By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
For Dr. Steven Murphy, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology was the opportunity he’d been waiting for.
Murphy took over as UOIT president and vice-chancellor on March 1, succeeding Dr. Tim McTiernan who left the post at the end of 2017.
For the past five years, Murphy served as dean of Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Management in Toronto.
His career has also included the position of associate dean of research and external at the Sprott School of Business at Carleton University.
“In the big scheme of things, there are few universities that have the amount of potential for growth and change that UOIT has,” Murphy told The Oshawa Express.
With the school still coming into its own, he saw an opportunity to be part of the growth and change he alludes to.
“When I looked at the landscape certainly I saw myself as becoming a president one day,” he says. “You want to go somewhere where you can enact real change, instead of being in a caretaking role.”
Despite UOIT’s relatively brief history in comparison to other postsecondary institutions, Murphy says it has achieved high regard in the university community.
“The reputation is already there. It’s an university that really works well with industry and gets students to a point where they are ready to contribute. I really want to take that to the next level.”
For Murphy, to get to that desired ‘next level’, he must serve as the most vocal promoter of UOIT.
“You really need a champion to be loud and talk about what the school does extremely well and what we’re focused on, and I see myself as the head cheerleader.”
He sees UOIT’s close proximity to Durham College as a “phenomenal opportunity” for growth.
“Governments of all stripes want colleges and universities to work together. I think the public demands it and it’s definitely something I demand,” he says.
He believes there is room to develop the partnership even more in time.
“It takes leadership on both sides, but I think we have a very exciting vision. I’d love to be able to say in 10 years that the Durham/UOIT partnership is looked upon as the model for how a college and university work together.”
Spreading awareness to the community at large will be another area of focus for Murphy.
“I believe a successful university is one with as many tentacles embedded in the community as it can,” he says. “The perception I certainly want people in Oshawa, and by and large, in Durham, to have is that [UOIT] is a really accessible place…as opposed to something on the hill that some smart people go to and we don’t really have an idea [what they do].
The new president believes the city’s bright future mirrors that of his employer.
“I think the story is a phenomenal one when you think about it…here we have an institution in our university that is leading the way in terms of what the next industrial revolution is going to look like.
I think more and more jobs can be created in Durham Region based on the technology revolution. We’ll always have automotive [jobs], but not to the same degree that Oshawa used to be reliant on,” Murphy states. “[The] automotive [industry] is an important sector and we’ll always be a big part of that. But to replace some of those jobs with high-technology positions and to be training some of those students in our very own facility is an extremely great story.”
In preparing for his new post, Murphy says he put an emphasis on gathering input from those who have helped build the foundation of the school.
“The worst thing you can do in terms of a leadership mistake is thinking you know the culture. You can only understand the culture by watching and listening,” he says. “Of course, I can drown in briefing notes till the cows come home, but they can only tell you so much. Walking around and getting down into the trenches is my plan for taking over.”