he says.

To tap further into the increasingly valuable international student pipeline, Allingham says the UOIT brand needs to keep growing.

“We are very focused on making sure our brand is well known and letting people know who UOIT is, what we do and what we offer. We are going to continue to grow the brand, so it’s not only well known in the GTA but across the province, country and internationally.”

As a successful engineer who serves as executive vice-president for AECOM, Allingham says options for those in the local business industry looking to hire university-educated professionals were limited in Durham before UOIT opened.

“We recognized there was nothing local that provided relevant programs so we could hire local students,” he recalls. “So we took students from many different campuses across the province.”

“So when the university was announced, we were thrilled we would have somewhere local in the future to draw our employees from and we recognized the university would have a significant economic footprint.”

As reported previously in The Oshawa Express, an economic analysis study commissioned by the university found that UOIT contributes $205 million to Ontario’s yearly GDP, along with nearly 2,000 jobs created across the province, mostly in Durham Region and Northumberland County.

Allingham says UOIT’s role in the current boom in Durham Region should not be overlooked, as people look at factors such as education, quality of life and health care when considering a new home or place to start a business.

“The university definitely adds to that,” he says.

Lastly, he believes UOIT’s unique culture will prove fruitful down the road.

“Because we have a culture that is young we are able to be very flexible, which is an advantage. The future is really bright. I’m encouraged that we have a board, leadership team and faculty that is all growing in the same direction with the same objective.”